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Primal Branding: The Who What When Where Why of Building Iconic Brands

Approx 7 min. read

Brian Sena

December 10, 2021

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Primal Branding

The Greeks and Romans knew a thing or two about pillars. One could make the case that their architectural contributions were the foundation of society as we know it. They represent structure, fortitude, built with the innate ability to support and withstand the test of time. Conducting business catalyzed by the power of primal branding is just that, a foundational support to carry your business across the evolving terrain of building brands that stand the test of time. At EverWonder we not only strive to support brand development and marketing, but to be on the ground floor with you establishing the foundation.

Primal branding is the raw material we use to access the very core of your band, extract the DNA, and produce an end-product that stands the Darwinian test of time. Brands work because there is an alignment between core message and the soul of the consumer. We access and address the needs of consumer biology to deliver products that make you fittest for survival.

 “‘Primal Branding '’ is the root code for building seriously authentic Brands. It is nontraditional and uncovers the building blocks that attract people and gather them together. As human beings, we are hard-wired to cluster in groups and build communities with common language, purpose, affinities and desires. For thousands of years, these human clusters have risen seemingly spontaneously and without reason. But we have discovered the pattern behind community building that has existed for tens of thousands of years. It is systematic, definitive, predictive, and triggers the essence of what it means to be human. It is Primal.” – Patrick Hanlon, Primalbranding: Create Zealots for your Brand, Your Company, and Your Future. 

Primal Branding works because it is not just a good recipe.  Anyone can bake a cake with step-by-step instructions, and surely it smells and tastes the same every time. Primal branding is opening the pantry, pulling out the ingredients, and surpassing the expectations of a cake box. It is connected, dynamic, cohesive, collaborative, sustainable, and unique.

This take on marketing and branding works because it is rooted in strategy.  These roots or pillars are the bedrock to formulating a successful and meaningful brand identity. Let’s introduce you to the ingredients, we don’t mind spilling the beans since we are the secret sauce.

The 7 Pillars


1. Story

Your creation story is your “why.”  It is the question and the answer.  It is the beating heart of your brand and ultimately the backbone of the gravitational field it generates.  The Social Network (2010) has grossed over 96 million. All great brands have a genesis story, and it turns out this particular one was worth about a billion dollars. 

Consider you are a broke college student backpacking one summer and you lose your prescription glasses. Facing down the hefty expense of replacements, a whole semester goes by before you are wearing proper glasses again. Exasperated by the inflated and stressful eyewear market- Warby Parker was born. Woven from the ideas behind its evolution to execution, the brand boasts “Buying eyewear should leave you happy and good-looking, with money in your pocket.”

Warby Parker’s origin story leaves us compelled, engaged, and ready to buy into the whole blue light-blocking trend. We too were once broke college kids, playing beer pong and hoping we didn’t stumble home and crack our glasses.

Your story is what defines you, your creation story is why it defines you.  This makes brands more than relatable; it makes them family.  Tuck us in, read us your bedtime story…don’t forget your readers.

2. Creed

Once you’ve shared your story, we need to hear your battle cry. This second pillar is your creed, your motto, your core values and beliefs.  

Ben & Jerry’s provides a delicious example of a clear and concise creed:  “We believe that ice cream can change the world.” Immediately and simplistically we know who and what they are about. They focus on making delicious ice cream while initiating innovative ways to improve the quality of life for those on local, national, and even global levels. It is this kind of innovation that brings people together. 

Developing a strong and unifying message gives a brand integrity and builds brand loyalty through human connection. This is effective, because given the option among many ice creams – if we are going to splurge, we might as well also help the planet. Just ask Cherry Garcia.

3. Icon

In nature, something as primal as the color red signals danger. This is why stop signs work- this is why one could argue stop signs are the proverbial Godfather of icons.  These are images that once seen are hardwired to become synonymous with their meaning. 

We traditionally think of icons as visual: the Nike swoosh, Mickey Mouse ears, Apple’s Apple.

When you leverage primal branding you embrace all the senses. This enables Icons to offer a meaningful and visceral presence, instantly recognizable. It is the t-shirt that says you went to the show. It is the magnet you bring home from your trip. It is why we say Starbucks instead of coffee. Icons allow us to recognize and connect with a brand without a spoken or written word. They are that powerful.

4. Ritual

Rituals, the fourth pillar, offer an insertion point for relating to consumers in the most intimate of ways.  Accessing a ritual or building a new one gives companies and brand-builders perspective into unconventional ways to access culture, ceremony, and routine on an intimate level. 

Take posting an Instagram photo: you upload the asset, choose a filter, maybe add a tag or two, and post. This is a ritual. In fact, social media is a platform prime for ritual. There is an innate rush from engaging with a business that you see others support, and that rush is especially powerful if you connect with those who are engaging with it. It is the dopamine rush of completing a task. If someone you admire publicly “likes” a brand, then engaging with that brand makes you feel connected with that person, too. The ritual becomes two-fold: for you, the client, creating meaningful content for your community as well as for the consumers who engage with it.

Your brand should have its own rituals that drive customers to engage, buy, or otherwise convert, as well as exterior rituals that carry out your creed or mission statement. Then, allow your customers to evolve their own rituals unique and inclusive to your brand. Wash, rinse, repeat.

5. Lexicon

Languages, lexicon, jargon, dialect.  Communication whether written, spoken or heard, and sometimes even felt is pure humanity.  This pillar of social code is concrete. If learning new languages opens doors, imagine what building a new one does. 

Think about how Apple virtually owns a vocabulary of its own: headphones are  AirPods, “Macs” for laptops.  That may be a cell phone you are holding but you still call it your I-Phone don’t you? Apple even created aspects of tech that only work for their community, like AirDrop. When you speak Apple, you connect with a devoted community that is all about the language, or lexicon, of this powerful brand. 

Your language should speak to who you are as a company. In fact, many of the terms in your marketing language may hold special meaning for your brand, whilst some may not even make complete sense to those outside your brand’s community. Speaking the “common tongue” makes users part of a sacred nation.

Should I call us an Uber? 

Feel free to “like,” “comment,” “follow.”

6. Non believer

Knowing who and what you are is just as important as knowing who and what you are not.  Who will not “follow?” Who you do not serve is just as important:  What is your antithesis? Who is your arch nemesis? Are you team A or team B?  Maybe you don’t know exactly what you want, but odds are you know exactly what you don’t want. This is valuable data, knowing these answers solidifies identity, better allocates resources, and is often an overlooked strategy.

Many brands have developed and thrived on polarity – iPhone vs. Androids, Ford vs. GM, and, of course, Coke vs. Pepsi.

Pepsi leverages  the “us vs. them” strategy in their marketing from celebrity endorsements to competitions. Coke, takes a less polarizing (more polar bear) approach. From its iconic “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” to its Unity apparel and “Have a Coke and a Smile'' slogan, Coke sees its non-believers differently. Instead of only galvanizing its loyal consumers, it aims to win over its non-believers- by handing them a Coke—with their name on it.

7. Leadership    

This is the who: the leaders and trailblazers who hold the vision of your business are the powerful component and final pillar of your brand. The leader’s story speaks to us.  

Oprah’s slow rise to fame and the empire she built upon a daytime talk show has many buying up her list of “favorite things” every Christmas.  Elon Musk dumps a bunch of Bitcoin and suddenly we are reading cryptocurrency blogs. Maybe we listen to a podcast interview with Dave Asprey on the way to work, and the next morning we are making Bulletproof Coffee. 

Consider not just the personality of these leaders but what they represent. They are icons for your brand as much as your logo. Each of these leaders brings with them a wealth of associations, positive and negative.  We still follow them into battle, but they too are fallible. . Take Jeff Bezos, for example. He is certainly an iconic leader, but Amazon has had recent issues with unfair pay or extreme workdays. His moral code and approach to business might not align with yours, but no one can attest to him being an innovator.. Leaders are yet another vehicle to potentially build trust or erode it. It takes 12 positive interactions to recover from one bad brand experience for your consumers — think about that.  

Invest in Your Brand, Boost Your Marketing Strategy

Zooming in and out on each of these pillars showcases the value of a comprehensive marketing strategy.  Social Media is just one medium, it is a tool and a tactic but not the end all be all.  Cavemen needed tools too, but at this point quite frankly “going viral” probably also needs some re-branding. 

The pillars give us the background and details necessary to connect the dots and transform a company into a community. Not an easy feat by any means. Sculpting a mission, vision, values, voice, and tone takes time. Next are the visual elements—logo, typography, images, video, and even your color palette—to incorporate and build upon the pillars you’ve constructed. Your brand then comes to life. Primal branding offers the platitude to convey the thoughts, feelings, and desires you have for your business inspiring your followers to experience them as well.

EverWonder is not just a tool, we are the tool box. We are your carpenter, welder, we are your sous-chef, your front and back of house. We are your Umami. We weaponize the power of Primal Branding to deliver your vision and brand equipped for today’s dynamic consumer landscape. 

Consider Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why” methodology where he coined the Golden Circle. Trust the WHY about what your company believes in first, before counting followers and profit.  Think about what builds your community rather than what sells your product, and you will naturally do both. EverWonder’s perspective is not to just build better brands, it is to build brands- better. We start with the birth of your idea and we build with you side by side. You become part of our pack, or rather we become part of yours.  “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” So, let’s build it together: pillar by pillar.

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