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Persona Profile: Hall of Fame Personas: The Most Famous Brands

Facebook. Twitter. YouTube. Fedex. Kleenex. Xerox. Escalator. Alka-Seltzer. Coke. These brands have become synonymous with their functions. We don’t grab a tissue, we grab a Kleenex. We don’t get a soda, we get a Coke. This is Imaging at its finest.

Coca-Cola can open a franchise anywhere in the world and succeed on name alone.

But Does Persona-fication Work Today?

Many branders complain that it’s difficult, if not impossible to “Persona-fy” a brand today, with so many competitors in any given niche. Of course, this is just laziness. The truth is, you can persona-fy any brand, provided you’re diligent, smart, and follow core best practices we outline in The Persona Principle, such as super-niche building, aggressive positioning and—once positioned—strategic marketing. Online viral activity actually offsets the downside of too many competitors.

Don’t Believe Me? What About Facebook

  • Facebook, not that long ago, was unknown. I know it’s hard to think of Facebook as an unknown, but I don’t have to search back in memory too far to remember a Facebook-less society. Current examples:
  • Facebook—literally, defines social media
  • Twitter—synonymous with microblogs
  • YouTube—simply means online video. Even if you go to Vimeo, you’re still YouTubing.
  • Google stands in for search. You don’t Yahoo, you Google.
  • You don’t bookmark a site, you Digg it.


What’s Old is New Again

Even “older” niches can become redefined with Persona-ification. Amazon successfully did this with books. You don’t go online to buy a book. You go to Amazon.

These are national, online and fairly current examples. In microniches, many brands come to mind as synonymous.

I assure you, following best practices in Persona-ification of brand can still result in this sort of brand dominance in a niche or micro-niche.

It has always been so

We first mapped out the famous, persona-fied brands in the 1996 edition of The Persona Principle. The ones we identified, are still strong brands today.

1940s Hall of Fame Personas

In the forties we saw the rise of some of the greatest personas of all time (and granted, it was easier in the 1940s, when competition was not quite so intense):

  • Gillette become famous with its “Look sharp, feel sharp” radio jingle.
  • Texaco became a household word with spots on the Milton
  • Berle Show and its Metropolitan Opera sponsorship.

1950s Hall of Fame Personas

The fifties were also a prolific Persona age (and still not much competition by today’s standards!):

  • Little Speedy, the animated tablet, built Alka-Seltzer’s image into one of the biggest moneymaking names with a “plop, plop,fizz, fizz.”
  • Timex did its best with its famous series of ads showing that its watches “keep on ticking.”

1960s Hall of Fame Personas

In the sixties, competition became more intense, although by today’s standards no so much:

  • Maxwell House began percolating on TV with its brilliant “Good to the last drop” campaign, which continued for decades.
  • Hertz became synonymous with rental cars when its leading edge special effects “put you in the driver’s seat.”

1970s Hall of Fame Personas

In the seventies:

  • Volkswagen made its mark with a well-remembered TV spot showing a funeral procession for a tycoon who left his money to a thrifty nephew driving a Beetle.
  • Xerox became a household word even outside the office, with Brother Dominic producing 500 copies of his hand-lettered religious manuscript.

Overnight Delivery = Fedex

These names are all Persona-fied brands—brands where the brand becomes synonymous with the niche. A photocopy is a Xerox. Overnight delivery is FedEx. These brands own their categories so completely that competitors can never truly rival them. Pepsi may be a giant in its own right, but it will always be second to Coca-Cola (in fact, in the eighties Pepsi chose to reinforce its number two positioning by building its brand on “taste test” comparisons Fsing is a great image tool, advertising the wrong message will not build a successful venture, no matter how much you spend. The great brand names are the ones that invested in their carefully crafted images.

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