“Zelig” is a treasure of a movie. Woody Allen directed and starred in this 1983 masterpiece mockumentary that told the story of Leonard Zelig, a man whose body, voice and personality would change in the presence of the people surrounding him. Leonard Zelig was a chameleon, a total conformist – everything to everybody with no individuality of his own. Zelig was everything and nothing at the same time.
Companies can fall into a Zelig trap with their brand strategies. The National Coffee Association once ran a campaign with the message “coffee lets you calm yourself down AND picks you up.” It’s work that looks like an old “Saturday Night Live” bit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OR3zpPZnCbE
Seriously, Coffee, do you pick me up or calm me down? Pick one. Good brand strategies don’t have an “AND” in them.
“That’s not a strategy. That’s TWO strategies separated by the word ‘AND’.” – Don Draper, “Mad Men“
A good brand is a single idea, a main message, one well-honed proposition formed by sacrificing other good-but-not-great options. A good brand is not “a little pregnant” or a “both-and” arrangement. It’s not a Zelig.
After perpetually rebranding himself into every possible variation of human, Leonard Zelig finally stopped changing. He learned to be himself, to be constant, to be true. Zelig buried everything he was not and became his own brand. And he was a much happier man.