People are never exactly who they think they are. We are all wearing “masks”. In the branding world, “masks” are the personalities we aspire to be.
White suburban teens are the biggest consumers of hip hop music. Does gangsta rap really speak to the average white suburban teen? Nope. It speaks to their “mask”.
Growing up in the early 80′s, my spirit was summed up in Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It”. But I took it anyway, and went to school and listened to my parents and got pretty good grades. My mask – the person I aspired to be – was a teenage rebel who wouldn’t take any sh*t from anyone.
Music speaks directly to our masks.
Jimmy Buffett is a perfect example of an artist who markets to the mask of his fans. When they listen to his music or go to his concerts, for a few minutes or hours they are beach bums with no cares in the world aside from how the fish are biting and when the next tropical drink will arrive.
Smart brands tap into those masks too.
Harley-Davidson has done a masterful job of convicing middle-aged men and women that they are far more rebellious than they really are. On weekends they strap on their designer leather gear and fire up their Harley for a jaunt around the neighborhood. They are law abiding, productive members of society, even if their mask says otherwise.
Jeep markets itself as the perfect vehicle for the generation that lives in the now and wants to seize every moment for adventure and excitement. Yet most Jeeps never leave the safety of a paved road.
There’s nothing wrong with masks. They are aspirations, and we all have them.
Rock star brands like Jeep and Harley-Davidson wisely market to our masks. But they also live up to the brand promise, appealing to both the mask and to the reality. Even if your Jeep spends most of its time in a heated garage, it is still built to handle the Rubicon Trail. Likewise, every Harley ridden by a middle-aged CEO on a Sunday run to Dunkin Donuts could just as easily be straddled by a bad-ass Hell’s Angel speeding away from the cops.
For more reading on this topic, consider downloading the free e-book called “Refining Your Brand Personality” by David Freeman. David’s 15 page pdf on the topic helped inspire this post. It is a free download from Wizard Academy Press and is available here.
And now, enjoy a little 80′s rebellion with Twisted Sister.