Wave your magic wand.
Abracadabra, that's how you wish you could bring in customers. You'd transport them to your business, fistfuls of cash in hand, and they'd be spellbound by your product forever. It'd be transformational. It'd be amazing to everyone who sees it. But hocus pocus, alakazam, in the new book “Brand Mysticism” by Steven Grasse and Aaron Goldfarb, the enchantment must come from you.
When he was finished with high school and before he entered college, Steven Grasse wanted desperately to leave his “podunk Pennsylvania town” so he signed up to be an exchange student and was “sent to this tiny rural village in... eastern Thailand,” on the border of Cambodia, near “an active war zone.”
There, due to cultural differences, he “realized early on that I would be forced to entertain myself...” And so he read anything he could find, and he “internalized a great reverence for big international brands” and how they worked.
When he returned stateside, he didn't stay long; Grasse traveled the world, gaining experiences and knowledge, working his way up a series of creative jobs until he understood that it was time to open his own firm, at age 23.
He hired a staff and it was “fun” – especially when he was given free-rein to create a product from inside the bottle to the outside, label to ads. That experience, and a desire to share his knowledge, is why he wrote this book.
Most of the great brands, he says, have “an inherent weirdness and symbolism as part of their brand mystique.” Find and embrace yours.
Learn to tell a good story that's “transportive,” and that makes users see themselves in that tale. Don't be afraid to make your packaging “ugly on purpose.” Make it interesting to you, not an award committee.
Build “layer upon layer of meaning and weirdness into” your brand. Don't follow a crowd; the more different something is, “the better.” Never stop being authentic. Learn to pivot, and pivot again. And finally, get full control of your marketing. It won't work unless everything works together.
Reading “Brand Mysticism” is a little like watching three kittens zoom across the floor from room to room: it's amusing, wildly fast-paced, random (to an outsider), scratch-skidding, barely-controlled chaos. But will it work?
So much depends on your tolerance for what this book espouses.
Surely, Grasse (with Aaron Goldfarb) knows his stuff because he's successful in what he does. There's no denying that it sounds fun, from the bottom up – but then again, Grasse doesn't discuss the challenge of keeping gonzo fans interested in a time when everything seems 24/7 outrageous.
And there's this: readers can probably think of brands they know for which overt “weirdness” would be... well, too uncomfortably weird.
Check your squirm-rate and then read this book. You'll see that it speaks to the heart of Generation X entrepreneurs, but perhaps not to long-time, established brands. It may badly cloud your crystal ball, or you may find “Brand Mysticism” to be magic.