Brand Heroes and The Creator Myth

Brand Heroes

When you think of a brand like Burger King, McDonald’s, or KFC, who do you think of? How about when you think of companies like Facebook, Aston Martin, or Microsoft? Each of these brands bring particular individuals (real and mythical) to our minds. These figureheads symbolize the theme of a brand and make them instantly recognizable. However, sometimes these icons take on more meaning than just being spokespeople; they take on the form of ‘brand heroes.’

“A brand hero is a person recognized by a brand community as having a special association with the brand, either in its creation, management or consumption experience,” explains Toni Eagar in “Brand Hero Mythology: The Stories Generated by a Brand Community About Their Brand Hero.”

The role of the hero gives a brand a background narrative that maintains the integrity of the brand’s values. When messages refer back to the original spirit of the brand, there is a sense of linearity between past, present, and future. It also shows a commitment to the consumer over time. The brand has been on a journey. It may change its approach to suit the demands of the market, but a sense of authenticity remains. The brand remains true to itself.

According to the above mentioned study on brand hero mythology from the Australian National University, the brand hero story begins with ‘The Creator Myth.’

Everyone likes to know the backstory. They want to know who, why, when, where, and how. The ‘Creator Myth’ reflects the traits and characteristics that are core to a brand’s identity. The desire to know more is even stronger when an emotional connection is present. When you are attracted to someone, you want to know everything about them. However, sometimes there is truth in the story, and sometimes it is purely fictional.

Here are some examples:

Procter & Gamble’s premium beauty brand SK-II has a story that begins in a sake brewery in Japan. The elderly workers had wrinkled faces but their hands were incredibly soft and youthful. This was found to be the effect of Pitera, a result of the sake fermentation process and a key ingredient in the SK-II product range.

To celebrate its 80th birthday, LEGO released an animated version of its story. It tells of a Danish carpenter, Ole Kirk Christiansen. The Great Depression forced Ole Kirk to produce toys and led to the creation of the Lego company. When plastics became available in Denmark after World War II, the now infamous colorful bricks were born and the rest is, quite literally, history.

The McLaren Formula One team celebrated its 50 year milestone with a series of animated clips featuring highlights from its history. Titled ‘Tooned 50’ the short cartoons also touch on founder Bruce McLaren’s early life in New Zealand and provides a backstory for his passion for racing.

As part of a public relations stunt to create interest in the online shopping and trading website eBay, a ‘Creator Myth’ was fabricated that told of a computer programmer Pierre Omidyar, who developed a website to help his fiancée trade Pez candy dispensers. This was a more appealing story to potential users and the media than the true story that the site was a hobby project for Omidyar, and one of the earliest sales made on the retail website was a broken laser pointer.

Another myth surrounds the creation of Levi’s jeans. It is popularly understood that the famous blue jeans had won favor with California gold miners due to their longevity.  The true story is that a San Francisco retailer, Levi Strauss, partnered with a Nevada tailor, Jacob David, to produce pants that used rivets in the pocket corners on men’s pants to make them stronger.