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What a Fairy Godmother can teach you about brand design.

Cinderella is the story of a young girl’s transition from scullery maid to celebrity. Cinderella toils in obscurity, dealing with horrible relatives until she changes everything up, goes to the ball, and wins the prince. Popular culture loves Cinderella – this is the origin of the phrase, “rags to riches”, and suggests someone whose talents are unrecognized until a major successful event.

I have no use for Cinderella or the prince, though. I want to talk about the Fairy Godmother because she is the catalyst for Cinderella achieving everything she does.

The Fairy Godmother is a damn good brand designer.

Let’s look at what makes her so effective:

She listens to the (business) goals. Cinderella wants to get out of slavery and attend the ball. Everything the Fairy Godmother produces (out of thin air, no less), is to further this goal. She develops a brand around Cinderella being the most sought after woman in the kingdom.

She understands the audience that Cinderella wants to attract. The Fairy Godmother sets out to transform Cinderella into a member of high society. She knows that the only way Cinderella is gaining access to the ball is to look and speak and act like the people she wants to be among. The prince isn’t looking for a maid, or even a commoner, he is looking for nobility.

She creates a unique visual identity. The Fairy Godmother not only whips up an appropriate gown, hair and makeup, she makes sure the visual brand extends to the stagecoach, (created from a pumpkin), horses, and footmen (mice and lizards, respectively.) There’s no doubt she’s a creative genius – she has a lock on unexpected materials and a unique style of working.

She creates a key identifying element. No one who has read Cinderella can forget the glass slipper. Despite how uncomfortable these may have been to dance in, The Fairy Godmother eschews such common elements as leather or fabric and goes straight to the completely unexpected. The glass slipper was so unique, it enabled Cinderella to stand out among all the women in the kingdom and provided a way for her people (the prince) to both remember and find her.

She remembers the importance of partnership. The Fairy Godmother doesn’t try to do it all, she makes Cinderella into a partner, and by doing so, secures her buy-in in the branding. Cinderella has to be home by midnight, before the magic expires. Although your 21st century brand designers don’t expect the shelf-life on their creations to be quite that short, Cinderella’s willingness to do what it takes to maintain the brand’s integrity is what we all hope for from our clients.

Cinderella goes further in that although she loses a glass slipper, she holds on to the other one and keeps it as backup. When the prince finally finds Cinderella, not only does the lost slipper fit her perfectly (it was designed specifically for her, after all), she produces the second slipper as proof that both shoes actually do belong to her.

The Fairy Godmother is the true heroine of Cinderella. Without her influence, Cinderella would still be sitting hip-deep in dust bunnies wondering how she was going to get to the life she really deserved. While you may not have access to a magic wand, you can review your brand through these tips and move towards your own business happily ever after.


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