Let’s take a closer look at why brand fame is such an important part of building brands


In this POV originally written for mSix & Partners, I explore brand fame; what it is, what it delivers and how to build it. We are assisted by insight from some of advertising’s leading thinkers; Paul Feldwick, Sir John Hegarty, Byron Sharp and Orlando Wood. Simon looks at how fame contributes to brand success and identifies the media channels that are best positioned to build it.

Think of a brand and write its name here…………………………………………………………

Chances are you wrote one of the following brand names: Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Samsung, Toyota, Coca-Cola, Mercedes, Disney, Nike, McDonald’s, Tesla, or BMW.

These are some of the world’s most famous brands – let’s unpack the meaning of fame in a bit more detail. The word fame is rooted in the Latin ‘fama’ meaning fame, hearsay, kudos, renown, repute, and rumour. You will see ‘fama’ present in modern words like “familiar,” “familiarise” and “famous.” In short, having fame means being in ‘the state of being known or talked about by many people, especially on account of notable achievements [1].’ You will see that all the brands above, tick all the boxes in the Latin phrase book.

Within the market context, fame is slightly more nuanced. Brands are famous because they have intrinsic appeal, they communicate with mass audiences, they demonstrate distinctiveness, and benefit from wide social diffusion. These are, according to account planning’s elder statesman Paul Feldwick, the key components of brand fame [2].

The Marketing Society and ITV [3] described the main elements of brand fame as connection, standout, talkability, familiarity and universal meaning, with universal meaning and familiarity being the most important components of the set. Connected to these elements is consumers’ need to be seen to be making endorsed choices; both during and especially after purchase. Mass appeal equates to mass endorsement.

In this POV we will think more about brand fame;  why it’s important and how it is achieved, and how, over the last decade we may have lost sight of the best ways to build brand fame.

Why is fame important?

Fame is important for three reasons. First,  high fame means high mental availability and we know from the work of Byron Sharp [4] that high mental availability confers commercial benefits. Feldwick summarises this as being “thought of more often, by more people, and therefore chosen more often by more people.” Second, fame can disturb consumers’ economic rationality. This is one of the main, and sometimes overlooked, functions of ‘brand’ advertising. If consumers are prepared to pay a 10% price premium for a brand because, in Feldwick’s words, reasons of intrinsic appeal, mass audience communication, distinctiveness and social diffusion, then the brand will generate more scale and revenue. And thirdly, if the brand can use its fame to sell more volume through higher purchase frequency at that slight price premium, then the brand’s revenue will be even greater.

How do we build brand fame?

Now we know the value of fame, we can explore how it is built. Because the ‘whole’ of brand fame is composed of intrinsic appeal, mass audience usage, distinctiveness, and social diffusion ‘parts,’ it follows that our strategies to build brand fame should be strategies to build those component parts.

Whilst intrinsic appeal is driven by product utility, mass audience appeal and usage, distinctiveness and social diffusion can be assisted by marketing communications like advertising, media, and PR activity.

And here’s where the quest for fame becomes more challenging. If we want brand fame, we need to seek connections that are not necessarily logical but which appeal to right brain. These connections are not driven by rationality, but by emotional appeal. System 1’s Orlando Wood summarises this in his book “Lemon” he says the right brain is guided by implicit connections, empathy, novelty and metaphor. Contrast this with the left brain, dominated by explicit facts and logic, “cause and effect, literal, factual” [5].

How do we apply this to media strategy?

Rather ironically, we have media insight from one of the industry’s best known creative practitioners, As recently as March this year, Sir John Hegarty made an impassioned plea in the BBC’s CEO Secrets series, arguing for more use of broadcast advertising, “if you are constantly wanting to expand your brand, make it more famous and add value to it – only broadcast does that” [6] . In addition to Hegarty’s comments, we have strong clues from more of advertising’s most respected and prolific thinkers. Paul Feldwick talks about mass audiences whilst Byron Sharp extolls us to maximise mental availability.

Most importantly, Orlando Wood requires that we stimulate emotions – which points again towards the channels that can do that, TV, AV, VOD, Cinema, and online video. The fact that the moving image elicits an emotional response is long-proven by both academics and empirical experience. This response has been researched extensively by Uri Hasson and his team at NYU who have coined the phrase “Neurocinematics”. The NYU team found that film can elicit a powerful neuro response, provided that the film itself is structured in certain ways [7]. Although the work was originally based on movie responses, the learnings on how to tell a story to maximise emotional ‘System1 response’ are clear throughout the paper.

These findings about using film to build emotional connections are also corroborated when we build models to analyse marketing and media effectiveness. When we analyse different forms of media activity, we find that these moving image channels are often delivering some of the strongest results.

In conclusion:

Fame builds brands and emotional connection builds fame, and the moving image builds emotional connection. So, if you want to generate powerful emotional engagement with your brand, use moving image media channels. If you want to read more about the connections between emotional engagement, cinema, brand development and the impact on short-term performance, in an applied media planning context, then the DCM Cinema Effectiveness Roadmap [8] is a good place to start.


  1. Oxford Languages  / Dictionary definition of Fame
  2. Why does the pedlar sing? Paul Feldwick, 2021
  3. How much is fame worth to the bottom line? Market Leader, 2005
  4. How Brands Grow Byron Sharp, 2010#
  5. Lemon, Orlando Wood, System1, 2019
  6. Has Social Media killed the famous ad?” BBC News 14 March 2023
  7. Neurocinematics: The Neuroscience of Film Uri Hasson, Ohad Landesman, Barbara Knappmeyer, Ignacio Vallines, Nava Rubin, and David J. Heeger, NYU, 2008
  8. Cinema Effectiveness Roadmap, Digital Cinema Media, 2023