What marketers can learn from murderers

Bear with me for a minute.  I’ll get to the point.

This is a story about archetypes and metaphors. As you probably know if you are in the US, two escapees from a maximum-security prison in New York attracted headlines for three weeks before one was killed and the other captured last week.

By all accounts, these men were/are straight from the bowels of hell -- loathsome sociopaths who committed horrific acts. Nonetheless, this article suggests that a lot of people were sort of rooting for them. Their daring escape and subsequent hideout in the woods was a classic underdog story – two guys on their own against a force of thousands.

It seems like there is something to learn from this about brand personas and creative executions. People inherently like brands and characters who are little messy.  This is probably because we’re all a little messy and we can relate to that. Most of us aren’t criminals but we can certainly relate to an underdog/outlaw story in our own way. In the US, the Outlaw metaphor is embedded in the cultural DNA.

Sometimes clients are afraid of the paradoxes that exist in their brands, and clients and agencies can be afraid to cast characters in advertising who aren’t squeaky clean and “perfect.”  Obviously, this isn't to suggest that Charles Manson should have a role as a brand endorser. But in moderation, paradoxes and rough edges can make brands and characters intriguing.