Writing in his blog about “mythological brands” like Apple and James Bond, Seth Godin got me thinking about the existence – or not – of such brands in the nonprofit world.
To set the stage, Godin advises:
So, if I were trying to invent a mythic brand, I'd want to be sure that there was a story, not just a product or a pile of facts. That story would promise (and deliver) an heroic outcome. And there needs to be growth and mystery as well, so the user can fill in her own blanks. Endorsement by a respected ruler or priest helps as well.
The key word, I think, is spiritual. Mythological brands make a spiritual connection with the user, delivering something that we can't find on our own… or, at the very least, giving us a slate we can use to write our own spirituality on.
Are there any mythic brands in the nonprofit world?
Few and far between, I'm afraid. Mostly because few nonprofits succeed at making any enduring emotional connection with their supporters, let alone the “spiritual” connection Godin speaks of. This is particularly perplexing, given that many, if not most, nonprofits (certainly those in the cause arena) see themselves as embarked on nothing short of moral crusades.
I'll nominate, for your approval, embellishment or rebuttal, five candidates as mythic brands — Ralph Nader, Greenpeace, the ACLU, Habitat for Humanity, and MoveOn. But each poses interesting issues.