A continuation of the thoughts in branding by association, there’s a bit of magic in how we use words and pictures to reflect the experience of an audience. These references are a brand’s language, the ability to build camaraderie through commonalities.
One of my favorite examples is dog whistle politics, a term first used in the mid-nineties when Australian pols were accused of exploiting illegal immigration as a proxy for racist language.
But, of course, the master is George Bush, who dropped subtle cues that appealed to the religious right. One of the most well-known examples comes in this interview with Wolf Blitzer (about 1:20 in) when he said, “when the final history on Iraq is written, it’ll look like just a comma.”
Most from the South would feel a not-so-faint echo of the proverb “Never put a period where God has put a comma.” (interesting discussion at the language log)
You could argue this is just a product of growing up in church rather than an underhanded attempt to influence a segment of people, but it’s hard to argue the influential part.
Another good example comes from the Burger King – Spongebob rap. I rather doubt that they necessarily thought of it this way in concept, but in this odd mashing of cultural cues, they actually seem to follow an audience lifecycle. From the spike in "Baby Got Back" as an axiom of the early 90’s while mom still found time to bump and grind, to a slightly more grown up mom watching Spongebob with her kiddos 10 years later. While I’m pretty sure I’m reading far too much into this particular video, it is an interesting way to think about crafting an appeal.
Which brings me to the (very) round-about point. We generally use all this audience stuff when crafting the concept, not necessarily the execution. We use focus groups, develop personas, etc. defining the audience as a guardrail for the creative team when the value of cultural immersion should be drawn through the execution, as well. The language, the music, the pictures, the video and the rest of it, become the environment that allows a brand speak as one of us. And the better we immerse ourselves in these collective reference points, the better we’ll be at weaving the story we’re trying to tell into the story they already know.
photo via sean lamonby