Questions To Answer: How Create Brand Meaning through Myth?

Red Bull – myth beyond the material

Although it may, at times appear, as if we think we have all the answers, we don’t. We don’t even know all the questions. Brands, are as manifold and unpredictable as life. Besides, their context is in constant flux.
So don’t expect our little ‘Questions to Answer’ series to provide a surefire way to elevate your brand.  Ueber-Brands* need to be ‘beyond compare’ and that means beyond rules or standards. Otherwise they would soon be seen as just that, standard: and that’s the opposite of ‘Ueber’**.

All that being said, we took a crack at formulating some key questions you might want to ask yourself and the team as you devise your brand strategy. Look at the questions more as path planner than a road map. Like all questions in this series, they are meant to stimulate your own thinking on where to go, how to take brands forward and onward, lifting them out of the price wars and on to a higher, more fun and fulfilling level of being and marketing.
We refer to some of the case studies used on this blog and/or our latest book, to en-courage some flipping back and forth and spark your imagination.
Telling a compelling story that is relevant, relatable, memorable and sharable is key for any brand. But to become an Ueber-Brand you need to elevate your story to a ‘myth’. Answer to a higher truth or guide with social value.

Here are a few questions you should ask yourself as you seek to create a myth and with it a deeper meaning to your brand: 

  • Have you done a deep dive into your brand’s history, the founder’s vision, the organization’s culture and other elements of your brand? (Some ‘brand anthropology’ is what we do first)
  • Ever looked at the semiotics of your brand name, symbols or associated rituals? (Cirque du Soleil, SK-II, L’Officine Universelle de Buly and its name, places, origami-wrapping ritual, etc.)
  • Do you have an evocative name? (Aesop for ‘brainy beauty’; how about Napapijri?)
  • What are the key elements of your story, the critical elements of your myth? The hero, the hurdle, the seven steps?
  • Is your story true to your roots and your vision? (Freitag or Yuan Soap)
  • Do you allow the target to become part of the story and have a sense of intimacy and ownership? (Patagonia, the ‘piton revelation’ and their adventurer-activist battle)
  • Are you bringing your stories to life through your actions? Consistently? (Moleskine collective creativity projects; Red Bull stunts and competitions.)
  • Have you elevated your story beyond the factual to mythical proportions? (The Renaissance philosophy and world of Brunello Cucinelli.)
  • Is your brand myth helping to ‘reach beyond’ our physical or intellectual limitations? (Red Bull’s super-human powers, Crème de la Mer as source of life.)
  • And/or is your myth a guiding one, offering social currency? (Harley’s outlaw or Ralph Lauren’s preppy.)
  • Do you evolve your brand myth to stay relevant yet respect its core to become iconic? (Chanel’s emancipated elegance; Abercrombie’s failure to stay relevant.)

The ultimate question: Do your clients (and non-clients) have a sense of your myth? Do you?

If you liked the film referenced above you might want to follow-up reading this post which lays out the basic structure of a myth.  But wait, there is more!  Here is a more in-depth article we wrote for an academic journal on the subject of myth making in marketing.  Then take some inspiration from our collection of case studies that illustrate how to build and leverage a brand myth.

* To get deeper insights into what ‘Ueber-Branding’ is all about – i.e. what drives the success of modern Prestige brands, you should read our book “Rethinking Prestige Branding – Secrets of the Ueberbrands” and look at the Ueber-Branding model and method of application.

** ‘ueber’ = German for ‘above and beyond’ – just like the ambitions of brands we are talking about.

Want us to help you elevate your own brand? Write to us at

About JP Kuehlwein

JP Kuehlwein is a global business leader and brand builder with a 25+ year track record of translating consumer and brand insights into transformational propositions that win in market. Principal at ‘Ueber-Brands’ a New York consulting firm, he now helps others to elevate brands and make them peerless and priceless. JP also teaches brand strategy at NYU Stern and Columbia Business School and leads the Marketing Institute at The Conference Board, all in New York. Jp previously was Executive Vice President at Frédéric Fekkai & Co, a prestige salon operator and hair care brand and lead brand- and corporate strategy development and execution at multinational Procter & Gamble as Brand Director and Director of Strategy. JP and Wolf Schaefer have co-authored the best-selling books “Rethinking Prestige Branding – Secrets of the Ueber-Brands” which lays out what drives the success of modern premium brands and "Brand Elevation - Lessons in Ueber-Branding" a guide to developing and executing a brand elevation strategy. Find the books here:
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