Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Roll Over, Richard Branson

Real brand spokespeople can't hold a candle to imaginary ones for tugging heartstrings.

Personification, hypnotizing us since Homer's day, attributes human qualities to animals, abstractions and inanimate objects.

Not only do educators and entertainers like Sesame Street, Disney and Pixar tap into personification, but marketers bank on it to spur customers' cravings for parity products.

Personification is a breed of metaphor, and the DNA of every marketer's imagination, says marketing professor Stephen Brown.

"Our very understanding of the world is reliant on figurative thinking," he writes. "Metaphors are both unavoidable and invaluable. They are the bits, the bytes, the binary code of the imagination and the crucible of today’s creative economy.

The most powerful metaphors symbolize human embodiment, sensations and emotions, Brown says.

"Hence, we sniff out market opportunities, listen to the voice of the customer, keep in touch with technological developments, spot yawning gaps in the market and lament the chronic myopia of top management. Our basic worldview is personified, in other words, and marketing’s root metaphors reflect this fact."

A sampling of famous personifications includes:

  • Mr. Peanut
  • Mr. Moneybags
  • Mr. Clean
  • Michelin Man
  • Marlboro Man 
  • Uncle Ben
  • Aunt Jemima 
  • Betty Crocker
  • Peter Pan
  • Californian Raisins
  • Pillsbury Doughboy
  • Jolly Green Giant
  • Keebler Elves
  • Snap, Crackle and Pop
  • Google Android 
  • Budweiser Clydesdales
  • Tony the Tiger
  • Dove Soap
  • Red Lobster
  • Angry Birds
  • Playboy Bunny
NOTE: Thanks to photographer and video producer Ann Ramsey for suggesting this post; she personifies creativity.
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