Stick With Your Brand

Memoirist, talker, and serial publishing hit Frank McCourt had a big idea: A happy childhood don’t do no good. He converted his unhappy into a vivid and successful, both commercially and atristicly, personal history, Angela’s Ashes. (It should not be confused with the ponderous movie made from it.)

As a successful new brand, had a license to try again. His next book, ‘Tis, was literally more of the same. Some filling in of the original story and more about young Frank in the new world. Not as vivid, forceful, or fresh as its predecessor, but still echoed and reinforced the brand proposition of a man with whom you’d like to share a pint of Guinnesss and shoot the breeze.

At this point, the McCort brand has critical mass. He’s on talk shows, celebrated at writers workshops, has won a Pulitzer Prize. He can take disparate ramblings, which didn’t make the previous books, and sweep them into yet a third book, Teacher Man. This last, limps along as packaged product. It seems dictated in a few sittings rather than written.

Had it appeared first, I doubt McCourt would have asked to write more. Yet it is on target and on message for the brand. The quality of the work notwithstanding (still acceptable for popular non-fiction), the brand is strengthened by bite sized vignettes. The New State Writers Institute asserts that McCourt is “one of the master storytellers of American literature.”

So far, he has not succumbed into risky brand extensions such as McCourt Ale or Stout.

Contrast this with a somewhat better known brand – Coca Cola. It has been loosing share and sales as it muddles through different campaigns, images, executives and value propositions. The last often unstated.

Coke has real problems. Its traditional markets are less interested in high fructose corn syrup, additives, and gratuitous caffeine. Unlike McCourt, Coke seems confused about the benefits of its own brand.