When people face a world that is too complex to understand, constantly changing in unexpected ways and unclear, they put up barriers of distrust and caution. This environment creates debilitating distress, and most people don’t have the tools or training to deal with it. This affects decision making and can lead to irrational choices driven by fear. Sound familiar?
From the cancel culture to the mass resignation today, people are acting in ways never anticipated. In ancient times, people created myths to explain what they could not understand, and the rise in conspiracy theories today is not much different. As people scramble to find ways of coping in the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world, the Enchanted Brand offers a positive path (inspiring thinking that transcends reality) with tangible tools (the branded product/service), so people activate to carve their own rewarding path forward.
Enchanted brands are the next paradigm in branding to help organizations thrive in a VUCA world. These are brands that serve people rather than sell goods, and in doing so forge a strong, trusted partnership. Rather than tell people how to think and feel, these brands inspire new thinking by stimulating the imagination. Instead of prescribing, they open choices and empower people to create their own desires (out of enchantment). This personal, creative decision making is what makes an Enchanted Brand compelling. People are sparked to imagine something they desire — their own personal view of it. They lean in to buying the branded product as a way to pursue that dream, because the brand is part of the source code and linked to achieving it.
On a foundational level, the Enchanted Brand possesses these six characteristics:
Intention: Has a clear, relevant point to make. The Enchanted Brand has an emotional and practical outcome it aims to achieve in the life of everyone who touches it. It should inspire specific thinking and action, and help people overcome the challenges of a VUCA world. It should stand for an idea with a high level of meaning. Chanel is an Enchanted Brand that wants women to experience the thrill of divine, feminine beauty so they can cultivate their own version of it.
Engaging: Must entertain and arouse curiosity. An Enchanted Brand is designed to make people “feel good” and stimulate new thinking. If the brand doesn’t evoke positive feelings, it is not an Enchanted Brand. It also challenges people so they move into the imagination. This is what sparks curiosity — a strong desire to know or learn something. To that end, the brand presents something new or unfamiliar in an inviting way. The John Deere brand engages people in the fantasy of American farming, although they may have never set foot on a real working farm.
Enriching: Stimulates the imagination and clarifies emotions. The Enchanted Brand seeks to open the aperture of life by opening the mind to new possibilities associated with positive emotions. Rather than fear something new, people gravitate embrace it. The brand enriches life like a great book, poem or TV show. Many people feel enriched by the level of creativity that the Apple brand makes possible for them.
Authentic: Tethered to a compelling truth. Although Enchanted Brands are about fantasy, the fantasy has relevance because it is based in truth. Just like great comedy. You laugh, because it is so true! The truth can be found in many places — in what people are facing or even in what the branded/product can actually do. A Range Rover can go off-road for 4,000 miles which might inspire someone to feel the rugged adventure of it all. This truth helps validate the fantasy.
Aligned: Attuned to anxieties and aspirations of the real world. Historically, brands have sugar-coated the world and not recognized the real human difficulties at work. This is why many lose relevance. The Enchanted Brand maps to enduring human challenges by providing an antidote to specific anxieties associated with them. The Johnson & Johnson brand provides a profound level of trust, embedded in the mother-baby bond that is the essence of the brand, to alleviate the high anxiety presented by complex, risky healthcare solutions that require a leap of faith.
Enabling: Promote self-confidence and personal value. The Enchanted Brand is designed to create more personal agency in the world. The purpose of the brand is to counteract the disabling effects of the VUCA world and to strengthen the sense of personal power that is being overwhelmed. This is how the Navy Seal brand helps courageous warfighters persevere in extreme VUCA circumstances, as they are driven by high ideals that can never be compromised.
Imagine if just a small fraction of the hundreds of millions of dollars spent annually on brands in our culture was spent on creating Enchanted Brands rather than on brands that pollute, dilute or refute our personal identities. During this time of epic change when people face the de-humanizing effects of revolutionizing technologies in work, life and society every day, we need to strengthen what it means to be human. The Enchanted Brands bring in the power of art, ideas that touch people in deep ways and elevate them to a higher place. This mental power is what will propel people to try and buy products, work hard, invest in the future and stay loyal.
Jane Cavalier Lucas, CEO and founder of BrightMark Consulting, is a nationally recognized brand strategist, board member, blogger and author of The Enchanted Brand (Amazon). She helps organizations conquer a changing world with powerful brands and reputations. Recognized for creating breakout brands like Snapple and Qwest, Cavalier has worked with more than 100 organizations, including American Express, ExxonMobil and the U.S. Navy.