What “It’s a Wonderful Life” Teaches Us About B2B Branding


December 21, 2017

By Carla Johnson

Sally Hogshead, creator of the How to Fascinate personality test.

Sally Hogshead teaches people and brands how to be fascinating.

I love her approach to branding because how many people would describe our companies as fascinating?


The other day she wrote a story about the holiday classic, It’s a Wonderful Life. Released in 1946, it tells the story of an angel sent from heaven to help a desperately frustrated businessman by showing him what life would have been like had he never existed.

While the movie received Academy Award nominations – including best picture and Jimmy Steward for best actor in a leading role – and honors (including the Golden the Golden Globes), it didn’t earn commercial success. Earning didn’t cover production costs, the studio was disappointed, and the director criticized and humiliated.

However, television networks picked it up and began showing it every holiday season. Viewers came to recognize it as part of the festivities along with caroling, toys, and the red and green colors. It’s a Wonderful Life became a holiday classic because repetition made it familiar.

Hogshead points out that the same is true of the brands we trust.

How can you tap into familiarity, repletion and traditions to make your brand fascinating and impossible to resist? She offers three tips:

1. Forgo flashy. Instead, be familiar.

Look for ways that you can instantly feel familiar with your audience. This could be common values you share or even the language you use. Do you sound like a person you’d want to talk to? “Trusted brands don’t try to be flashy; they tap into something that feels familiar,” says Hogshead.

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 2. Repeat and retell your story.

Whether you’re a day or a century old, your company has a story. Just like in the movies, your backstory gives context and reminds people of the history of your brand and what you believe in. Make it personal with anecdotes and adjust it to different formats.

3. Use familiar cues.

Repetition creates familiarity and familiarity builds trust. We love brands that instill comfort and cringe at those that try to shock us. Look for ways that you can anchor your brand in a way that creates emotional stability for your audience. Are you leery that you’ll be perceived as boring? “A comfortable groove doesn’t have to be a rut,” says Hogshead.

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Read Sally’s full article here.

About Carla

Carla Johnson Innovation Creativity Speaker Author

Carla Johnson helps leaders who are often paralyzed by traditional thinking. They suffer from slow growth, an eroding competitive advantage, low employee engagement, and depleted investor confidence. Their teams lack purpose and progress and constantly battle a resistance to change and new ideas.

As the world’s leading innovation architect, Carla’s spent 20 years helping leaders shatter limits and discover undiscovered possibilities. Through years of research, she’s developed a simple, scalable 5-step process that teaches people how to consistently produce inspired ideas that lead to uncommon outcomes.