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Who's Got Your Back?

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Derek BartonDerek Barton

Have you ever seen a Disney car? You may never see one on the road because of the Brand Manager at Disney many years ago.

What may seem like a perfectly logical brand idea to many may seem like a very bad idea to one. And that ONE just might be what most companies call their Brand Manager, or as I was nicknamed at Gold's Gym, the "Keeper of the Brand."

At that Think Tank meeting at Disney many moons ago, someone said, "Since every kid grows up loving Disney, why shouldn't their first automobile be a Disney car?" Every person around the table praised the idea and the excitement grew at the thought of this potential revenue maker while getting another Disney product out into the marketplace. It seemed like a logical extension of the brand. Who wouldn't love that idea? Certainly, every Disney fan would. All the Disney management and marketing teams at the roundtable did but not Disney's Brand Manager.

That "Keeper of the Brand" was the only person who questioned the idea. She was the only one who truly thought all the way through the idea from the good points to the bad. After all, it was her job to make sure this idea was "on brand" and would not diminish or harm it in any way. She was in a tough position, because at Disney, they do not allow any negative thinking when it comes to developing an idea, a concept I admire and respect because too many people don't have the vision to truly see a great idea. They'll negate it for many reasons: (1) because it wasn't their idea or (2) because they just don't open their minds to something new.

In this case, the Brand Manager at Disney waited until the celebration and the high-fives over their great Disney car idea were completed. She raised her hand and said, "I can see the Disney car as clearly as all of you can. I can see the excitement on the face of every kid who drives one. It could be more popular than the Volkswagen Beetle. But, I can also see what would happen to our brand when a 16-year old girl gets into a fatal accident in her first car, the Disney car. The newspaper headlines and newscasts will brutalize our brand."

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