Homer Simpson Aces Authentic Branding Test

In our last chat, Homer asked me, “How do I know WHEN to sell, market or brand?”

And while we spent some time discussing the Role of Authentic Branding,
we didn’t have get around to covering the roles of  marketing or sales.

Yesterday, Homer dropped by to finish that conversation. “Hey Homer!”
I greeted him. “It’s good to see you again!” Homer smiled and flopped down onto my sofa.

“Now before we start on this conversation,” I began, “Tell me what you remember from our conversation last week when discussed the role of Authentic Branding.”

“It’s too early for a test!” Homer protested. “It’s only 10 am!”

“Is there a better time?” I asked.

“Nah, it’s always too early for a test. OK…I’ll do it now.”

Homer looked thoughtful.  Then he held up his hand and began to count off points on his fingers.

“The role of an Authentic Brand … firstly, is to communicates clearly what it is and what it is one of.”

“Right on Homer,” I encouraged, “Can you give me an example of that?”

he replied. “Duff’s is beer and beer is an alcoholic beverage.”
He paused and then added, with a reflective smile. “A most excellent alcoholic beverage!”

“Anything else?” I probed.

“Yes, an Authentic Brand has something special about it that makes people choose it over other brands.” He hesitated and then went on to ask. “Would that special thing about the Fox Television brand be that it broadcasts The Simpson’s?”

“That would certainly contribute to what makes Fox unique, special and different from other broadcast networks.” I agreed.  “Good example, Homer!”

“Point three,” Homer continued, folding back his third finger, “An Authentic Brand appeals to the people who want and need it.” He hesitated, “Or is it that the Authentic Brand gives them something they want or need?”

“It’s a bit of both, Homer.” I answered. “For example, The Simpson’s target market faces the same challenges that you, your family and friends do.  So watching The Simpson’s characters work through these challenges gives your target market the benefits of:
1. normalizing their challenges (they see they’re not alone in their struggles)
and laughing at them,
both of which minimize them.”

Homer scrunched up his face. “That made my brain hurt!” He objected.
“Can you say that in a way that’s less painful?”

“Of course,” I replied, sympathetically. “Watching your show makes your target market feel better.” “Phew!” Said Homer, taking his head out of his hands. “That made me feel better – now I can think again.”

“Are there any other roles that an Authentic Brand fulfills?” I asked.

“Yes. OK. On to point 4.” Homer folded his thumb in on top of the three fingers he had already counted down. “All I have to do is keep being me, and that keeps my brand authentic.”

“Right again!” I confirmed. “An Authentic Brand is believable and credible.”

“Last one!” Homer said smiling happily, then he shook his fist at me. “What’s wrong?” I asked, confused by his conflicting gestures. “Nothing!” Homer grinned cheekily, “It’s just that I’m all out of fingers and thumbs so I’m counting point 5 with my fist!” We laughed as he shook his fist again, to emphasize his intent, then went on to say…

“Point 5 is that an Authentic Brand is consistent. So as long as I keep being me, and my writers don’t get any dumb ideas about making me do dumb things,” Homer shot me a narrow eyed look, clearly recalling our conversation about him running off to Montreal with another man.
“As long as I stay consistent, I’ll stay on-brand!”

“That’s right!” I agreed and went on to add, “I’m very impressed!
You really got a lot out of our last conversation!”

He smiled and shot me a quick grin. “I guess it takes an Authentic Brand to know one! Ha Ha!”

We both chuckled for a minute, then Homer sketched some rapid forward circles in the air with his hand… “So let’s get on with the show, Ms Authentic Branding Guru…What’s the role of marketing?”

Homer Simpson asks, “How do I Know When to Use Authentic Branding Versus Marketing or Selling?

“Ok,” said Homer last time we spoke, “You’ve made your point about branding, selling and marketing being different. I get it.

How do I know WHEN to sell, market or brand?”

“Speaking from my point of view, as the author and developer of MIBOSO’s Authentic Personal Branding and Authentic (Business) Branding Processes, let’s address the roles of each activity – Authentic Branding, marketing and selling – individually.” I suggested. “Once we’ve done that, we’ll explore how they all work together.”

The Role of Authentic Branding

An Authentic Brand defines specifically what the brand “is”
and what category it fits into, or what it is “one of.”

“Homer, your brand is, “a cartoon character” that fits into the “animated television sitcom” category. That’s what it is “one of.”

“Sure,” said Homer, “You don’t have to be very smart to figure that out!” He looked at me quizzically. “The role of branding gets a lot less obvious as we dig deeper.” I explained.  “Stay with me!” Homer rolled his eyes, then nodded and settled back in his chair.

An Authentic Brand has a USP, or a unique selling proposition.
A USP makes a brand
unique, special, and different enough to cause it to be chosen over other brands that are similar.

“Like choosing “Duff over Duffenbrau?” Homer asks?  “A USP is more than a matter of price.” I laugh. “But price could be a contributing factor to a USP.”

Homer sits up a little straighter. “What’s My USP? Do I have one? Do I?” He entreats. “Of course you do Homer, your USP is what makes your audience choose to watch your show when they could be watching other animated television sitcoms – like “Family Guy.” I reply.  “Who would want to watch them when they could watch a nice normal family like mine?” Homer asked, puzzled.

I smiled and continued, “Typically, a brand’s USP is rooted in its values. I said  in an earlier conversation that “The secret to your success, Homer, is in your Brand Values. Your brand values make you the character that millions love and love to laugh at.””

“Hey, they’re laughing WITH me!” Homer interrupts, “Not  AT me!”  “You’re half right on that one – they ARE laughing with you Homer” I agreed.  He smiled and sat back again.

“So here’s what I said earlier about the appeal of your brand, Homer – and don’t worry – your audience really does love you!”

“His consistent bumbling ineptitude, his long list of relativelyhttp://attractandsell.com/branding/2009/04/02/strategic-branding-homer-simpson/harmless human vices and his  “heart of gold” make Homer’s Brand very human and, at the same time, highly entertaining.”

Homer is touched, “Geez – that’s nice! You got any Kleenex? I feel an un-manly moment coming on.” “You asked for a Kleenex when you meant you wanted a tissue.” I noted. “Kleenex is a brand that’s so well known that it’s used to describe what it’s “one of.” I handed him a tissue and continued.

An Authentic Brand is intentionally positioned to appeal to the identified target market that wants and/or needs the value and benefits the brand delivers.

“Homer, your show parodies the typical trials and tribulations of a middle class American family. By lampooning middle class America, your writers set you up to entertain you Target Market.”

“D’you mean that the people who watch my show are just like me?” Homer asked, astonished. “Yes,” I said, “They’re middle class Americans who are facing the same challenges you do. Watching your show allows them to laugh at their problems – because they’re your problems.”

“Hey, laughing at someone with problems isn’t very nice,” said Homer  sternly.  “Relax Homer, it’s not personal!” I assured him. ”Watching the antics that you, Marge, Bart, Maggie and Lisa get into lightens their load. You make your audience feel like things aren’t so bad for them after all – as what the Simpson’s have to deal with is far worse.”

“So we have it worse than anyone else?” Homer moans. “Waugh! What did I do to deserve this?” “It’s OK” I reassure him.  “It’s just scripting!  Talk to your writers if you want to change your luck.”

“Yeah, right” Homer mutters.  “They don’t listen to me.” Never have. Never will. Talk about dumb luck!”

“You’ll like this next point much better” I said, and managed to distract him.

An Authentic Brand’s messages are believable. Its claims and promises are measurable and verifiable.  In other words, the way an Authentic Brand presents itself is highly credible.

“How does that point apply to my brand?” Homer asks, happy to be the subject of the discussion once more.

“Well, when you’ve had a tough day at work, you’ll head to Mo’s and down a couple of Duffs, right?”
I ask him. “Yep!” Homer confirms.  “And if it was a really tough day, I’ll rant about how much I hate my job, my boss, and whatever else is annoying me.”

“Exactly!” I agree, “And because your audience would do the same thing if they had a “bad day,” your “brand’s behavior” is accepted as genuine and real. You are an authentic representation of a working class American male.” Homer beams with pride.  “I’m a role model” he says, “A Model! Where’s the runway – I want to strut my stuff!”

“Hold on just a minute Homer” I put out my hand, “We have one last point to cover and then you can go.”

An Authentic Brand is consistent – and predictable.

“Homer, your audience  knows what you like, what you believe and what you dislike.” I stated. “What, am I? See through?” He asked. “Well, not see through, but pretty transparent,” I laugh.  “Your audience knows what you eat, where you live and where you work. Your fashion choices are also very consistent – even to the point of being occasionally outrageous.”

“What’s outrageous about what I wear?” Homer snorted. 
“Do I need to bring up the dress?”
I asked, raising an eyebrow.  “Er, no…let’s leave my muumuu out of this.” Homer muttered.  “Because you CAN wear one, on occasion if you want.” I said. “As long as you stay “on brand” you will continue to be loved
by your audience.”
“Phew!” Homer breathed a deep sigh of relief.

“If, however, you took that theme too far” I continued, “If you were to leave Marge, abandon your job and your family, and run off to Canada to marry your boyfriend – that would be very “off-brand for you.”

“What boyfriend?!?!” Homer is shocked.

“If you did something like that,” I continued, “Your audience would likely denounce you. And after their initial interest in the drama of your new relationship subsides, (and it doesn’t turn out to be a nightmare that you wake up from eventually) your audience would stop watching The Simpson’s show altogether.”

“They would abandon me?  But why???” Homer moaned. “It’s simple” I explained. “They wouldn’t want to watch you prancing around in your underwear (or worse!) in the house that you and your new husband own in the suburbs of Montreal. They wouldn’t be drawn to that script as it’s not behavior they relate to.”  “Me neither.” said Homer!

“But it would attract a whole new Target Market.” I suggested.  He looked worried  “I hope you haven’t given my writers any dumb ideas…!” He shud-dered visibly. “And I take back what I said earlier about strutting my stuff – no runways for me!  No siree bob!”

In our next chat, Homer and I will look at the role of Marketing, and after that, at the role of Selling.  Right now he needs some time to recover from the “Homer’s Married to a Man in Montreal” episode.

Homer Simpson asks, “What’s More Important, Branding, Marketing or Sales?”

In one of our recent discussions, Homer Simpson raised a good question. “You’re the Authentic Branding Guru.” He said, “So tell me, what’s more important, branding, sales or marketing?”

This is an interesting question. Not because it’s new. (It’s not. It’s so old it’s positively crusty!) What makes it interesting is the floundering debate that inevitably ensues when it’s asked. (Especially when it’s answered with “opinions” as opposed to behavioral substance.)

“What do you think, Homer?” I probed, hoping he’d serve up some of his own brand of off the wall and reliably entertaining perspectives.

“Well, I think marketing is most important.” Homer said. He went on to explain, “TV commercials are marketing and if there weren’t any TV commercials, I wouldn’t get sold on stuff.”

“What about brands?” I asked.  Homer thought for a moment.  (Ok, he thought for several very long moments.)  “Brands are, uh,  like, already there – that’s what the marketing reminds me to buy,” he finally stated.

“Do commercials make you buy things you don’t already want or need?” I asked. “Things like luxury cars or fancy computers?” Homer shook his head. “Nope!”

“Do commercials make you buy brands you don’t already buy?” I inquired.

“Nope!” Homer was emphatic. “They remind me to buy beer though. Heck, they even remind me that I want a beer, like, NOW!  Or some donuts, or pizza…” His face softens and his eyes loose focus as he contemplates his favorite food groups.

“So commercials remind you to buy the things you already know you want?” I recapped, jolting him out of his junk-food-fantasy-trance.

“Yep – that’s why marketing is most important.” Homer agreed, nodding vigorously. “I am so smart!” He crowed.

“Hang on there Homer,” I said,  “Your logic is a little wobbly on this one.”

  1. First – marketing is not better than sales… It’s a whole different activity
  2. Second – all brands don’t already exist. New brands are created all the time!
  3. And third – branding, selling and marketing are not interchangeable activities. Each one has a distinct definition, purpose and role.  However, they CAN work together very effectively.

“How do they do that?” Asked Homer, looking confused.

I began my answer by suggesting that we first define each activity.

Defining Branding, Marketing and Selling

  • What is a Brand?

A brand is – a kind or variety of something distinguished by some distinctive characteristic.
Duff is the brand of beer that Homer drinks regularly because he likes its taste.

  • What is Branding?

Branding is –  to label or mark as unique, to build an emotional connection, to create a memorable impression.
The experience of satisfying his craving for pancakes is branded into Homer’s memory. Oh yes!

  • What is Marketing?

Marketing is – the communication of the brand’s benefits to the consumers who will buy it.
The Simpson’s marketing strategy includes television commercials, and on-line promotions as well as unique store displays and tags for licensed products.

  • What is Selling?

Selling is – persuading or inducing (someone) to buy something, causing (someone) to accept (something); to convince; to win acceptance, approval, or adoption.
The salesman sold Homer on the more expensive car that had the safety features he wanted.

“Ok,” said Homer “You’ve made your point about branding, selling and marketing being different activities. I get it. So how do I know when to sell, market or brand?”

“Good question, Homer,” I replied. “Let’s address the roles of branding, marketing and selling
in our next conversation.”

That’s fine by me” said Homer, heading for the door. “All right brain, you’re done for the day.  Whoo-Hoo! Mo’s – here I come! Can’t get enough of that wonderful Duff!”

What’s In It For Me? That’s the Question Your Marketing Messages Must Answer

I participated in a discussion today that focused on the prevalence of “spin” in
the messages put out by the media, as well the messages put out by business marketers.

My responses continued a theme that I began in my Branding Q & A with Homer Simpson:

“A pet peeve of mine is the presentation of “incomplete
generalizations” and “platitudes” as  “facts” or “benefits.”

I  suggested there are (at least) two ways to view marketing “spin:”

1. As false information that’s “imposed” on us (by the media, big businesses, the government, etc. )

2. As the consequence of our own failure to question what we’re told
(Like our friend Homer, most of us would rather “tell” our views than “ask” the questions that get others to clarify what they tell us.

“Are we experiencing some sort of acceptance epidemic?” Homer asks me.  Then he put me on the hot seat. “How often do YOU ask questions?”

“About 99.5% of the time,” I reply.  “And in the .5% of the time that I assume I understand what the person I’m speaking with means, I’m often wrong and regret NOT asking them for clarification.”

People usually mean what they say, but they rarely say what they mean.” ~ PG

Before my branding clients begin working with me, they think their platitudes and incomplete generalizations are “benefit statements.”
But they’re not…

For example:
PLATITUDE: “Company X is a leading change management firm”
(Unproven and ego based)

I asked Homer what this tells him.  He said, “Um… It  sounds good but, well, it tells me…

  • That they do something with change – but I don’t know exactly what that is…
  • They do something with leading – but I don’t know exactly what that is…
  • They do something with management – but I don’t know exactly what that is… and I don’t CARE because I don’t LIKE management!”

I tell Homer that as my clients progress through MIBOSO’s benefit building process, (which is made up of – he guessed it – lots and lots of questions!) the true benefits they provide to their clients begin to emerge.  When we build their brand benefit statements, the messages we create are always :

  • Factual
  • Provable or measurable
  • Backed by solid evidence

For example:
BENEFIT: “Company X  leverages change to deliver measurable growth for companies in the financial service sector.”(Specific and evidence based)

“Ok Homer, what does this tell you?” I ask.  “This one’s easier,” Homer says, visibly relaxing. “It tells me that… uh – what’s leverage?”  I refer to Dictionary.com which defines leverage as:

“the use of a small initial investment, credit, or borrowed funds to gain a very high return in relation to one’s investment, to control a much larger investment, or to reduce one’s own liability for any loss.”

“Well…”  Homer continues, “Now I know what leverage is,  the benefit statement tells me that Company X..

  • Leverages change to generate growth – in other words, they have a way of taking advantage of the change mechanics to create a much bigger result.
  • Has a way of tracking and measuring the growth they drive for their clients.
  • Specialize in working with  financial services firms.

That’s a whole lot more than I learned from the  Platitude!”  Homer grins.
I think he feels a smart attack coming on, so I continue to question him…

“Why is a benefit so much more appealing than a platitude?”

Homer signals to me that I should answer this one, as he has a mouthful of pizza. So I do. “A benefit is much more appealing than a platitude because:

  1. It tells the prospective customer what results they can expect
  2. The results the benefit identifies are KNOWN to be desired by the prospect
  3. It gives prospects the specifics they need to ask deeper questions, such as:
    – how do you measure your client’s results?
    – what sorts of  results have you delivered for companies like mine?
    – how did you come to specialize in financial services firms?
    – how do you leverage change?

And all of these questions provide wonderful opportunities for the benefit provider to prove their expertise by providing answers – and in turn, to ask deeper questions of the prospect in order to provide the most relevant answers.”

“Will this Eliminate Marketing Spin?” Homer asks. “No.”  I continue, “What I’ve said won’t resolve the problem caused by our failure to question.  “They” will continue to churn out “spin.”

But “they” can’t MAKE us accept it!   So I suggest we reject it.

Let’s start a “questioning epidemic” and see if we can shift “what’s being put out there” (by businesses, the government and the media) into a more factual, provable, evidence-based zone.”

“What you said!” Homer agrees, and looks longingly at the last remaining piece of pizza.  “It’s yours,” I smile, “you’ve earned it!”

Strategic Branding Lessons from Homer Simpson

Since Homer Simpson IS a Brand, it’s only logical that he should know a thing or two about Strategic Branding.

Heck, Homer lives with floating TM and © marks!

These marks show up everywhere that Homer does – on mugs,
t-shirts, ball caps and MUCH more. And if they don’t – they should!

[Because Homer is protected by international trademark and copyright laws, if his marks are missing, it’s an indication that someone is unlawfully using his brand – and that’s really not a good idea.  In fact, it’s best to ask the owners of the marks if you can use their marked property.   I just did.  And I can’t.  So you won’t see any images of Homer on my blog site.]

Why not? Well, Homer himself is not the sort of character to get bent out of shape by being “infringed.”  He’d likely support your “freedom of action” and say something like,

“Oh, yeah, what are they gonna do? Release the dogs? Or the bees? Or the dogs with bees in their mouth and when they bark, they shoot bees at you?”

(However, the attorneys at Fox Broadcasting – who are NOT comedic character brands – will no doubt take a different perspective.)

So that means Homer is both a Brand AND a Mark!

But wait, there’s more…

Homer has a Brand Voice as well!

Just type “homer says” into Google and you’ll have access to about 400,000 returns that take you to pages and pages of quotes in an array of different languages.

This is “Homere-ese” – the strongest possible rendition of a Brand Voice.  And Homer-ese is supported by numerous Homer-isms that his audience loves to quote.  Homer certainly has all his bases loaded in terms of his Brand Voice!

Homer even has a Slogan.

And it might just be the shortest one in existence!

Which means it’s a good one as the less words a Slogan requires, the more revered it is in the Branding World.

Homer’s Slogan is one contracted word. “D’Oh!” Three letters and two punctuation marks.

And D’Oh! says it all.

Homer must have set some sort of slogan brevity record.
Are there Guinness World Records for “least” like there are for “most?”

When you hear or see “D’oh!” Homer in all of his glory shows up instantly in your head. And that’s exactly what a Slogan is meant to do – “Evoke the Essence of the Brand.”

Homer has a unique set of Brand Colors.

Homer’s brand colors are yellow, tan, black, white and blue.

  • Day-glow yellow skin  Is that thanks to the Nuclear Plant? Everyone in Springfield positively glows!
  • Tan beard
  • White shirt
  • Blue pants
  • Black drawing lines/shoes

Homer’s Brand Symbols

Homer’s personal profile is very distinctive.

Just as Bob Hope’s “ski slope nose” became iconic of his Brand, Homer’s protrusive mouth, large balding head (with 2 hair comb-over!) and big belly make him a symbol in his own right.

Symbols consistently associated with Homer include:

  • other show characters
  • a TV
  • a TV remote control
  • a couch
  • a beer can
  • donuts and other “junk” food

Homer speaks in specific Brand Fonts

The distinctive “handwritten” font used for “The Simpsons” logo is complemented by a chunky sans serif font used in capital letters only, as well as the handwritten styling of text captured in speech bubbles when Homer’s character is static.

So there are many ways that Homer can show up, in writing, without going “off brand.” And given his inconsistent performance record, as a husband, father and employee – for Homer – that fits!

Now, many of us think of Homer as “not the sharpest tool in the shed.”

But he just MIGHT be a secret MENSA.  Ridiculous?  Perhaps not…

Did you know that Homer is a Global Brand?

  1. He speaks in 8 languages!
  2. He has friends all over the world!

If I asked you if you think Homer is “worldly, you’d likely say, “Nope!”

And if you just did, (say, “Nope!”) type “homer world traveler” into Google – and get ready for the shock of your life!

Ah – that Homer’s got us fooled alright! He is NOT the simple character we all thought we knew. What dimensions Homer’s Brand has! Is that the secret to his appeal?

Because appeal he has! Homer’s Target Market is HUGE!

In addition to having a following in every English speaking country, he’s also popular in China, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Finland, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Poland, Sweden and the Ukraine.

What attracts all of these folks to a fictional safety inspector from Springfield?

The secret to Homer’s success is his Brand Values.

Homer’s brand values create a character that millions love and love to laugh at.

His consistent bumbling ineptitude, his long list of relatively harmless human vices and his  “heart of gold” make Homer’s brand very human and, at the same time, highly entertaining.