What the national bird can teach us about Badass Branding...
Its 1770-something, and the founding fathers are trying to decide how to symbolically represent this great nation they are starting...
That night, Ben Franklin goes home and writes a grumbling letter to his daughter:
"For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him... the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America… He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”
Oh Ben. How very practical you are, but you're missing the point!
While the turkey might have some qualities you'd like to represent the country, the turkey doesn't exactly inspire action or excitement.
In contrast, remember the last time you saw a bald eagle soaring through the sky? You can't help but watch it, looking up above you with your mouth open in awe, and tapping whomever is near you to do the same. Have you ever looked at a turkey waddling around, pecking at the ground with the same level of amazement?
What Ben failed to understand is that when coming up with a brand, sometimes it's more important to be aspirational than accurate. Sometimes creating the emotion you want buyers to feel is more important than explaining all the details behind a symbol that hits all the points.
The turkey is the "what."
It has characteristics that are noble and tell an accurate story. But it's no match for the majestic personality of a bald eagle soaring through the sky.
The turkey is like listing the services you offer on your homepage. Or like calling your marketing company "Effective Marketing USA." Accurate, but lame.
The bald eagle is the "why."
It's hitting your clients in the gut with a statement, or a feeling, that makes them tingle. It's naming your company Uber or Google because it feels right, not because you need to explain what you do.
So Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy your turkey this week. At least the poor bastard is good for something.