The Hamm’s Bear: A Branding Parable

Long before the annoying convention of adding “ing” to nouns like “brand,” I worked at an agency that advertised for Hamm’s, a regional midwestern beer brand “from the land of sky blue waters.”

Hamm’s stock TV commercials consisted of animated cartoon vignettes featuring the “Hamm’s Bear.” The animated Bear would cavort with his animal friends leading up to a predictable sales message for the beer. My job as part of the Hamm’s creative team was to come up with new TV vignettes. One vignette we created (we did them by the score) featured the Hamm’s Bear playing golf with his two buddies, a chipmunk and a beaver. Pretty good we thought. But, the account team objected, one of the account executives saying “The Bear would never play golf in a threesome.” Stunned, I answered that a Bear would never play golf period, nor would a chipmunk or a beaver, but alas this was fantasy and we were allowed some liberties. The conversation degenerated into name-calling and other unpleasantness with me wondering if I was working in a sane business or in a mental institution. But as was the case then and now, the AE’s argument carried the day. From then forward the Hamm’s Bear always played golf in a foursome (after much debate we added a muskrat to the golfing group).

Now, as I look back on the Hamm’s Bear’s golfing incident, and after years of being indoctrinated with “branding” theology, it pains me to say that I can see the account man’s point. He was only trying to protect the sanctity of “the brand.” That’s the moral of this parable. Having the Bear play in a threesome would have made him appear as an unpopular loser, unable to find a fourth friend to make a foursome; this violated every principle the account man ever learned about brand identity and image (probably while toiling away on a P&G package good account). What the AE didn’t articulate in the heat of the argument, was that it was our job as marketers to hold the brand dear, to embrace it, to nourish it, to make it stronger.  That ornery AE was just doing his job as the keeper of the brand by making sure the Bear always looked the part of a brand spokesman. (For all I know that AE may have been the first one to add an “ing” to the word “brand.”) So, sometimes when I crack a cold one after a long day at the keyboard, I think of the old days and toast to the sanctity of the brand, to the Hamm’s Bear, and to you Mr. AE, wherever you may be.

This story was written by Chris Gregor, freelance copywriter. Take a look at my other work (the stuff I get paid for) and learn more about my copywriting capabilities and experience/backgroundContact me at Gregor & Co. 413 528-4763 or chris@gregorwriting.com

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