This past March marked the 30th anniversary of the movie The Breakfast Club

For those of you who might not know it, the movie portrays the gathering of five stereotypical high schoolers (a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal) for a day-long detention on a Saturday.  Over the course of the day, social barriers recede.  The teenagers share insights that both explain their stereotypes and undermine them at the same time.

The movie struck a chord with adolescents everywhere when it was released, and continues to engage succeeding generations.  My husband and I watched it with our teenagers a couple of years ago.

I was 19 when the movie came out.  Which character do you think I liked the most?

If you said the princess, shame on you.

If you said the criminal, we’ll talk later.

For the record, my favorite character was (and is) the basket case.  A girl named Allison Reynolds played by Ally Sheedy.

Allison is a mystery from the start.  She squeals instead of talking initially and bangs her head against a table.  She does odd things like make a sandwich out of white bread, wheat bread, butter, Pixy Stix candy powder and Cap’n Crunch cereal.  She draws a picture of a bridge, then scratches her head wildly to make her dandruff fall on the paper and make it look like it was snowing on the bridge.

Though she is looking for attention, she is unabashed and unapologetic about who she is.

I love that.

Which is why it is heart-breaking to me that the movie destroys her.

Toward the end of the movie, the princess takes Allison into another room.  In what is supposed to be an act of friendship, she gives Allison a makeover.

Allison emerges looking like… a princess-ized basket case.  She smiles, but is clearly uncomfortable in this new look.  Worse yet, the new look attracts the attention of the athlete who kisses her.

After all the authenticity borne of sharing inner thoughts, why did the movie turn this genuine character into a fake?  And why send the message that you need to conform to be attractive?

It’s the one false move in a story that otherwise rocks.

To make sure your brand story rocks, avoid false moves.

As business owner and brand champion, you will reach points where you need to revisit your brand to grow your business.  This is particularly true for brands in adolescence which may be evolving or rebranding for the first time.

At these moments, you’ll need to get others’ perspectives on your brand to understand its current image.  You should get insights from employees, vendors, distributors and customers.  Anyone who interacts with your brand.

As you update and grow your brand though, you need to remain true to it.  Any definition or redefinition of your brand should resonate with you.  It should be an aha moment, not a makeover from left field.

To avoid turning your brand into a princess-ized basket case:

  • Get clear on the problem that your brand solves for your customers. Be able to articulate why and when they buy from you instead of your competitors.
  • Identify the emotions that your brand evokes with the solutions it provides.
  • Understand your brand’s current image.
  • Factor the problem your brand solves, the emotions it evokes, and its current image into your plans for growth. Your brand shouldn’t remain static, but its evolution should make sense and resonate with your constituencies too.

Don’t fall into the trap that teenagers do by trying to fit in.  Don’t emulate a competitor because you think that will attract customers.

As you grow your business, don’t you forget about your brand.

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