Sunday's starry-eyed Oscars and their little gold statues for the best in the business are inspirational…at least in a self-indulgent kind of way. To further indulge a society obsessed with award shows, I'd like to roll out the red carpet on Planit's inaugural Brandy Awards (in the spirit of the Academy Awards, the Grammy's, Emmy's, Tony's, Webby's, and Denny's Grand Slam). Here we could discuss the merits of a variety of brandies and cognacs (Hennessy or Courvoisier?), or the best episodes of Moesha. But instead this post will be a little homage to some of our favorite brands. What makes a brand award worthy? I think it has to make an emotional connection; it has to tap into something that stirs us to sit up and take notice. An award-winner makes you want to experience and engage with that brand. There are some obvious choices like Apple, Google, Starbucks, The Gap. These are highly regarded, oft-publicized brands that invest heavily in their identities and have cultivated something special. They move their entire industries with cross-generational appeal and personality and a relentless attention to image consistency. We'll pretend these A-list celebs already made their long, predictable Brandy acceptance speeches and had to be cut off by the orchestra, and instead we'll focus on winners of some unsung categories. So without further ado, here are just a few primetime award winners…
Best Shopping Brand:
Here's a business that created a category, and in so doing turned the drudgery of grocery shopping into something more noble, intelligent, and vibrant. This store made commodity into community; everyday into sublime. Its bigger competitors have been playing catch-up since.
Best Service Industry Brand:
Consistently in the stratosphere vs. the competition, and reaping the rewards. Customer service isn't the sexy part of being a good brand, but it might be the most important. Stock symbol: LUV!
Best Brand of Something We Really Need:
American Red Cross
Is there a logo out there that makes people feel any better than this one? Not afraid to retool its processes to control for fraud in the wake of September 11 and Hurricane Katrina, this shows that a good brand is not necessarily without controversy but knows how to constantly fine-tune to stay on mission. And by the way, their "Text Haiti" campaign made it easy for the world to donate over $5 million via text message. Probably the simplest, most effective social media strategy ever.
Best Brand of Something We Don't Really Need:
Turning video games into what we perceive to be "utility"; sedentary into active; older non-gamers into aficionados; product into its own marketing. Genius. (And just plain fun, too.)
Best Place Brand:
There aren't many cities that can claim distinct brands of their own (New York, Paris, New Orleans come to mind). Vegas has a niche that it exploits excessively, which is precisely what the city is all about. It is not afraid of what it is, and not afraid to keep giving us more of it — it's one of the fastest growing cities in the country.
Best Lux Brand:
That little blue box is worth its weight in gold. Are Tiffany's jewels any better than the next gal's? Doubtful. But when you give or receive that robin's egg blue box tied in a bow, it stands for something more. It has come to define "expensive," "exclusive," and "quality."
Best Mundane Brand:
A simple pad of paper, a dash of color, and a little adhesive. To some it's an organizational scheme unto itself. When's the last time you used one of those clunky tape dispensers, anyway?
Best Person Brand:
Next year she leaves the game on top of a billion dollar media empire. Like her or not, it won't be long before she'll OWN us all.
Best Person Anti-Brand:
The more this cat rambles and wanders the wilderness of activist folk poetry, the more endearingly eccentric he becomes. He defines genre-bending — and if you called him a brand to his face he just might spit in yours.
Best Brand on TV:
Maybe because it's not TV after all. A tireless pursuit of the best in drama, comedy, and documentary has brought this brand originally known for movies to the forefront of episodic programming. While the networks fumble, HBO continues to develop quality reasons for viewers to tune in to what some would call a dying medium.
Best Clothing Brand:
Girls, guys, young, old; who wouldn't want a pair of Levi's? There's plenty of great jeans out there, let alone great clothing brands, but few that have been doing it this well for 150 years. If I did a poll on the one wardrobe must-have, I bet blue jeans would win.
Best Sports Brand:
How's inventing an entire sport for your corporate resume? When your brand can create its own playing field and get others to play, it wins.
Best Local Brand (DC/Baltimore):
These Marylanders started with a community-minded attitude and a laser-like focus on really good tea. Then they sold a big share of the biz to Coca-Cola and managed to keep just about all of their mojo intact. (Hey Honest Tea, if you ever want help taking your brand to the next step, let us know.) And finally…
Best Toothpaste Brand:
According to our intern, Roseann, it stays freshest the longest and it's relatively cheap. She says most other toothpastes keep your mouth fresh for about half an hour max after brushing. I'll give Roseann this: price is one of those things that probably gets overlooked in our quest for the best brands, and it's just as critical as anything else. That and the colorful minty stripes are enough to convince me.
These are just a few awards to stoke the fire. Now it's your turn. Relate, berate, debate, nominate. And then down a shot of Courvoisier.