Friday is the end of days according to the 5,125 year-old Mayan calendar. The world is going to crumble or we’re going to get sucked into a black hole in the center of the universe or Christina Aguilera is going to get dressed again in the dark and appear fully cleaved on The Voice. Whatever happens, we’ll have to avert our eyes because it’s going to sting and we’re hosed.

It would be a shame for the world to end Friday. There’s a lot of life left to live. Plus, there’s chicken marinating in the fridge and The Lumineers are touring in the spring. But if the world is truly going to cease to exist, I’d like it to cease knowing that we added five of the coolest brands in the world to our roster, even if it were only for a day. It’s sort of like playing the stranded on a desert island game – who would you take and why?

If (sorry, when) the world ends Friday, these are the five dream team brands to end it all with:


It’s not what you think. OK, it’s partially what you think. But the other part is rarely has a brand ever become completely synonymous with its core mission (be the sexiest you can possibly be), synonymous with the category it occupies (lingerie) and synonymous with the highest level of “achievement” in the space it occupies (she’s a Victoria’s Secret model) all at the same time. That didn’t happen on accident. That happened with 100% commitment to a vision and a brand-first ethos that touched every single part of the company. In marketing terms, it doesn’t get any sexier than that.


“This is SportsCenter” is one of the most brilliant advertising campaigns ever created. Part of the brilliance is the insight and simplicity of the strategy – ESPN is the home of athletes. They work there, they hang out there, Arnold Palmer makes Arnold Palmers here. It doesn’t overpromise, it doesn’t sell. It just makes you want to be its friend. That’s the holy grail of branding. And while the strategy has given ESPN a wonderful platform to create work against, the execution is flawless. Smart, honest, funny, insightful and always true to the athlete. We all need more friends (and brands) like that.


Despite what us marketers will tell you, there are very, very few products in the world that are truly unique and differentiated from all of their competition. There are thousands of beers in the world. There is only one Guinness. Along the way they have leveraged that uniqueness and reflected it in their advertising. They have embraced their difference and made it their singular strength, so much so that their pint glass, with its rich chocolate brown body and creamy foamy headed goodness, is an icon in and of itself. Guinness never tries to be who it isn’t. Not many of us can say that.


There are a handful of amazing quintessential American brands – Levi’s, Coke, Chevrolet, Billy Goat Tavern. But none have affected culture as much as the Fender guitar. You probably don’t remember much about your first pair of Nikes. But chances are the music of artists like Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, George Harrison, Jimi Hendrix, John Mayer and Pete Townshend are inextricably woven into the fabric of your life. Whether you know it by name or recognize it by photo, Fender was part of it all. No other brand has so much raw emotion, so much personal connection. Those are the building blocks every great brand would kill for, but very few possess. And not something that can ever be faked.


Just kidding.


I am an unabashed Jeep Wrangler lover and owner. Is it the sexiest car in the world? Not by a long shot. It’s loud. It bounces like a pogo stick. It maxes out at 80. And if you go too fast around a corner the wheels will shimmy like the Marina district in a Loma Prieta earthquake. The only performance Jeep cares about is getting you from here to there, no matter what lies in between the two. Snow storm. Curb. Tree limbs. Small river bed. It’s the honey badger of cars – don’t care. The Jeep has character, and that is infinitely more interesting and real than cars in wind tunnels and traversing the twisty roads of Route 1. Real trumps bullshit. Everyone can smell it. It’s amazing how easy it is for brands to forget that.