Over the weekend we watched the 2007 documentary film "My Kid Could Paint That." The film tackles a variety of issues - from the abstract and superficial world of modern art - to how the media can create and demolish a rising star in its quest to sell the story.
The key issue in the film is the question of whether or not Marla Olmstead, a four year old from Binghamton New York, created works of art herself - or whether her father (an amateur painter) had a hand in creating these masterpieces as well. The journey is interesting, as young Marla manages to crack the relatively pretentious and self-absorbed art world and sell her paintings for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Her art had been compared to Picasso, and Marla was labelled a child prodigy.
Regardless of the questions and issues raised by the film, what's interesting is its relevance to marketing and brand storytelling.In the Special Features section of the movie,someone can be overheard saying that 'it's not the paintings they're buying, it's the story behind the paintings.' Art collectors weren't buying the paintings so much for their artistic value (which can be hugely subjective), they were buying into the controversy raised by Marla's paintings.
The idea of 'buying into the story' is true for many world class brands. A great brand tells a story, and by buying a certain brand we're buying the right to participate in that brand story. If I buy an iPod, I'm not just buying a mobile music device, I'm buying the right to participate in the Apple community of users - a shared story that includes elements of rebelliousness not found in other brands. To buy an Apple product means I'm buying into the brand's iconoclastic identity.
If I choose to drink Grand Marnier (in addition to superior taste and quality), I'm buying into the longstanding history of the product and the dream of its producers to make it a luxurious and indulgent experience. In addition to the superior taste of the product, I'm also buying the "right" to experience the emotions and stories of my past through its ability to evoke a series of positive emotions in my mind. Many of my key life moments were celebrated with a shot of Grand Marnier, and every time I taste it I'm reliving those memories all over again.
Whether through art or iPods, great brands are able to entice us to buy through the use of compelling stories. What other brands can you think of that use story to sell the "cachet" of the product? Do you buy certain brands for the memories or stories they evoke?