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Brand it Like Bogie

4 Simple-as-Dirt Branding Lessons from Casablanca

How to Become Irresistible to Customers & Impervious to Competitors

Bogie & Bacall

So, you wanna learn how to make your brand both irresistible to customers and impervious to competitors? Casablanca is a great place to start.

Aside from being The Greatest Movie Ever Made, (oh, you disagree? Fight me!), Casablanca bubbles over with bountiful branding lessons. (For those of you who live under a rock, “Bogie” was the nickname of Humphrey Bogart, the actor who played Rick Blaine in Casablanca.)

For this article, you don’t have to know the plot to grasp the lessons. All you need to know is this:

  • The story takes place during World War 2 in the North African city of Casablanca
  • The main characters are Rick Blaine, Louie Renault and Ilsa Lund

Lesson 1: “Only More So” is Doomed

Our first lesson is a negative one: what not to do.

Rick Blaine: (responding to a question about Louie Renault) Oh, he’s just like any other man, only more so.

If I asked you, “why should people choose to do business with you rather than your competition,” what would you say? Would it be something like…

  • Best prices?
  • Best service?
  • Best quality?
  • Best warranty?
  • Best location?
  • Best hours?
  • Best whatever…?

If your answer is similar to any of these, then face it:

You’re just like any other company, only more so.

Only more so won’t get the job done.

If your edge can be copied, it will be copied. When that happens, you’re doomed. Your customers will abandon you faster than the French fled Paris when Nazi tanks rolled in.

There’s one way – just one – to become irresistible to customers and impervious to competitors: you must offer something utterly unique, something that cannot be copied by your competition.

The next 3 lessons explain how to do that.

Lesson 2: Fly Your Freak Flag

Louie Renault: I’ve often speculated on why you don’t return to America. Did you abscond with the church funds? Did you run off with a Senator’s wife? I like to think that you killed a man. It’s the romantic in me.

Rick Blaine: It’s a combination of all three.

Is Rick Blaine a freedom fighter? Is he a scoundrel or a hero? Is he a thief,  an adulterer, a murderer?

We don’t know for sure. He admits to nothing and to everything.

All we can say for certain is this: he’s one of a kind.

He’s a blend of qualities we aren’t used to seeing in one person. And that’s what makes him the magnetic center of the story. That’s why “everyone comes to Rick’s.”

You have only one quality in all the universe so unique it is uncopiable.

Here’s a hint:

It’s the same quality that keeps married couples delighted and devoted for decades on end.

What is it?

Each partner knows about the other, “in all the world, there is no one else like you.”

We humans all share the same basic operating system software. We tend to react the same way to the same types of stimuli. We cannot help ourselves. We are attracted to the unusual, the unique, the unexpected. Present us with something unexpected and we’re hooked. We can’t look away.

Is your business one-of-a-kind, or is it like all the other businesses, only more so?

You won’t find your uncopiable qualities in your Policies and Procedures Handbook. You won’t find them in your Corporate Vision or your Mission Statement.

You will find them in the bathroom mirror, at the water cooler in the breakroom, and in your staff when nothing is working right and the chips are down.

The chances are high that you’ve chosen to keep your unique qualities hidden. That’s a mistake.

It’s your contradictions that make you intriguing. Embrace them.

Lesson 3: Beguile with Humility

Ever made a dumb mistake, something that made you look bad?

Louie Renault: What in heaven’s name brought you to Casablanca?

Rick Blaine: My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters.

Louie Renault: The waters? What waters? We’re in the desert.

Rick Blaine: I was misinformed.

Rick has a reputation as a man of the world. Yet his response makes him appear naïve and foolish. If he was an “only more so” type of man, he’d spin a tale that made him look heroic, wise, strong and noble.

But he doesn’t do that. Instead, he’s admits his mistake. And this makes us love him all the more.

What’s your normal reaction when you or your people do something dumb? If it isn’t humility, then you’ve missed a golden opportunity to capture the hearts of your customers.

When we humans encounter true humility, it triggers something deep within our bodies, something we cannot resist. It beguiles us, often against our intention.

At the end of the day, it’s not your strengths that will make people love you; it’s your humanity. That means your failings, your fears and your flaws.

Every failure is an opportunity to show your humanity.

Lesson 4: Invest in Virtue

Rick Blaine: We’ll always have Paris. We lost it until you came to Casablanca. We got it back last night.

Ilsa Lund: When I said I would never leave you…

Rick Blaine: And you never will. But I’ve got a job to do, too. Where I’m going, you can’t follow. What I’ve got to do, you can’t be any part of. Ilsa, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that. Now, now… Here’s looking at you kid.

Rick Blaine cultivates the image of a self-absorbed narcissist who only looks out for Number One. Yet, at the climax of the movie, when Rick has the opportunity to save his own skin and get away with the girl of his dreams, he makes a different choice, a choice we never saw coming…

When people experience virtuous behavior from you and the people in your company, something irrational and unpredictable happens inside their brains: they feel a deep attraction.

Virtue – so the saying goes – is its own reward.

As true as that may be for individuals, it’s doubly true for organizations.


Ilsa: I wish I didn’t love you so much.

Rick: Here’s looking at you, kid.

Have you identified the qualities that make your business uncopiable? If not, this outline is a good place to start.

And if you need a little coaching or guidance, you can contact me or any other Wizard of Ads partner. We’ll be happy to help you become irresistible to your audience and impervious to your competition.

The “Jack-in-the-Box Experiment” Shows Why Your Business Needs a Personality

The “Jack-in-the-Box Experiment” Shows Why Your Business Needs a Personality

If you own your own business, what does it cost you NOT to be the face of the business? In this video, we look at how one big company screwed themselves out of market share by removing the personality from their business.


If you own your own business, what does it cost you NOT to be the face of the business?

Consider the company Jack in the Box. Back in the early 80s, the company decided that they needed an image makeover. They were losing market share to McDonalds, Burger King and Wendy’s. So they decided as part of the corporate makeover that a new logo would help.

Their old logo featured the clown head we know today as Jack. Back then, Jack didn’t have a personality; he just had a face. The company didn’t just replace Jack. They assassinated him in a series of pretty famous commercials. They literally blew him away. It didn’t help though. In fact, it hurt. Jack in the Box continued to lose market share to the other burger slingers over the next decade.

Then in the mid-90s, the company changed direction again. They brought the clown back. They gave him a voice and a personality as well. Almost overnight, the company became synonymous with the personality. And the rest is history.

Today, Jack in the Box is an undisputed leader in the space. And it all goes back to their decision to give the company itself a face and a personality embodied in the person of Jack the clown.

Talk to you next time.




 The company didn’t just replace Jack.

They assassinated him…

They literally blew him away.

It didn’t help though.