The passing of Senator Ted Kennedy earlier this week got me thinking about the Kennedy family and the way the world regards them and indeed JFK and Bobby Kennedy as icons.

As a brand, the Kennedy name invokes respect. Sure, it’s easy to say that corporate brands have a harder time of it than political brands, seeing as how they are in the business of making money, but is that argument true?

Political and corporate brands must deliver results (in most cases financial in both instances) or risk being rendered unmarketable to their target market. The difference is how they go about it. Corporate brands (as I’ve said before) treat their market like certified idiots, choosing to hoodwink them with fancy words and hollow promises. And yes, the same can be said for most politicians…but then how many politicians can you recall?

So how did JFK get it right to transcend generations as an icon?

He stood by what he believed. He went as far as he could not to compromise those beliefs. He made mistakes and owned up to them. And he did this with the eyes of the world watching him. Corporate brands don’t even have to work that hard as the Kennedys, the Mandelas or the Churchills of this world. And the task is certainly not impossible. Coca-Cola’s done it with great success.

All brands have to do is stop drinking their own Kool-Aid and give their consumers something to believe in. Stop thinking “profits first”. That’s when you cease being a brand…and become an icon…


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