Creating a brand, talking about brands and living the brands are overused or cliche to me, but it’s also a basic truth to building something powerful that move people to buy and share. It’s funny that it’s a buzz phrase now, because I was living the brands from a very young age, way before it was cool. I was a strangely brand loyal child. I only used Crest toothpaste and I only drank Pepsi products. If I used Colgate, I felt I was somehow cheating on Crest. And how could I drink Coke? What would our Pepsi man say? (we had a glass bottle dispensed Pepsi machine in my parent’s flower shop.) Later, when I worked in marketing at a plumbing parts import company (for real), my dad bought valves for his greenhouse from me. I would search out the red-handled signature valves in stores, at people’s homes and on TV. In fact, there was a B&K valve in a Supernatural episode! It’s funny, 20 years after working for B&K, I noticed this red valve in one of my favorite shows.
My love affair with brands encompassed my love of advertising. When I was a kid playing with my Barbie cruise ship in the living room, I would stop and listen closely during the commercials, but go back to playing when the show resumed. Today, I am still in awe of wonderful advertising. To entertain and connect with people so they buy things they will love? That’s cool to me. I studied advertising, both at IU and after. When I was fresh out of college and working as a receptionist/jack-of-all-trades at a small creative agency, I read a great book that lives with me still: “My Life in Advertising and Scientific Advertising” by Claude Hopkins. Two anecdotes that stuck out for me were his stories of David Ogilvy and how, when he had the Sears account, he only wore suits from Sears. And also how demonstration is the key to good advertising, when possible. It sounds old fashion, but our journals sell 10 times better when we have full samples with our photos in it and can explain the journal, than if we just have blank products on the tables.
Clearly, I have been a brand-fan pretty much entire life. And that extends to the business we are building today. I love our brand. It’s totally unique (another bad buzzword) but there is no one else making journals like what we are producing. But my brand loyalty is not just to ours. The brands that we license are just as close to my heart. We have made products based on things I love. We have gone after licenses based on those same things. I strongly believe that the best creators and marketers do their best work when they are in love with what they are selling or making. It seems like common sense to me, but in this world of so many jobs to do and so many products to make, it’s less likely that those making and marketing these brands are actually brand-fans. There is something really magical about a group of people, who love a brand or a show or an event, coming together and creating things they are excited about because they are FANS. That’s what I mean by living and loving the brand. This love affair is what propels us to research every place Sam and Dean Winchester have road tripped over 11 seasons. And it makes our journals and our merchandise special. It’s why fan art thrives and sometimes the corporate makers don’t always hit the mark. I know it’s not possible for all people making pop culture merch to be a fan of every single thing and I’m lucky that I get to go after what I really love. But just like when I was marketing valves, any new brand that I am working on becomes one of my new favorite things. And then the love affair begins.