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What Pirates Can Teach Us About Branding

3 March 2010 | Jonathan Devine

They're lawless, ruthless, and generally wear the 'black spot' in history: Pirates. Without at doubt pirates have made an impression in history and continue to make news to this day. Some of the most famous pirates had one interesting element in common: a brand.

We can learn a few things from the branding campaign of pirates that can actually make us better in business.

1. The Brand is Unique

In contrast to national banners, the famous Jolly Roger or the Skull and Crossbones was decidedly different. It didn't take a lieutenant with a spyglass to see that something unusual was coming.

2. The Brand is concordant with the industry

Have you noticed that the Jolly Rodger (famous pirate flag) lacks crossbones? There is no doubt we're looking at a pirate flag—the white skull on black is a dead give-away, but its not like any pirate flag. They had their own twist. The Jolly Rodger communicates both the industry represented, as well as the unique group.

3. They reinforce their brand with action

There are two sides to this. On one hand, their brand made a bigger mark because of their reputation. But from an interactive standpoint the brand is paired closely to the points of interaction with the organization—in this case murder and pillage, but it can apply to any interaction (written, electronic, or in person) with individuals and other companies.

In summary, we need a unique brand that communicates what we do, and we need to actually use that brand in our interactions. Not a bad thing to take from heartless and bloodthirsty villains. And it's here the analogy had better stop, otherwise people will think business is about pillage, slitting throats, and walking planks. We wouldn't want that now, would we?