Part I, How Recognizable is your Brand?
Telling the story and further solidifying the brand identity of big brands like a banks or a medical-tech companies can be challenging, but it isn’t impossible. The content marketing challenge that brands within these industries face is taking overly technical concepts and topics and making them appealing—let alone memorable—to their consumers.
In the race to capture audiences and keep them engaged, several brand identity lessons can be learned from the creator economy. The creator economy includes independent content creators, community builders, videographers, etc. This industry is rooted in storytelling because at the root of art is the story behind the art and the artists. This article—the first of an ongoing series—will observe brands that do a great job of engaging their audiences using creative strategies and explore how other brands can do the same.
Having a Face Associated with Your Brand Identity will Deliver Results.
One of the most pivotal things to note is that the creator economy is people-first. It’s one thing to like a product, but consumers receive a sense of pride when they’re buying a product from or endorsed by their favorite influencer, creator or celebrity—like makeup from Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty. We find ourselves in the most socially conscious era of consumerism, so it makes sense that the face associated with your brand identity can have a huge impact on your bottom line.
A big factor separating big brands from creator economies is that most big brands do not have a face to go with the name. If you visualize Target, for example, you’re probably picturing white tile flooring, fluorescent lights and impulse purchases, but who is the face of Target? The face, arguably, is the core component—the secret to influencers’ success. First, let’s take a look at how influencers have built multimillion-dollar businesses by being themselves—the face of their own brands.
The Kardashian brand may have started with Kim Kardashian being Paris Hilton’s personal assistant, but since then the Kardashian-Jenner family has gone on to amass a net worth of about $2 billion. From Kendall Jenner’s modeling career to Kylie Jenner’s Kylie cosmetics to Kim Kardashian’s SKIMS and the combined family’s multiple reality television series, these individuals went from being people who weren’t so well-known to not only achieving celebrity status but also becoming a global brand.
What is the secret to their success? It’s them—their magnitude. Whatever your personal feelings about the family are—people around the world are simply obsessed with them. Their fans and customers have access to a level of transparency that other traditional brands do not offer. From their TV shows to social media, magazine covers and red-carpet appearances, the Kardashians have given the general public a glimpse into who they are—or claim to be. Their customers know what they are buying, and frankly it is the reason they decide to purchase.
Jimmy Donaldson, famously known by his YouTube handle, MrBeast, is the most viewed and highest-paid YouTuber in the world. His early viral videos were challenge-focused, including content like reading every word in the dictionary and counting from zero to 100,000 for 40 straight hours. He later pivoted his content strategy to posting philanthropic videos of him giving away thousands or sometimes millions of dollars to complete strangers. These philanthropic videos led to his channel amassing roughly 131 million subscribers, the most in YouTube’s history.
Today, MrBeast has around 177 million YouTube subscribers—to say nothing of how widely recognized his approach to brand identity has made him. People love MrBeast and his catchy, mesmerizing content. Donaldson has surpassed his influencer status to become a brand with the launch of his virtual restaurant brand, MrBeast Burger, in 2020 and chocolate business, Feastables, in 2022. MrBeast’s brands have experienced fast success because his fans are loyal and support his extra-curricular revenue-generating endeavors.
These Brands and their Faces are Shaking up the Industry
Many brands are already partnering with the creator economy to benefit their businesses and cement their identity, like partnering with influencers or utilizing UGC creators. But there is a fundamental difference between partnering with the creator economy and implementing creator economy strategies in your own marketing mix. Whether intentional or not, some brands have a face—someone who is the focal point of their brand and, arguably, the leading reason for their success.
Steve Jobs was a trendsetter. Jobs, the innovator and legend, was at the public forefront of many of the luxuries and products we have today. Even after his death, Steve Jobs’ name remains synonymous with innovation. The recognition of Jobs includes a 2012 induction into the One Club Creative Hall of Fame, 2012 induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, eight Time Magazine covers, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and more.
Today, Apple is a tech brand that is most known for its products, services, content and creativity. From the iPhone to Apple TV+ original series, the brand’s identity centers on always going outside the box to not only bring people what they want but also give people what they didn’t know they needed. Apple is an audience-first brand. From events like WWDCto social listening to every IOS update and the return of the MagSafe charger on all MacBook devices, Apple has proven that they want to satisfy their consumers.
When you think of Tesla, you think of Elon Musk. When you hear about Twitter, or “X,” you also think about Elon Musk—but that’s a different story. The point is that Tesla, the clean energy automotive company, has a face to go with its name, helping to further its brand’s recognition—for better or worse. Tesla and its current CEO are pretty much synonymous. Musk and Tesla have gathered a cult-like following since Musk assumed the CEO position in 2008..
Although Tesla was founded in 2003, Musk and Tesla have amassed a large and loyal following since the release of the first Tesla Model S in 2012. As a result of the Tesla Model S release, Tesla’s sales in 2012 were $386 million, up from $149 million in 2011. Today, Tesla is one of the more popular leading car brands in the U.S. Although Tesla is not ranked #1, there is something to be said about the rapid growth of the company. Tesla is the only automobile manufacturer in the U.S. with a face associated with the brand. Elon Musk may not be the official face of Tesla in terms of endorsement, but his association with the brand has been pivotal.
What makes the example of Elon Musk truly noteworthy is that he is the face of all of his brands, even in spaces where there are no other faces. Musk has his hands in aerospace, automotive, tech and more. Brands like SpaceX are wildly successful because consumers and stakeholders know that Musk is behind the mission and the work that SpaceX is doing, like his other brands. His competition has not figured it out yet, and although there might be other factors contributing to his success in these markets, the fact that he is the face of his brands and people have someone to attach to or associate themselves with is integral to his brands’ success.
For More Impactful Brand Identity, Select a Face to Represent Your Brand
The proof is in the pudding. Having a face for your brand will separate you from your competition, allowing you to garner greater brand affinity and establish a stronger identity. This approach also cultivates a community and feeds the bottom line. If you’re not ready to commit to a front-runner, there are more versatile approaches, like having a celebrity endorse a specific campaign, that will deliver similar results. Brands like Nike, CoverGirl, Yves Saint Laurent and Versace are already doing this.
Nike partnered with Colin Kaepernick to promote their products and DEI-driven mission. Nike’s award-winning campaign with Kaepernick, Dream Crazy, premiered in 2019. The campaign was deemed a success, with Nike’s stocks increasing by 5% and revenue growing by 14% two years after the campaign aired.
Your brand’s face doesn’t even have to be a celebrity or an established influencer—it can even be a fictional character. Take Progressive’s Flo, for example. The insurance brand started featuring the character Flo, played by Stephanie Courtney, in 2008. In the 10 years after Flo’s debut, Progressive’s business more than doubled, from $13.6 billion to almost $30 billion as of 2018. It was clear that “mascot advertising” was working again, so AT&T followed suit and created Lily. What Progressive realized—that other brands need to grasp at this point—is that having a character, a face like Flo, humanizes their business—making it digestible for consumers.
There is a key difference between having a mascot like Progressive’s Flo, who is a paid actor, and the face of your brand being a key decision maker for your brand, like your CEO. In this age of conscious consumerism, modern audiences will more likely gravitate toward real people like Musk and Tim Cook. If your goal is simply to garner more sentiment, then sure, hire an actor for your commercials. If you want to make a real impact on the world and your bottom line, place the decision makers for your brand at the forefront, living and representing your brand’s values.
Big brands need to humanize their business.
Having a Face can Humanize Your Brand
There is a lot that the creator economy is doing right. For starters, having a celebrity, influencer or fictional character embody a brand’s identity will bring a humanized element to its products or services. Having a character, fictional or not, brings another layer to the story of your brand—something people can connect to. If it seems like a huge feat to commit to one person, know that you can start small with a couple of endorsements like Nike. Just as your brand and business are evolving, so is your story. Do not feel pressured to commit to a person. Align yourself with a face that aligns with your business, and your consumers will align with you, allowing your brand to flourish.