Five things The Brady Bunch can teach us about branding

May 14, 2012

Mad Men has brought the inner workings of advertising and marketing back into the news, yet I have found inspiration for brand building elsewhere in the television landscape: The Brady Bunch.

Family hijinks wrapped around life lessons is the classic family sitcom formula. Few families have done it as indelibly as the Bradys. Big themes of relationships, respect and trust (among others) are made tangible and relevant through the day-to-day interactions of this blended family of eight.

Mike and Carol Brady’s success in raising a happy brood before our eyes can teach us a lot about branding. Like the Brady kids, brands succeed on a foundation of strong moral fiber. Companies need to know who they are at their core — in order for them to consistently reflect that back in everything they say and do and produce.

Here are five things the Bradys can teach us about building a great brand.

1. Rename the family
There was never any doubt (the title of the show was the first clue) that the Bradys would all come together under the paternal name. Most mergers are rarely so straightforward, but many should be. Companies in a merger too often hold onto a romanticized view of what was, and short circuit opportunities for success in the future. Aligning under the Brady name did away with issues of “us and them” and brought two families together as a single unit for internal and external audiences alike. A related lesson that takes this one step further: Take the girls camping. Sharing a name is one thing; sharing cultures kicks it up a notch.

2. One for all and all for one
The Bradys were at their best when they rallied behind one of their own. Invariably a Brady child found themselves in the throes of some self-importance or self-aggrandizement, often at the expense of a sibling. From Marcia’s ill-fated Juliet to Greg’s hapless pitching career to Bobby’s abuse of Peter’s gratitude (after Bobby saved Peter’s life, of course), each of the Bradys came to see the error of their ways by the denouement. In the corporate world, particularly in the B2B space, individual businesses and brands often seek the limelight at the expense of the corporate brand. The result can be a confused portfolio of products and services so busy promoting themselves that the bigger customer opportunity is obscured. Unfortunately, these errors are usually not resolved within a half-hour.

3. Acknowledge your weaknesses — and don't be afraid to outsource
Mike Brady was a great architect. Carol Brady was a great mom. But they apparently needed some help with the cooking, cleaning and day-to-day management of the household. Enter Alice. At the center of the family (and the in the center square of the Brady title sequence) Alice brought a sense of order to the chaos. The perfect partner, Alice translated Mike and Carol’s vision into the daily life of the Brady household. With Alice a part of every family escapade, her role was an inherent part of Brady ecosystem. (And seemingly irreplaceable, too: Remember that week of boot camp with Alice’s cousin Emma?) Don’t be afraid to bring partners in to fill-in where you fall short. We live in a highly specialized world and businesses need to focus on what they do better than anyone else, rather than get bogged down by areas of weakness. Understanding who you are requires a pretty solid appreciation for who you are not.

4. Be transparent
Mike and Carol Brady did not always agree — and they didn’t hold back on their point of view. With mutual respect, they expressed their position to one another and came to agreement on the best course of action for the family. In doing so, they illustrated a key lesson in life (and, of course, in branding): the most important decisions are not black or white. Getting to the right decision is difficult and requires a view from multiple perspectives. Mike and Carol did this most plainly when they switched roles for a day after each insisted the other’s household duties was easier. (Yes it was all a bit sexist, but the upshot was a deeper appreciation for everybody’s strengths and contributions.) Respect begets respect. Open communication and mutual appreciation in a corporate setting drives trust from employees and customers alike.

5. Go to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
Successful brands know when and how to expand beyond their traditional market. By defining the market in your terms and staying true to who you are in the process, you can expand across sectors and geographies. Sure you may have some bumps in the road — like finding a cursed ancient tiki or getting lost on the Canyon floor — but re-applying your historical strengths (family, honesty, reason, perhaps, if you are a Brady) will enable you to survive and thrive.

Building a great brand is all about keeping promises and aligning experiences. Both of these demand a deep internal understanding of the foundation upon which the promise is built. We can’t all rely on the finesse of a skilled scriptwriter to keep our company focused and inspired. Whether via family meeting in the den or a one-on-one in a kid’s bedroom, Mike and Carol Brady reinforced what it means to be a Brady at every turn. And, in the process, offered us all a solid playbook for how to build a great brand.

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