Brandzillas are to brands what the gods on Olympus are to mere mortals. Brandzillas are marketing gold, but, historically, building a killer Brandzilla has not been as simple as a matter of money. Coca Cola started with $1. Nike started in the trunk of a car. Today, the internet provides a massively fertile environment for accelerated growth. Twitter grew from nothing in 2006 to 485 million members, or 21% of the global internet population as active users, at the end of 2012; eleven-year-old Justin Bieber sang with a tin cup on Canadian street corners, and by age 16 had over 223 million mentions on Google. But the internet is just the engine. Be it Virgin or vampire, Apple or avatar, the DNA of all killer Brandzillas share one core attribute that, when ignited by technology, has created the breeding ground for Brandzillas: empathy.
The empathy that can be leveraged by eliciting an emotional response from a human connection, multiplied over the web, is immense. In my book on branding, BrandStorm: Surviving and Thriving in the New Consumer-Led Marketplace, I note that the first two videos of Lady Gaga were viewed online by more than four times the entire population of France at the time of vintage Brandzilla Marie Antoinette. Tynicka Battle, Co-founder and CEO of Think Tank Digital, the group whose digital strategy helped launch Lady Gaga’s career into Brandzilla-dom, explains: “This was done by tapping into an audience no one was talking to in any meaningful ‘I am just like you’ way. And we didn’t just offer them an iTunes link and a hashtag to use, we offered so much more-- as a leader with an incredible talent, yes-- but a voice that also said, ‘Hey weirdo! I’m a weirdo too, and I love you for listening to my music!’ She made that empathetic connection.” Battle adds, “Once Gaga started calling her fans ‘Little Monsters’ and she became their ‘Mother,’ she not only took care of her fans, she made marginal people belong. She brought something new to the table, she said, ‘In exchange for your support, I pledge my loyalty to you.’ No one was doing this, and it was like an entire untapped audience raised their hand for VIP status at once, exalting Lady Gaga to queendom at a frightening pace.”
Facebook stumbled in their ill-fated IPO in May, 2012, but empathy offered a lifeline. Aspiring Brandzillas would do well to take note of the recent switch in terminology re-naming Facebook’s 1.6 billion subscribers as “followers”-- a symbolic prioritizing of right brain over left brain. And the introduction of the Timeline has firmly cemented Facebook’s empathy with users by connecting to their entire life story.
If the internet is the engine propelling brand to Brandzilla, empathy is the fuel. It’s ironic but basic that in a virtual void where the human element is intrinsically absent, the most human of elements is key to the making of a Brandzilla.
Also read the other article from Liz: The Cronut™: Pastries Go Brandzilla