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Are the Best Brands Caricatures?

Are the Best Brands Caricatures?This week a team of researchers in the UK announced findings that indicate police would be better off using caricatures of suspects, rather than the traditional sketches we're all familiar with. Apparently people find it easier to recognize a caricature. Brand managers and marketers are likewise interested in making their brand easily recognizable. Should a brand, then, be a caricature of itself?

Yes, says marketing guru Seth Godin who has picked up the story on his blog and given it a marketing twist:

A caricature falsely highlights various anomalies while diminishing the boring parts.... The same is true for your brand, but even more so. The best brands are caricatures of their true selves... During the formative days of Fedex, the caricature was that their drivers would even rent a helicopter to get just one package delivered on time. It's easy to turn Starbucks' variety and focus on your needs into a caricature as well, "half-caf, extra hot, short macchiato, extra foam, with soy, in a ceramic mug...."
As Nixon discovered, when the caricature becomes negative, it's almost impossible to escape (glad I'm not Bob Nardelli or a shareholder at Topps hamburgers). Worse than avoiding the negative, though, is the tendency for most organizations to resist creating a brand that can be caricatured. It doesn't feel safe or responsible or prudent. Coloring inside the lines and pleasing most of your customers most of the time almost guarantees you'll be bland.

It's a lot cheaper and faster and more effective to have a big nose.

So if your brand has the equivalent of a big schnoz, or goofy extra large chin, perhaps rather than playing it down, you should highlight this most distinguishing feature.

(Image of caricature by wetwebwork, CC 2.0)

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