The Key Players




Some things never change and one of those things is playing by the rules. Then as now it was the done thing to abide by certain rules, even when we were children and still pretty carefree: first your homework, then get out to play ball. And a few years later these rules were still being applied: first the homework, then go see your girl. I was reminded of this the other day when I stumbled across a Taco Bell clip on YouTube. The clip brought back that sense of elation, when you'd finished your homework and knew you were now free to go out and play.

The ad was run at a Super Bowl break. The commercial breaks shown during those events are so popular that they are uploaded to YouTube afterward and viewed by millions for a second time. In this particular commercial, a group of elderly people party the night away as if they were still in their twenties: they trespass on somebody’s property, flirt and dance, generally make a nuisance of themselves and drive around in the night. At the end of the clip, they can be seen lying beneath the starry night on the hood of a car while, in a casual aside, enjoying some fast food. An entertaining clip that is all the more enjoyable because it’s so playful and lighthearted.

If a brand has done its homework well and achieved a certain level of prominence it can afford to be playful. The product which, when all is said and done, is always what it's about is postioned in the background. What's transmitted instead is a lifestyle attitude. Thankfully those times are over when everything to do with branding had to be planned and regulated down to the very last detail, because initially, corporate identity – particularly in Europe – was driven primarily by design. So much so that exploiting the brand content, the brand story and the brand experience fell by the wayside entirely. Today, we have a different understanding of branding, one that places the brand content at the heart. Design continues to form a key part, but is handled with greater flexibility. The design is allotted a role in telling the brand story and delivers a visual contribution.

Confident handling of a proprietary brand, adapting self-imposed rules, bending them even, continues to cause even professional players sleepless nights. Only if you are absolutely convinced, possess the courage and are prepared to take risks, will you have the necessary poise to overturn rules, reinterpret them and become an active player – maybe even becoming the one to redefine the rules over and over again.
Often this playful way of managing a brand masks a careful balancing act. Relegating the product to the background in order to draw on the positive emotions that are produced by the storyline – comes with a certain risk and could potentially result in a major flop. In which case you would have lost control over the game. Yet in branding as in soccer and in real life it is the key players who determine the outcome of the game. To be a key player requires excellent technical skills and a confident, engaged commitment that inspires the other players. So go ahead and ask yourself: when were you last your own key player?


This article appeared in PUNKTMagazin. The Swiss magazine combines economics, investment and lifestyle and is published every two months. Branders CEO René Allemann writes a column for the publication. You'll find more information on PUNKTMagazin here:

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René Allemann

René Allemann

Born in Zurich, René Allemann founded the consulting firm Branders in 2005. With 20 employees, the branding agency creates, maintains and manages brands. The Brander journal is published by the Branders Group.

The Brander is a publication of the Branders Group