5 Things To Learn About Branding From “Dread Pirate Roberts”

The Princess Bride (1987)

We often think of a brand as a logo, a message, a movement, or a successful company. Sometimes, a brand is a person…or that person is the brand. Clear as mud? We thought a good pirate story this month might be a fun way to help relay our thoughts.

Many of you may be familiar with the hit 80’s film classic The Princess Bride. Amazingly, that movie collected quite a following and is one of the most quoted movies today. When you take a deeper look, a more “creative” one if you will, you may begin to notice that Westley’s explanation about the pirate discloses some secrets about business branding.

Here’s a brief synopsis of the plot point, in case you aren’t familiar with the story. Farm Boy (aka Westley) and the princess fall in love, but he ventures across the sea to make his fortune before they get married. Then Farm Boy is captured by the Dread Pirate Roberts. Later, in the film Dread Pirate Roberts appears (spoiler alert!) and the pirate is really the Farm Boy. Farm Boy/Dread Pirate gives his princess an explanation of the situation. And some hints for business branding that he got from the pirate. “Then he explained the name’s the necessary thing for inspiring fear. You see, no one would surrender to the Dread Pirate Westley.” He goes on to describe how the very first Dread Pirate Roberts established the reputation and brand, then retired, passing it to the next seafaring rowdy, and that started a tradition which now included Westley. He concludes his explanation, saying, “Except – now that we’re together – I share retire and hand the name over to someone else.”

Dread Pirate Roberts (IMDB)

Westley took a persona and a brand when he became “Dread Pirate Roberts.” Roberts had the name and the reputation. Roberts was a brand. What can business owners and public figures learn from the silly tale of the Dread Pirate? (After-all, we don’t want to inspire fear or encourage robbery!)

We came up with five things to learn about branding from Dread Pirate Roberts:

  1. You Might Be Your Brand

The original Dread Pirate Roberts made his brand – and it was apparently scary. Piracy is not an advisable occupation, so let’s look around in the modern era for an example. Here’s one from the national arena: politicians build a brand for the campaign trail. Like it or not, Donald Trump built a brand with a slogan “Make America Great Again” and you will see him use his remarks to represent and work to stay true to his vision for that brand. Will anyone else be able to use that exact same brand with the power and influence he has? He has come to be known for, and rather the owner of, that statement. So, probably not.

Political slogans aside, you’ll have to determine if you are the brand or if you run the company that is the brand you are creating or sporting. These are different and both are important, though they have slightly different branding tracks. (We’ll talk mostly about personal brand today.)

2. Becoming Your Brand & Making People Follow You (And Your Idea)

Before creating a successful brand and leading a devoted tribe, you’ll have to define what will attract clients or followers. If you are your brand, what is in your personality and idea bank that will allow you to establish your influence? What are things you’ll want to avoid like the poisonous Iocane Powder? If you’re the brand, you need to make sure your social media posts, public actions, and other interactions are consistent with the image of your brand and sharing the right message.

You can rebuild a brand! (Without closing the business)

3. What If I Have To Rebuild My Reputation?

Pirates aren’t supposed to fall in love. If Westley had intended to continue as the branded Dread Pirate Roberts, he would’ve had to conceal his compassionate and kind actions or somehow rebuild his reputation for “dreadness.” Happily, he just passes the brand on to someone else who is willing to be fierce.

That’s all fine in fiction, but it just might be “inconceivable” in real life. Unfortunately, an individual who is the brand usually can’t just disappear after they’ve made a mistake. So, what are some tips for rebuilding a brand and image in real life? Perhaps a humble evaluation of the brand and image, followed by a strategy to either reconstructing the brand or restoring it to the ideal.

4. Building A Brand You Can Sell

If you are the brand, there’s a possibility you might want to retire and sell your brand. Or perhaps you want it to stay in the family (or company) after your retirement or passing. Either way, you want to create a brand that you can pass on. You might be the force behind the brand, but there are probably standards, attitudes, and other aspects that you’ve developed which can be shared with the new brand “owner.”

If you produce products, you set up your brand to sell the products you created, even if you aren’t involved in the business any longer. Authors often do this. Perhaps they write a certain type of book that is their brand; they can ensure that brand will stay strong even when they finish the series or retire from the book-signing circuit.

Ready to build or recreate a brand?

5. Transitioning To The Brand’s Successor

(Spoiler Alert) At the end of the movie, Westley suggests he will give the Dread Pirate Roberts brand to his new friend Inigo Montoya who already has an impressive sword fighting skill set to help him take over the pirate image. We can’t help wondering if there will be a brand conflict since Inigo spent the last minutes building his own slogan “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

And that illustrates the probability that anyone taking over a brand – a personal brand or a strictly business brand – will likely keep the successful elements and add their own unique twist. (“My name is Dread Pirate Roberts. I’ve captured your ship. Prepare to die.”)

Branding is a serious adventure and creating a brand or image that you truly love is important. We’ve taken a light-hearted and creative approach today to address the subject. If you are interested in discussing business branding, re-branding, or brand repair, our team would be happy to assist. (We’ll even promise not to quote from The Princess Bride in our meetings.) You can build an amazing brand that’s uniquely you or your company and through the years prepare to sell or transfer that brand when you’re ready for a break from the “high-seas adventures.”

Email us: info@your-epiphany.com

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