The Myth of Aspirational Brands

May 15, 2021

The aspirational brand is a faux pas. You don’t aspire to be a color palette. You don’t aspire to be a slogan or a logo. 
People aspire to be other people. 

The guy founding a tech start-up. The poster child for social justice. The starving artist living her passion.

People don’t pay thousands of dollars for a Gucci handbag because they appreciate the craftsmanship. They do it because they want to see themselves as Kim Kardashian.

When the Prius first came out, people didn’t buy the electric car because it was reliable or because of how much gas money they would save. They bought it because they wanted to see themselves as a hero saving the planet.

Branding isn’t about selling products. It’s about imparting identity.

If you want an aspirational brand, then you must show the world someone they should aspire to be.

Red Bull: adrenaline-pumping, extreme-sports junkie.

Harley Davidson: rebellious, leather-clad biker.

Airbnb: the global citizen who feels they ¨belong anywhere.¨

True aspirational brands have an archetype, a mythical idea of a person. People can see themselves as this hero, this pinnacle of what the brand embodies.

Apple made the archetype of the creative entrepreneur. Suddenly, it was cool to be a techie coming to work in a hoodie and T-shirt.

Nike made the weekend warrior. Before that, someone jogging on the side of the road was a weirdo. Someone the police chased because they thought the runner was a thief or worse. The brand made the idea of these people cool, something others now aspire to be.

People don’t want your products. We don’t need more shit. If that’s what you sell, you are destined for mediocrity. Another me-too business. Forgettable and interchangeable. 

People want your brand to show them someone they can become. Someone to aspire. The human they want to be.