Want To Be Wicked?

Want To Be Wicked?

Mark Natale
Mark Natale

Your Brand Identity Depends On Your Differentiation

At Smarthinking Inc., our love of creating remarkable brand strategies is only trumped by our collective lust for iconic musical bands. We are all fanatics (in the truest sense of the word) of bands who have carved out a position within their respective culture and consistently demonstrated their compelling musical point of view.

So much so that we see successful brands in a very similar light - a commanding point of view that makes one want to be a part of it all.

I recently watched an old interview with Gene Simmons from the band KISS. In that interview, Gene discussed the importance of soulful playing vs. technical proficiency. He undoubtedly distinguished that playing from your heart fantastically impacts the audience. Yes – technical mastery and command of one's instrument are vital, but the most critical aspect is how you approach the music and your point of view.

This principle is evident if you look at KISS' early evolution. Before they were "The Hottest Band In The World," they were Wicked Lester, a free spirit act that mimicked the popular folk bands of the time. Their sound was more peace, love, and harmony than the pyro, punch, and growl that would become signature KISS. But beneath all the grooviness of Wicked Lester, there was a strong point of view waiting to escape and make itself known. Shortly after disbanding Wicked Lester, KISS was born with a definitive brand story perspective and style. Essentially they stopped imitating others and started being themselves.

We often see this same approach happen when building brands. Too often, the people involved come to a project with preconceived notions of what a product or service "should be."

A luxury residential building?

Yards and yards of the finest Calcutta marble.

A Miami hotel?

A poolside DJ every day!

A world-class spa?

Can I get twenty tons of bamboo, please? And don't be shy with the Zen!

Really? Is that the best brand marketing strategy that you’ve got?


The result? At best, a me-too brand that matches your competitors' marketing efforts. At worst (and more probable), a completely forgettable product that no one truly remembers. They've seen it before.

To fully maximize your investment, the power of your brand voice, and therefore your project's long-term success, before you start any work, ask your team the following three questions:

  1. Who Are We?
  2. What Is Our Mission Statement and Brand Development Process?
  3. Why Does It Matter?

If you cannot uniquely answer question #3… keep working. Once you defined it, measure all your efforts against it. Does this fit what we are trying to accomplish, or is it simply what the status quo would be? Your dedication to creating a unique offering correlates to your project's success.

Are you sure you want to be "Wicked?" I'll bet you have more to offer than that.

(1) The Book Of Courtier by Baldesar Castiglione

The proper focus from the outset of a project means the difference between getting it right vs. getting it done. Most can get it done, but is that what you set out to do?
Mark Natale
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