The epithet is customarily used as a descriptor for Hollywood and the US movie industry as a whole. Hollywood is I guess the most apposite location and industry to be know by this label. However, inbetween the movie shows on TV and at the cinema are slotted the advertising shorts, which are money-spinners for the companies who broadcast or show movies.
The ads are little movies in miniature. They can become narrative like movies are when a theme catches the public delight and the ad guys exploit it to the full. In the UK there have been narrative streams lasting over several years in Nescafe coffee ads, and another in Cadbury’s chocolate ads as well as several more to my memory.
Building a Trade Identity is a bit like building an advertising campaign, and as such, for it to be successful it has to carry the kernel of a dream inside it. It has to be a dream which its target audiences buy into. It has to be a dream which has a nuance which no-one else in the industry sector has already been successful with.
For an ad campaign to take the public by storm with a narrative dream represents a campaign which perhaps the touchstone for success in the industry; likewise it takes a global superdream which becomes internalised emotionally by their consumers everywhere to carry an Apple or a Google corporation to colossal and continued hyper success.
The dream is always inseparable from the company and the company’s products.
A revealing way to look at this phenomenon is through the lense of one’s memories of being a child. Of all stages of life, childhood is the most impressionable. In the first five years of life humans learn more than they do over the next seven or eight decades. We are like blotting paper absorbing learning almost magically at speeds which usually astonish first time parents.
One of the first tasks we seem to succeed in learning pretty well is that the world is our home and our home is the house, the household, and the family. Almost like young geese we come very close to taking in psychological imprints that are so strong that they are almost indelibly set in our minds. Nearly everyone is able to remember childhood, with some of its idyllic moments; almost like pagan Peter Pan and Wendy stuff.
The ad guys are aware of this near imprinting capacity on human young; and like the Jesuits they aim often to get the child early so as to be able to present to the world the adult person suitably adjusted. In this way household brands in particular, like those beef stock cubes mother always used to use; or the car manufacturer daddy favoured buying from, and so on, remain in the memory, one might say they form a part of the vestigial memory of a person.
Childhood then shows the powerful example of the potency of advertising on people; and Company Identity is able to work in many ways just like advertising works, and captivates one’s mind so as to build a nascent and almost irremovable impression of deep subliminal familial connectivity.
Such are the deepest strata of our unconscious tendencies; such is consumer loyalty. The message of the dream must be straightforward,not sophisticated; it must appeal to the child yet within us. Thus ads as well as the accompanying mythos of the Company Identity and its brands work together always to address consumers as if they were children. (Listen to the ads on TV next time you’re viewing; and note the tone of voice being used to speak to you; and the music used too is often another giveaway).
The dream’s appeal is to the self, is personal, and usually attempts to make you feel special – if you buy the product. Likewise the accompanying Company Identity ambience will often appear to have a paternal aspect; it will provide for you, so it says, and has selected you out of all the possible persons it might have selected. The products and services a company offers for sale are supported by carefully crafted claims which give the (often rather loose) impression that the company does not do second rate; (so you are second rate to ignore this fact), nor do its products disappoint. It has no chinks in it armour; and is able to wheel out abundant accolades from thousands of super satisfied customers.
The specialness of the Company’s dream image will often be in the straplines and short catches it uses about itself. ‘Do no harm’ and ‘Making Motoring Magic’ and the like. There is a strong element of a childish ‘all in the garden is rosy’ which is showing the world through tinted glass, so that your life, one is inclined to believe, will go much more delightfully with this Company’s goods and services: so buy. This is the ‘feelgood’ factor promoting itself.
There are parodies on this approach to identifying your Company; a very old one from before World War 1 was:
‘I used your soap two years ago; and since then I have used no other’ (from a vagrant) – and
‘Nothing acts faster than Annadin’ (a headache remedy)
But nonetheless the amazing persuasive efficacy of the methodology, simple though it is, even obvious, remains; and effectively sways even the most smart and perspicacious among us. Like LIncoln’s adage: ‘You can fool all of the people some of the time.’
The good news is that if it can work for others it can work for your company. You will not have the huge resources which a large corporation has and pumps into its dream-image for consumers. You won’t have teams of employees seeking out and obviating negative feedback; or placing strategic good feedback; or else thinking up new ways to place and promote the basic message of the Company dream image.
Humans are an animals who like things simple. We like definitive solution answers. Look at how most of us view our nations’ history. Salem witch trials and McCarthy are clinically interesting items now distanced by time into objects of a cool curiosity. Custer is almost a National Hero; as is John Wilkes Booth. The Spanish Armada was a great victory; Dunkirk was an almost Divine Providential rescue; King Charles I was a Royal Martyr. The truth is not so romantic, nor so easily categorised or communicable. So much easier is what we prefer to believe; we are myth making animals and that is what Company Identity is – a series of commercial urban mythology.
A great Anglo-American poet wrote, perhaps half-despondently, and half- pityingly;
‘Humankind cannot bear very much reality’
A great Anglo-Irish poet wrote:
‘Had I the heaven’s embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light;
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.’