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 is a world-renowned storyteller, an entertaining speaker, and a prolific author. Having lived, worked, and studied on five continents, she's partnered with top brands and conferences to train thousands of people how to rethink the work that they do and the impact they can have. Her visionary expertise has inspired and equipped leaders at all levels to embrace change, welcome new ideas, and transform their business.

Her work with Fortune 500 brands served as the foundation for many of her books. Her tenth, RE:Think Innovation, is a #1 new release that busts the myth that innovation is something that requires a specific degree or special training. In fact, Carla explains why, to be a successful company in today's hyper-competitive, customer-driven world, innovation must be everyone's business. Her goal is to teach one million people how to become innovators by 2025.

Consistently named one of the top influencers in B2B, digital and content marketing, Carla regularly challenges conventional thinking. Today, she travels the world teaching anyone (and everyone) how to cultivate idea-driven teams that breed unstoppable creativity and game-changing innovation.