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Me, We, Everybody

By Neil Wengerd
Me, We, Everybody: Insights from Nonfiction

The best brands are experts at creating a strong alignment between how they communicate and how their audience sees the world. These brands speak their audience’s language. They understand what their audience really wants. And in turn, they connect deeply with their audience's core needs.

That might sound complicated. But it doesn’t have to be. We’ve noticed the best brands fall into three categories: “me” brands, “we” brands, and “everybody” brands. “Me” is about individual empowerment. “We” is about shared identity. And “everybody” is about collective purpose. You can use these ideas to understand how people think and behave based on their values and beliefs. In turn, you can understand your target audience's mindset better and tailor your brand accordingly. Let’s unpack the framework.

Me: Embracing Individual Empowerment

At the first level, there’s the concept of “me.” “Me” is about recognizing and celebrating individuality, personal experiences, and empowerment. A brand like Nike exemplifies the “me” approach. They tap into the essence of personal achievement, self-expression, and the belief that “I can do it.” This resonates with people who seek brands that align with their sense of self and aspirations.

A great example of a “me” brand is Apple. Apple often focuses on self-expression. They're all about you, your uniqueness, and being free to express yourself fully. The ”Think Different” campaign is a perfect example of this approach. You’re one of a kind, so you need a one of kind product to make your vision a reality.

And luxury brands like Chanel, Ferrari, and Rolex cater to “me” by emphasizing exclusivity, personal style. They thrive on the idea that owning their products elevates status and individuality.

“Me” brands are all about helping people stand out. They remind you that you’re not just wearing a piece of clothing. You’re wearing your identity. Brands with personal manifestos, a bit of ego-centric flair, and the belief that “I’ve got this” do very well at the “me” level.

The key here is alignment. If there's a disconnect between your brand identity and your audience's mindset, your branding efforts might fall flat.

We: Embodying Collective Belonging

Next up is “we.” “We” emphasizes communal identity and shared beliefs. These brands embrace the power of collective stories and symbols to unite people. Sports are a perfect example of the “we” approach. Take Liverpool FC, for instance. Their iconic red jerseys ignite a sense of belonging and shared identity. And their anthem, Gerry and the Pacemakers’ version of “You'll Never Walk Alone,” has become a rallying cry for the team and its supporters. It symbolizes unity and togetherness in the face of sporting challenges (especially Manchester United).

Harley Davidson taps into a sense of community and shared identity. The Harley culture is built around a strong community of riders who embrace freedom and the rebel spirit.

And Coca-Cola's branding often centers on shared experiences, celebrations, and unity. The iconic "Share a Coke" campaign encouraged people enjoy the shared experience of a Coke.

An animating story becomes the glue that binds individuals together. The “we” level is where brands with strong narratives thrive, offering people a place to belong within a larger community.

Everybody: Finding a Common Purpose

The "everybody" level encourages brands to transcend boundaries and consider the well-being of the entire planet. “Everybody” highlights flat hierarchies and the interconnectedness of all. Patagonia stands out as a quintessential example of a brand that embodies an "everybody" centric ethos. From its start, Patagonia has been committed to environmental sustainability, social responsibility, and collective well-being.

Ben & Jerry’s is known for its social activism and commitment to various causes. The believe that their economic, social, and product impacts can’t be separated. Everything they do impacts not only their customers and employees, but also the earth as a whole.

And Google's brand image is rooted in accessibility and inclusivity. Their products and services are designed to be accessible and useful to as many people as possible. In their words, to “organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

“Everybody” brands are purpose-driven brands. Unlike "me" brands, which focus on individual empowerment and personal achievement, or "we" brands, which emphasize collective identity and belonging within a specific group, "everybody" brands transcend boundaries and unite people under a common cause or value system.

Brands that Traverse the Levels

Of course, brands can and should use many ideas to connect with the people that matter most. Tesla and Starbucks are two great examples.

Tesla often strikes a balance between "me" and "we" perspectives. The brand focuses on the ego-centric aspects of their electric vehicles ("me"). But they also promote the collective benefit of contributing to a sustainable future ("we").

Starbucks is an interesting example that embraces elements of both "me" and "we." They offer personalized coffee options to cater to individual tastes ("me"). But, their cafes are designed as communal spaces where people can gather and connect ("we").

And in the realm of climate brands, finding the right balance between the "me" and "everybody" perspectives becomes crucial. These brands must inspire individual action while also creating a sense of shared responsibility for the planet. The "everybody" approach might fall short here. It doesn't acknowledge the diversity of perspectives present in the global community.

So What?

So why does this matter? The key here is alignment. If there's a disconnect between your brand identity and your audience's mindset, your branding efforts might fall flat. A "me" company speaking to an "us" audience might come across as insincere or disconnected. Similarly, a "we" organization speaking to an audience that's "me"-focused might miss the mark.

Imagine you're a "we" organization—a company that values collaboration, community, and shared purpose. If you're talking to a "me" audience, you might showcase stories of how individuals contribute to the greater whole. Or, you could emphasizing personal growth within the context of a community. Or, if you're a "me" organization catering to a "we" audience, you may weave in elements of shared values and belonging.

Successful brand building involves recognizing the dynamics between your brand's identity and your audience's values. By tailoring your brand to resonate on the same level as your audience, you’re creating a powerful narrative fosters a genuine connection.