Everything I know about branding I learned from Star Trek

Written by Steve Barker

OK, I admit it. I’m a fan-boy. Used to be, if you were a Star Trek fan, a Trekkie, you were a bit of a social outcast. (Of course having your wedding in full Klingon regalia and in their native tongue will still qualify you for that.) But something has changed over the years. What was a fringe social sect has grown into a fully formed respectable subculture. How did this happen?

Branding.

Star Trek has had a brand strategy in place since it began in 1967. It probably wasn’t written as such. It was most likely the general script guidelines used by the show’s creators and writers to keep continuity as the series grew from episode to episode. Usually as episodic TV shows are being produced, the fabric of the stories and visual elements are documented so the show is cohesive as it grows in length.

Star Trek had that, but something else, too. It was Gene Roddenberry’s grand vision of the future. A noble future of a peaceful unified Earth and an “evolved” humankind. In it was a moral code called the Prime Directive – the law that forbade anyone in Star Fleet from interfering in another planet’s natural timeline. The grand vision is the emotional foundation that has permeated throughout series, even into the current film franchise. While fans may love the funny or dramatic plot lines, the TV-level special effects and the great character chemistry, it’s the common thread of Roddenberry’s vision that captured the hearts of fans for almost 50 years. In other words, The Grand Vision = Brand. Or, Brand = The Grand Vision – but I digress.

The Star Trek formula never impeded the creators from presenting current themes or from adding drama or humor to the story. To keep the franchise fresh, the storylines were shaped to mirror current events and social attitudes. This is the lesson that many companies and products have used with great success and many still need to apply. Keep your brand story fresh, allowing the narrative to capture the current trends or style. Always building the latest marketing narrative on the basis of your brand foundation.

I believe that any product or company that adopts this way of thinking will, . . . get ready for it . . . live long and prosper.