Myths: priceless equities
that cost nothing
This is our last post on the theme of affordable branding that has the lustre of prestige.
Storytelling is basically free, but we place huge value on it. Consider Moleskine; that little leaflet in the back flap tells us this was the notebook of Hemmingway and Picasso. Well, one very like it anyway. The point is that this started with the original leather journals, but the glow of this story carries over into the more affordable cardboard editions (which I personally favour as being less pretentious to plonk on the meeting room table). In this example, design plays a big part; the myth about the design and the flap design that holds the brand’s story.
Or think about the Coke bottle; the grooves and curves were inspired by a cocoa bean, or was it a woman’s silhouette? Raymond Loewy was a master of self-mythologising. As relayed in the book Cult Brands, the redesign of Lucky Strike played out like this:
‘In March 1940, George Washington Hill, no less, walked into my office unannounced and said, “You Raymond Loewy?” I said, “Yes, I’m Raymond Loewy.” He then took off his jacket, kept his fishing hat on, sat down, and threw a pack of Lucky Strike on my desk.
“I’m from American Tobacco.” (He was the president.) “Someone told me that you could design a better pack, and I don’t believe it.” “Then why are you here?” I asked. He looked at me for a moment, grinned, and we were friends.
Without further ceremony, he pulled an attractive cigarette case out of his pocket. “Cartier,” he said. “Only the French can make these, and look at these suspenders. Cartier too.” “So are these,” I said, showing my own, which Cartier had made for me.
“Well,” he said, “what about that package? Do you really believe you could improve it?” “I bet I could,” I answered.
We bet fifty thousand dollars. He left, and in April the new Lucky Strike pack was adopted with resulting large sales increases, creating, at the same time, a new look for cigarette packaging. On the old green pack the Lucky Strike red circle, the target, appeared only on one side. Knowing that they sold in the millions, I decided to display the target on both sides so that the name Lucky Strike would be seen by twice as many people. I replaced the green with a shiny white and the pack looked more luminous; it was also cheaper to print, and the smell which the green ink had given off was gone.’
That’s Loewy, below, probably about to tell another one…
Anyway, my point is this: telling tales is as free to do on a budget of thin air as that of a luxury goods maker. But a little imagination can imbue a design with a sense of value well beyond its production costs. It’s just a matter of telling one’s tale well and engaging the audience’s imagination. Myths transcend price.