Charlotte's Web: A Lesson in Branding
I recently shared a wonderful Saturday afternoon with my five-year-old daughter, Chloe. We went to see Charlotte's Web on the big screen at our local movie theater.
Like most of you, I already knew the story, having read the book by E.B. White many years prior. Still, it was so nice to share the story and the experience with my daughter.
But that's not where this story ends.
As the movie unfolds, Charlotte (the spider) and her barnyard accomplices embark upon a campaign of spiderweb words to promote the astonishing exploites of their remarkable friend, Wilbur the pig. The first word phrase: "Some pig." Good billing for Wilbur: the locals are buying the claim.
Then comes the next word: "Terrific." A bit more bold, this time, but the pig owns up to this billing and the ever growing throng of spectators deems him worthy of the adjective.
Each time Charlotte spins a new word on her very visible spiderweb, the townspeople become more enamored with the multi-talented pig. As the movie builds to its climax, Charlotte and her cohort, Templeton the mouse, are searching for a word ... just the right word ... to describe Wilbur in a way that proves him worthy of blue ribbons (not to mention keeping him off the farmer's Christmas menu). As Templeton sets out on his final word hunt, Charlotte instructs him: "It has to be just the right kind of word, Templeton. It won't work if they don't believe it."
The fictional spider's advice is pertinent to all marketing professionals and brand stewards, too. Whatever marketing we do, be it a new ad campaign or a new positioning statement, it will not work if our audience does not believe it. In its oversimplified manner, the movie provides a fitting commentary about brand essence. All brands must remain true to their essence, especially as they are evolving. One cannot advance a brand too far, too fast, or in too radical of a direction. To do so certainly means to fall flat on one's face. Perception is reality. That's the first law of marketing. Thus, the brand can be advanced only as far as the audience will allow, through its collective perception.
To put it into Charltotte's spider speak: "The campaign won't work if it defies the brand's essence." (Well ... that's my translation, anyway.)
The marketing genius knows this all to well and clearly understands such constructive limitations.