How to explain branding to a child

Recently my son asked me, “Dad, what do you do at work?”

I am tired after a full day, I am tempted to give a quick response, “I work in a place where I draw things on products which the world is buying, such as a Cote d’Or chocolate wrapper or a Citroen emblem.”

But my pride forces me to avoid stereotypical shortcuts, and I hear myself saying “I’m working for brand. I help them become stronger.”

I guess you can guess the next question of my son: “Daddy, what’s a brand?”

As a reflex, the first sentence that comes to my mind is “A brand is what a firm, an institution, or a collection of products and services put in the hearts and minds of people in their target audience.” And, this phrase in English and not in my native French. Then I remember that my son does not know English, nor is the French more convincing: Une marque, c’est ce qu’une entreprise, institute ou collection de produits et services de la trete et au coeur de (ses) cibles . The definition of what goes to a public familiar with the marketing language is unfortunately beyond my son’s ability to understand it.

After a few embarrassing moments of silence, I say,

“It’s not easy to explain this, but let me have 5 minutes to think and tell you.”

“OK.”

After almost 30 seconds, my son interrupts me: “Dad, what should I do as I wait? I am bored.”

Seeing this, I try not to add my task to smartly entertain the boy as he waits and give him my iPhone leaving him playing the finals of the Champions League between Barcelona and Chelsea in FIFA 12, (it helps a lot to moral).

TATA: Okay, ready. You can not play anymore. Here’s how it works: a brand is like a person.

SON: Really? So am I a brand?

TATA: Let me finish. Take a piece of paper and write the answers to these questions. First: how many people do you see someday? Second: How many minds do you remember? Third: how many would you like to see again? Fourth: how many have become your friends?

My son does not write a number for the last question but says “Oh, God, very, very few.”

TATA: See, as with brands – you meet a large number of brands every day, but remember very little. In fact, you only remember the ones you like. In other words, the big brands are like your friends.

I refuse to think if the silence that followed meant my father’s head “Daddy is a hero!” Or “Sarah’s dad, and he lost me,” but I keep on going.

TATA: Now I’m going to read some of the sentences I wrote, and you’ll tell me if you agree with them or not.

SON: OK.

TATA: My friends have something special. I’m unique.

SON: I agree.

TATA: My friends understand me better than anyone else.

SON: Agree.

TATA: I respect my friends and trust me in them.

SON: Yes.

TATA: I know almost everything about my friends.

SON: Yes.

TATA: Okay, now, take this piece of paper, replace the phrase “my friends” with “the brands I love” and read to me.

SON: The brands they love have something special. They are unique. The brands I love understand better than anyone else. Respect and trust in the brands I love. I know almost everything about the brands I love.

TATA: See? You’ve just noticed the four pillars of any brand: differentiation, relevance, respect and knowledge.

SON: It’s a little complicated.

TATA: Tell me a brand you like.

SON: Let me think. OK, Lego.

TATA: All right. Is Lego unique?

SON: Sure.

TATA: How?

SON: Well, they have the ship that Darth Vader uses when he watches Luke in Episode IV. You can put the pieces together in all sorts of ways and make other ships.

TATA: Are there any other brands selling Star Wars stuff?

SON: Yeah, but only with Lego you can make the Star Wars ship and then turn it into what you want.

TATA: So Lego gives you what you want.

SON: Of course. It’s great to be able to build what you want. And if you have different Star Wars Lego as I have, you can combine pieces such as Luke’s X-wing ship and Darth Vader’s ship and invent a more powerful ship.

TATA: So, seeing Lego as unique, that’s what we call differentiation. And when they give you what you want, that’s what we call relevance.

SON: OK.

TATA: And now between us … when you put all of your Lego pieces in a single box is what we call a harababura.

SON: But the harababura is not one of the pillars, is it?

TATA: I see you learn fast! OK, let’s go on. Do you believe what Lego does to you?

SON: Sure, I visit my site, play games on the site and find the textbooks I’ve lost. I also give good advice how to build stuff. I’m super cool.

TATA: That’s what we call respect . I see you know a lot about what they do.

SON: Clear! I love to look in their catalog! I almost know him by the way. And I always watch to see if they’ve brought out new characters from Ninjago.

TATA: And we’ve just finished our journey with the fourth pillar, knowledge.

SON: Super. Can you give me your iPhone back now?

TATA: Not yet. Take me, why did you ask me for the past Christmas to take Mega Bloks and not a Lego box?

SON: Well, I learned about Mega Bloks when we play Halo Wars (video game) with my friends. And I really wanted to take Rocket Warthog and Pelican Dropship (cars and conveyors from the game).

TATA: More than any Lego Star Wars?

SON: Yes.

TATA: It seems that Mega Bloks toys with Halo Wars are your new friends, and that you like more than your old Lego friend.

SON: Somehow. They are really very strong.

TATA: What are your best friends now?

SON: I have a few: Simon, Abel and Eliott.

TATA: Are they the same friends since you were younger?

SON: Not really. When Felix was younger, Felix was also younger.

TATA: Well, what happens to friends is happening with the brands. It’s like that: maybe a good friend or a brand is no longer unique. You’ve met people / brands that are more interesting (loss of difference). Your old friends / brands do not understand you the way they did it anymore, and you have fewer things to do with them loss relevance) . You are not sure whether you respect them or trust them in the way you did it (the loss of respect ). For you now this friend / brand is just a name (the loss of knowledge )

SON: But that’s sad, Dad.

TATA: Not necessarily. This means not only that you want to keep your friends and be special with them, but you also have to pay attention to them. It’s the same with brands. It’s not easy! There are always new brands trying to look cool than those that already exist and so people change with their tastes. But that’s life! Brands must continue to try to understand their consumers and give them what they need.

SON: And that’s what you do at work?

TATA: Exactly. Help the brands look for and maintain what makes them different and relevant. When a brand is both at the same time, the brand is strong. My job, then, is to make strong brands.

SON: And how are you doing this?

TATA: Well, that’s a story for another occasion. Honestly, it’s easier said than done, but it’s interesting anyway.

SON: As exciting as the Champions League match between Barcelona and Chelsea in FIFA 12?

TATA: Exactly. Now you can play again on the iPhone.

Source: landor.com / Author: Luc Speisser