Duck Dynasty and How Brands Catch On

By Paul Cowley, Founder, CEO, & Creative Director

I went golfing a few weekends ago, as I often do.  A great way to relax and get a breath of fresh air.

As I was moving from one hole to the next, I noticed out of the corner of my eye, a team behind me.  They seemed normal enough except for one key extraneous factor: each one of them had a great big, long woodsman beard that stood out like a sore thumb.

Immediately, I thought, “These guys look like they came right out of Duck Dynasty,” the popular reality TV show whose main characters all sport extraordinary beards.

I’ve also noticed them appearing on talk shows and other TV venues and heard they’ve been invited to various prestigious functions.  Though the show may still end up “a flash in the pan,” in the long-run, it’s definitely a trend right now – a brand of its own that is picking up its own traction and creating a cult following.

This made me think about “How Brands Catch On.”

How Brands Catch On

What makes a brand really catch on?  I’ve identified a few principles.

Personal Identification With a Brand

I was thinking about these men at the golf course and how they seemed to be emulating the Duck Dynasty guys.  That’s the real test of marketing: do people emulate the brand?  Something may go viral, but does it show up on the street?  I haven’t yet tuned into that show but I’m definitely interested.

ZZ TopYou remember ZZTop (“I ain’t askin’ for much…”)?  Two out of the three had bangin’ beards not at all unlike our friends from Duck Dynasty.  But you wouldn’t see their fans with beards like that.  Why not?

It seems DD fans really get to know those guys, like them, and want to be like them.  Rock stars, on the other hand, are very one-sided to most people.  They play music.  People appear not to care much nor learn about their personal lives.  There is one exception: The Beatles; who, when they decided to grow their hair out, started a trend that would be emulated by all “hippies” of the world.  Thus the invention of long hair came about.  [Chuckle.]

Repetition, Repetition, Repetition!

That’s all I really need to say about that.

Pick Something Simple

“Got milk?” “Just do it.”  Both of those don’t get much simpler; however, they are still loaded phrases.


You know “Got milk?” – heard it a thousand times.  Now they are running those “Protein Fight Club” ads.  If you haven’t seen them, you should.  They are very creative and a great way to re-boot the “milk” campaign.

Just Do ItNike has held strong also.  I was walking in the mall the other day and saw a young man with one of their print tees on that read: “Doing It.”  Excellent follow up!

Pick Something Easily Applicable to Other Things

“Got milk?” became “Got God?” “Got pancakes?” “Got socks?” – you name it.  However, the spin-offs only generated more publicity for the brand as a reference.  After all, imitation is the highest form of flattery, they say.

Pick Something People Will Stand Behind

We all remember the terrible bombing at the Boston Marathon not long ago and how the country came together on social media to support our brothers and sisters effected by the tragedy.  The hash tag “#BostonStrong” became a beacon of hope in a time of turmoil.  You even saw it on t-shirts and billboards.  We can be proud of our nation in the way we face adversity.

Use a Catchy Medium

Before the Lance Armstrong scandal was the Lance Armstrong wristband “LIVESTRONG.”  Though connotations of that will forever take on a new and negative meaning when being associated with him, the idea seemed great at the time and spawned a host of other words on wristbands being circulated since.

Nowadays, they have ribbons for various charitable causes: pink for Breast Cancer awareness and for finding the cure, yellow to support our troops, etc.  You can lose the connection to the original idea (anyone know where that started off the top of your head?  Exactly.), but it still catches on because it’s effective, just no longer for you.

Which brings me to the next point:

Take Ownership

Originals change or fade if you don’t stay with them.  It’s a real testimony to the brands that stick beyond the test of time: not as easy as it seems.  (Nike and “Got Milk?” are again, great examples.)  A lot of blood, sweat, and tears went into making those stick continuously and that’s a testimony to the creative power of those marketing companies for sure.

Hump DayContinuity

Geico seems to be the opposite of continuity, but it’s really not.  For one, their message is in there, though it is a mouthful.  I feel like they wish it wasn’t so long but it is (“15 minutes…”).

They keep changing it up.  First the gecko, then the pig, then the banjo guys – it goes on and on and always changes.  However, the continuous aspect is humor!

I love the cavemen commercials.  “It’s so easy even a caveman can do it,” followed by the caveman walking off the set upset, followed by cavemen having lunch with a Geico rep they are suing, etc.  Hilarious.  They should have stuck with those longer in my opinion, but the continuous, diverse humor gets people all across the board.  And then they buy their product.

Withstand the Test of Time

Time is the ultimate test for any brand.

People still say, “Mikey likes it!” “Breakfast of Champions!” and “Good to the last drop.”

Thinking of some brands, I wonder what they will stand on in the future.  What is Starbuck’s tagline for instance?  Don’t know.  Not sure others know either.

Be Awesome!

This seems pretty vague, but it’s the key to people imitating you.  People want to be “like Mike […ael Jordan],” etc. because he’s cool, powerful, athletic, “the best,” etc.

As much as people share and repeat quotes from Geico ads, it’s not enough to really embody on the level of real emulationDuck Dynasty is.  Nike is.


This is perhaps the most important and riveting point I’m going to make and you’ll see why.

Apple once ran a commercial showing people walking in a monotonous line representing how IBM made us feel and think.  All of a sudden, a girl flies on camera, spins around, and hurls a hammer through the screen!  This was long before any of the “iStuff” came out, by the way.  The idea was clear: Apple was different and was going to create a revolution.

And you know what the biggest thing about that was?  They delivered.

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