by Reid Overcash
Memorials have an agenda. I never used to think in such terms, but a recent trip up the east coast gave me reason to reflect on several issues and how it can be a learning opportunity as it relates to marketing and branding. My wife, Susan, and youngest daughter, Adrienne, and I traveled to the upper regions of Vermont to visit my oldest daughter, Zandy, who is teaching tennis at a Windridge Tennis Camp near Craftsbury Common. We were only able to see her for a few hours and meet the kids she taught who were from many foreign countries and the New England area of the USA.
Upon leaving we trekked down Interstate 91 for a three-day stay in New York City which my youngest daughter had never seen. It was the first time I had been able to visit Ground Zero. It seems to me to be sacred ground even without the physical memorial. There are only a handful of pictures and a timeline of the roughly two hours that the entire event took place. Otherwise, there is a big hole in the ground with work crews making the site ready for the next building to replace the Twin Towers. Yet a simple hole in the ground has a profound and emotional effect on nearly everyone who visits.
Later that week we continued our trip to Washington where again we were introducing my 10-year old to our nation’s capital. We visited the Vietnam War Memorial and the new World War II Memorial. The Vietnam Memorial is a very simple structure with hundreds of people around but hardly a word being spoken except in whispers. The WW II structure is a little more grandiose but mostly filled with memorable quotes from the leaders of that time. Again the simplicity of the memorial grabbed my attention. Could it be that a memorial is not a physical structure at all? If it’s made out of granite, wood or just a large open expanse it can have the same meaning. A memorial is the individual memories of the people who visit it and a big hole in the ground had an impact on me as big as the hole.
Now what does this have to do with marketing? It’s a method of teaching that a brand like a memorial is not a physical thing like a logo or a product. A brand is a promise made by the company to its customers. A memorial is a promise not to forget, and I’ll never forget that big hole in the ground.