When beloved actor Leonard Nimoy died in late February, I noticed that nearly every article about his life and death mentioned that he was “best known for” his iconic role as Star Trek’s Mr. Spock.
Then yesterday, when I was saddened to learn of the death of singer Percy Sledge, I was once again struck by the use of that phrase: “best known for”- in this case, the classic song “When a Man Loves a Woman.”
Both of these remarkable men had long, full lives with other successes (and their fair share of failures). But these achievements were being singled out and remembered specifically. Something about these accomplishments made them stand out, and attached themselves to these men as a lasting legacy.
It made me wonder: Is there any way to determine what we are “best known for”? Is this only applicable to people, or does it hold true for brands as well? How can we influence both our current reputation and the permanent memories attached to us?
Create something original: There had never been a character like Mr. Spock on television when the original Star Trek series debuted in 1966. Sledge’s big hit was “literally the first Southern soul record to top the pop charts.” When someone has never experienced anything like you before, they’ll remember you and whatever it is you’ve brought into their lives. In the business sphere, this is similar to the way that many iPhone users are dedicated to Apple , with emotions that are often tied up with memories of the first time they used the product.
Create something relatable: Almost everyone can relate to the intensity of the love that Sledge signs about in his song. It is a universal condition that we all recognize. And Spock? Well, an alien-human hybrid traveling the stars in the distant utopian future may not be immediately relatable. However, Mr. Spock represented a character who didn’t necessarily fit in but who worked hard and used his intellect to succeed, which resonated with many people then and now. Brands like Zappos capitalize on relatable needs when they take the normal stress and hassle of online shopping out of the equation, leaving behind just pleasant memories of a positive customer experience.
Create something meaningful: The best songs, the best characters, and the best brands point people to a “why.” Whether it is love, intellect, exploration, environmental responsibility, or some other driver, people respond with genuine emotion when they relate to the values you convey. Whole Foods is a great example of a brand that has a well-defined “why” attached to it, and their success shows that the company’s values appeal to many consumers.
I believe the key is in inspiring emotion in people. Author Maya Angelou is quoted as saying, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Great artists and great brands inspire deep, long lasting, positive emotions. That’s a worthwhile legacy, and one worth remembering.