Holes in a branding theory – or – block that positioning, metaphorically speaking

I have a problem with certain marketing metaphors that have been thrown around recently. For one, I don’t have a hole in my head…My mind isn’t like a filing cabinet…My memory is not analogous to a book stuffed into one of the many bookcases in my home (which need dusting every now and then)…

My closets are for hangers and skeletons…

And when it comes to my mind, metaphors about refrigerators and car garages conjure up the wrong mental pictures.  I need those analogies like a I need a hole in my head….

Here’s what I mean — an article by Al Reis in the April 1st edition of Ad Age.

To file something in the mind is conceptually no different than filing something in your home or apartment.

Clothes in the closet. Books in the bookcase. Food in the refrigerator. The car in the garage.

“A place for everything and everything in its place,” goes the old saying.

Today, we have many well-known brands with no places in the mind to put them.

Holes in Brand Positioning

I sometimes think of this as the “call and response” theory of branding. The advertiser says one word, “Direct” and you play back the name of the brand “Dell”.  “Printer” and “HP”.  Like Cab Calloway singing Minnie the Moocher.

How about this —  instead of a file cabinet, the mind is like a pinball machine.  The more things that the silver ball hits, the more lights that blink, the more noise that it makes, the higher the score, the more likely we are to remember.  A strong brand triggers associations across the brain, lighting up the neural networks the way the Pinball Wizard keeps those lights a-flashing with his crazy flipper fingers.

Strong metaphors, many associations, stories and anecdotes and mental images, narratives — those are what effective branding is based on.  Instead of standing for one word, brands should be understood as wonderfully woven tapestries of memories, images that we can wrap ourselves in.

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