Why legendary brands such as the Titanic will always have consumer appeal

Legendary brands such as the Titanic depend on two factors: clarity and imprecision. 

This becomes evident when evaluating the impact that the calamity of the Titanic had on the brand’s public image.

Research, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, suggests that it is not necessary for brands to have a well-defined image to have consumer appeal.

Lead authors of the study, Stephen Brown (University of Ulster), Pierre McDonagh (Dublin City University), and Clifford J. Shultz, II (Loyola University Chicago), pointed out that more than a century later, the Titanic still strikes a chord with millions of consumers worldwide.

The authors said:

“Consumer fixation with the Titanic is not simply due to the scale of the calamity, since the death toll has been far exceeded on many occasions. Nor is it entirely attributable to humankind’s appetite for the macabre or merely a case of being famous for being famous.”

The Titanic in particular is an example of nature trumping technology, giving it a somewhat ‘mythical’ element of life-or-death.


The authors added:

“Equally important is the unfathomability, the ambiguity, the imponderables at the heart of the Titanic’s terrible tale. Was the Titanic considered unsinkable? Why were several ice warnings ignored? Why weren’t there enough lifeboats? Were the steerage passengers locked below decks?”

It seems that what gives the Titanic its unique long-lasting appeal is its mix of clarity and imprecision.

The authors concluded:

“The Titanic represents a marketing bonanza for movie makers, memorabilia sellers, tourist attraction managers, and many more. This casts doubt on the long-standing assumption that brand identities should be clear, concise, coherent, and consistent. Clarity is overrated. Imprecision is under-appreciated. Legendary brands need both.”