Every brand owner, as part of a vision for the future, wants to create the next all-important iconic brand. And, every brand has the potential to grow in an iconic way by understanding how it creates and manages desire. Often the path to iconic growth is about embracing something of an intangible quality which is present right at the start and which others don’t have. A quality that can turn into an asset over time, by living and becoming loved.

Just like the most amazing cultural phenomena – the emergence of a new star, the thrill of a moment of victory, the magical effect of a brave performance – they create inexplicable emotions in us that grow naturally and unexpectedly and connect us all so powerfully. This is exactly what is counter-intuitive and what stops most brands from achieving greatness. Because it’s in the nature of brand management to want to predict, control, measure, and map out future success.

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But to build an icon means to intimately know the unique nature of a brand – to take what truly makes it one of a kind and let it come alive, breathe and seduce. It then comes down to consciously taking this forward time and time again, always ahead of everyone else and with a great sense of intuition and conviction.

The sense of uplift every Nike experience evokes, the sublime simplicity of every new Apple idea, the substantial feeling of every Le Creuset piece. These irresistible qualities need to be felt seamlessly and continuously; and only the most sensitive, visionary directors of brands know that they are at the heart of their brand’s desirability and, therefore, the key to their iconic future.

The only way to grow a successful icon is by managing its desirability – because ultimately that’s what brands are – collective entities of desire.

The only way to grow a successful icon is by managing its desirability – because ultimately that’s what brands are – collective entities of desire. No matter how sound or precise a growth strategy may be, unless it deals with what’s going to drive the desire for the brand, it will always fall short of realising its full iconic potential.

So if it’s all about the intangible and the uncontrollable, is there no model for growing iconic brands? Of course there is, but we need to let go of the conventional principles and think about how we want to make people feel at every stage and seize every opportunity to create desire.

Consciously building a lifecycle of desirability – the journey from a new challenger brand to a mature iconic brand – can be seen as four key stages with the opportunity, at every stage, to broaden and deepen the relationship to ultimately reach iconic status.

  • Stage 1: Attraction

The dramatic arrival of a challenger brand full of raw energy and potential. {Aim for impact and exposure} 

  • Stage 2: Seduction

The exciting revelation of a new expression, challenging the existing dynamic. {Aim for surprise and momentum}

  • Stage 3: Connection

The growing acceptance of a rising icon, broadening its reach and popularity. {Aim for depth and meaning}

  • Stage 4: Love

The complete embrace of the established icon by everyone united by a timeless bond. {Aim for celebration and elevation}

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Uber is a great and very timely example of a brand that has boldly exploded onto the scene with a tenacious sense of its own cultural importance. Its behaviour and attitude has, at times, been random but it has created that all-important sense of awareness about what it needs to do, when and how. From a small dot on the map, it has proved its agility and ubiquity; and is now joining up the dots on a global map at a phenomenal rate as it starts to be followed, accepted and integrated worldwide. Most importantly, Uber’s perfectly timed and performed brand reinvention shows this is a brand that is consciously managing its iconic growth from initial attraction to universal connection and confidently forging ahead to the all important iconic level.

As Uber shows, becoming an icon is not necessarily a straightforward or easy journey – it is, in fact, a journey that at times will be filled with affection, at other times with drama, and sometimes with uncertainty. But, it is by staying resolutely true to an intense sense of self and originality that makes it such a compelling and impactful journey, and one that people can’t help but grow with and follow to the end.

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