Brands come in all shapes, sizes, colors and flavors. Just like people. Some are funny. Some are wise. Some are innovative. Some smell good.
And some are really special. With brand stories that can be quite fascinating.
If you’ve watched 2019’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood starring Tom Hanks as the inimitable Fred Rogers, you’ve seen one of those fascinating brand stories. It was an instance where the worlds of cinema and branding converged in a really memorable way.
I had never really thought about Mr. Rogers as being a brand. But think about him for a minute and you probably have a pretty good idea of how he would act and behave. With kindness. Compassion. Acceptance. Gentleness. Integrity. And not just occasionally, but always. As a man, Fred Rogers was true to himself. And as a brand, Mr. Rogers was a paragon of brand consistency.
But there are other aspects of the Mr. Rogers brand that were also always there. He was a pioneer, an innovator, a man of courage. He broke down barriers by never hesitating to teach a lesson, while avoiding the urge to preach a lesson.
He taught by example. By how he behaved and what he said. Everyday.
There were many defining moments for Mr. Rogers as he dealt with difficult topics like death, divorce, disabilities and change. He welcomed a young boy in a wheelchair. He created a segment that addressed the assassination of Robert Kennedy in a way that children could understand. He showed the loss of a pet and the addition of new family members, with empathy and understanding that helped little ones deal with grief or avoid sibling rivalry.
But perhaps the bravest gesture of Mr. Rogers was creating the character of Officer Clemmons, the first ongoing role for a black actor on a children’s show. He treated Officer Clemmons with respect, including a famous scene in 1969, where they relaxed together with their feet in a kiddie pool. As they were getting out of the pool, Mr. Rogers knelt down to dry Officer Clemmons’ feet with a towel.
In a defining moment, he utters the words, “Sometimes a minute like this will really make a difference.” As marketers, think of how hard we work to try and create such memorable moments for our brands.
These days, so many brands struggle with their efforts to be authentic, to be liked and to entice consumers to be their friend. When you think about it, perhaps all they really need to do is act in a way that simply says, “Won’t you be my neighbor?”
If you haven’t seen this film, it was worth watching when it first came out, and in these difficult times, it is even more relevant. Definitely worth watching. It’s currently available on Vudu, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube and Google Play Movies & TV.
NML NPS Rating: 10
Review by Phil Goldberg