Marketers, Which ‘Breakfast Club’ Character Are You?

Does anyone NOT like ‘The Breakfast Club’?

I remember watching it at a slumber party 8 times … no one slept. We just kept watching it over and over again …

The too cool group of Emilio Estevez, Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, Anthony Michael Hall and Ally Sheedy gave us a look at some of the pressures each social class dealt with during high school.

Marketers, Which Breakfast Club Character Are You? image breakfast club 1985 07 g 300x2801Alas, we may never get to tell off our Principal Vernon, but at Brand Management High, it is a truly obtainable goal – you’ve just got to figure out which group you belong to and up your game.

I know you’re wondering how I’m going to pull this comparison off – but just go with it … It’ll be virtually painless …

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The Geek – Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall). You have it all together. A brand strategy that is so freaking fantastic not a single person doubts it will succeed. In fact, your brand identity and recognition has been growing steadily and all indicators point to market success and growth. There is nothing stopping this brand …

… Except the 10,000-pound elephant lamp in the room. You know, the one that, when you pull the trunk, is supposed to light up. … Everyone passes shop, right? But … your lamp doesn’t light up … the sure thing is now the problem that’s making you think seriously about shooting off a flare gun and throwing in the towel.

BUT DON’T DO IT! First of all, it’s a flare gun. Secondly, it’s not all bad. Being perfectly smart sometimes makes a brand its own worst enemy. Marketing teams so seasoned and experienced plan for many contingencies and then, when something simple knocks them on their ass, they think it’s time to throw the brainiac out with his pocket protectors.

Yeah, problems might make your average go down for a little while, but it is in these times the ones who normally lead the class learn from those who have colored outside the lines.

The Princess – Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald). It’s easy to see why everyone envies the princess: Who doesn’t want to be, or date, the prom queen? And while it is debatable whether or not ‘Claire’ is a fat girl’s name, the hated secret of the princess, is for all the outward perfection, there is a person who wants to scream insanely from the pressure of everyone constantly looking.

The princess brand team puts on a face of polished perfection. She stands in front of the flagship business with grace, beauty, distinction and established audience. This works wonderfully for the team. The brand products and customer satisfaction is steady and there are no signs of it dropping off. She’s perfect.

We could focus on the fact she just might crack under pressure, but that isn’t what will hurt this brand in the long run – because she’ll rebound from that. It’s the picture-perfect brand’s lack of ability to take chances and see what else is out there.

We can go back and forth on whether or not Claire’s tryst with John Bender is appropriate or just a one-time thing. The point is, she tried it.

Brand kings know the benefits of calculated risk. Just as calculated her likelihood of getting caught by Mr. Vernon when she went to see Bender in the Janitor’s closet, a calculated risk – albeit not always completely safe, can open up entirely new streams for a brand and it can build a new market perception.

The Criminal – John Bender (Judd Nelson). It probably would be pretty easy to write an entire column on Judd Nelson’s hair flips during this movie. But I digress … This grossly misunderstood, angst-ridden individual not only has the survivor ability to keep going amongst great adversity, he also doesn’t have a problem challenging authority.

While criminal activity is not endorsed here, think about struggling brands who are constantly on the cusp of greatness but keep getting kicked down due to funding, economy or even bad management. These brands live and breathe with fire and continually are held to the fire – sometimes failing, sometimes winning – but never ever giving up. Some might say it’s a crap shoot on whether or not they’ll end up succeeding but the bottom line is the fighting brand is a winning brand and will eventually end up with the coveted diamond stud earring of the prom queen … it’s just a matter of time.

The Jock – Andrew Clark (Emilio Estevez). Tights-wearing aside, the taping together of Larry Lester’s buns in the locker room after gym class is the epitome of the old guard not letting the new do their thing.

Andy is fighting to be who he is – but his father is constantly trying to overshadow him with his unlived glory days and life experiences. This is a no-brainer parallel to brand management. On a constant basis, successful brands have got to evaluate whether current leadership is willing to take the steps necessary to keep the brand successful. Our constant desire to be respectful of the brand’s former accomplishments sometimes do more than land us in detention – it can cause a brand’s identity to crumble into pieces beyond repair.

A good brand team is not only a shaper of identity, it is also a nurturer – some of this is organic and the rest is guided by brand perception and market research. Caving into the pressure of putting your brand into a position to wound its reputation can cause more damage than ripping the tape off of a hairy ….

The Basket Case – Allison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy). It’s debatable which scene is more disturbing: The straws of salt dumped onto her pickle-loaf sandwich or the dandruff snowflakes – but one thing is for certain: At the end of the movie, you see a beautiful girl who had, for years, been hiding in the shadows.

What more is there to say? Brands constantly hide in the shadows of competitors or until their chance to shine comes. There is always something to be said about patience, but small changes in brand identity and perception can start making the entire picture look a lot more appealing.

Whether it’s throwing off the trench coat or figuring out how to highlight brand features hidden by more dominant ones, the beauty of your brand isn’t always what it appears to be. Dig deep. Find it and capitalize on it.

It’s great to know the High School stereotypes are alive and well in marketing right? But what makes it easier for us now, is we don’t necessarily have to color inside the lines we were so careful to walk during high school … We can pick and choose our teams to come up with the mix that’s right for the brand.

After all, Brian Johnson said it best (after being nominated to write EVERYONE’s paper) …

“… What we’ve found out is that each one of us is a brain … and an athlete … and a basket case … a princess … and a criminal.”

(Insert here, mind image of Judd Nelson jumping in the air as he walks across football field … and cue Simple Minds’ Don’t You Forget About Me …)

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