Creating Zealots

Written By Dave Lavinsky
hand prop pointing upward

I recently reviewed the book “PRIMAL BRANDING: Create Zealots for Your Brand, Your Company, and Your Future” by Patrick Hanlon and wanted to share my thoughts on it with you.

It’s truly awesome. Here’s the scoop. Hanlon worked in advertising for many years for Fortune 500 clients. A few years ago, he asked himself the question: What is it that gets consumers to bond with brands like Google, Apple, Mini Cooper, Coke, Disney, Starbucks and Nike and not others?

In answering this question, Hanlon determined that there are seven distinct elements, which he calls the “primal code,” which shape people’s belief in a brand (whether your brand is a product, service, or organization) as follows:

1. The creation story: All belief systems start with a story. (i.e., Google founded in a dorm room; Apple formed in a garage).

2. Creed: All ideologies start with a set of core principles such as Nike’s “Just Do It” and the United States’ “All men are created equal.”

3. Icons: Whether they are visual, sounds or smells, icons create belief in a brand. Think of the Nike swoosh or the Intel inside jingle.

4. Rituals: Repeated interactions with a brand influence your belief in it, such as how customers feel when they enter a Starbucks or are greeted at WalMart.

5. Pagans, or Nonbelievers: Stating who you are not (i.e., Taco Bell saying “think outside the bun,” and Apple Computer saying “Think Different.”) build belief in your brand.

6. Sacred words: Belief systems come with unique words that must be learned in order to “belong.” Such terms include iPod, BigMac and double decaf latte.

7. Leader: Successful belief systems have visionary leaders that surpassed the odds, such as Richard Branson, Mahatma Gandhi, and Bill Gates.

It’s a great exercise for companies to see how well their brand does in satisfying the seven elements of the primal code. More importantly, it is critical to enhance the areas in which you are lacking.


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