Start with The End in Mind

January 13, 2020 | blog | By Mike Sullivan

The customer response.

Building a transcendent culture is imperative to building a lasting brand. But that effort is never one of sheer benevolence, ego, or vanity. Building a great company, or a great brand is always in service to a customer transaction in the outside world, whether it’s selling products, serving customers, or aiding humanity. And as much as some companies might want a mutually exclusive relationship between their internal culture and external brand, there is an inherently osmotic effect that precludes that from being possible.

Think about your office. No matter what role your people play in building your brand each and every day, your team consciously (and subconsciously) soaks in every aspect of their environment. And, as a result, how your team feels about your company and your leadership bleeds into everything they do. Everything. How products are designed, how they’re manufactured, how they’re shipped, marketed, and sold. How food is prepared in a restaurant, how closely recipes are followed, what kind of service is provided, and in what kind of environment. Even in a caused-based non-profit with real life and death consequences, how the team is conditioned has everything to do with the effectiveness of their effort.

The brand and the culture you build are inextricably linked to the experience you deliver to your end consumer. That experience can be unbelievably positive. But it can also be catastrophically negative. The good news is that you have control over the way that narrative unfolds.

All you have to do is start with the end of the story in mind and build the brand and culture that will bring about the desired result.

To see what that looks like, consider three extraordinary examples of global brands that were meticulously built over the last 10, 20, and 40 years. They all live in the same general space, they all transcended their category, and they all exponentially exceeded expectations that were already through the roof. You might recognize them if you’ve ever spent any time in space, a galaxy far, far away, or a little place called Westeros.

Creating a superhuman brand experience.

When Avengers: End Game hit theaters in April of 2019, it brought an end to Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and concluded the most extraordinary, interconnected run in the history of the movies. Think of any cinematic touchstone in your lifetime. From a financial standpoint, from a technological standpoint, from a branding standpoint, there’s never been anything quite like the 22-film tapestry that comprised the MCU. Ironically, the only things even close in their breadth, quality of production, and number of rabid fans are Game of Thrones and Star Wars which also concluded their runs in 2019. It was a tough year to be a nerd.

There’s no better way to describe the MCU, Game of Thrones, and Star Wars than by calling them phenomena. And while it would be easy to characterize all three series as geeky, fantasy fare, the truth is they didn’t get where they are just because of the Comic-Con crowd.

They flourished because they captured the rest of us — making those who wouldn’t ordinarily pay attention sit up and take notice — by picturing their ultimate, endgame experience, and then building the brands that could deliver it.

Consider these numbers:

The Marvel Cinematic Universe
22 Films
$3.91 billion spent on production
$8.56 billion in domestic box office
$21.45 billion in worldwide box office

HBO’s Game of Thrones
73 episodes
Broadcast in 207 countries and territories
Season One average viewers – 9.3 million
Season Eight average viewers – 44 million
161 Primetime Emmy nominations with 59 wins

Star Wars
12 films
$1.58 billion spent on production
$4.56 billion in domestic box office
$9.49 billion in worldwide box office

The numbers are astounding and there’s not a brand on the planet that wouldn’t love to have the success and fan loyalty these franchises command. That may seem like an impossible task, but consider this: in 1975, George Lucas’s claim to fame was a love letter to the ‘50s called American Graffiti. In 2007, the MCU only existed in comic books. In 2010, A Game of Thrones was a single book in the fantasy section of the bookstore.

Once upon a time, these behemoths were all challenger brands. But they started with the end in mind and a vision for what they wanted to be and what they wanted to deliver to the consumer.

That’s not to say every detail was planned out, because clearly, they weren’t. Yet each of these franchises knew the customer experience they wanted to deliver and built their brands accordingly. All three took different and circuitous routes to success. But if you look closely, you can see they all leaned hard into five tenets of challenger branding that ultimately set them apart from everything else that looked or felt remotely like them.

These tenets aren’t tied to fantasy, or science fiction, or even filmmaking. They’re five challenger brand pillars that can serve any brand well. All it takes is the forethought, courage and discipline to see them through. In our next blog, we’ll walk through each of those challenger branding tenants and their application.

MIKE SULLIVAN is President of LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency and a top Dallas advertising agency for digital, social, mobile and user experience. For more about challenger branding, advertising and marketing, leadership, culture and other inspirations that will drive your success, visit our blog BARK! The Voice of the Underdog and catch up on all of our posts.

For more about LOOMIS, or to discuss how we can help your company succeed, CLICK HERE

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Mike Sullivan

President at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency


We challenge underdog brands to think differently. We help them find their voice, and urge them to blaze new trails to make sure they stand out from the pack. Whether you need an agency of record or support on a project, we are here to help you win.