The Dan Conner Conundrum: Brand Association Works in Mysterious Ways
John Goodman is a very well-known man. He won a Best Actor Golden Globe Award in 1993 and has contributed to more than 50 films. Yet, for some reason I cannot un-associate him with his role as Dan Conner on the sitcom Roseanne.
When I see John Goodman, I immediately think, “Hey, what is Dan Conner doing there!? And where is Roseanne?” I have a hard time watching his movies, such as The Flintstones, because it’s confusing and strange to see him outside of his typical Dan Conner setting of small town Lanford, Illinois.
So, how does this direct association even happen? I should be able to see Mr. Goodman as the other characters he is playing, right? Although his intention probably wasn’t to permanently become Dan Conner, that is what he did, at least in my mind. He has branded himself into my head as Dan for life, and he has done it well.
As weird as it sounds, my John Goodman/Dan Conner association is very similar to how national brands get so well-known. Whenever we see those big, golden arches, we know that a McDonald’s is nearby. It doesn’t matter if you never eat at McDonald’s or if you’re in another state, because you immediately know what’s ahead when you see the bright yellow “M.” And for most of us, we even know what food we could expect if we stopped in at that particular McDonald’s: cheeseburgers, french fries, and chicken nuggets.
This is a great thing for McDonald’s, of course, because they pull in customers just by displaying the sign. But for the purposes of personal branding, such as with famous actors like John Goodman, is this kind of brand association still such a positive thing? I’m not so sure.
Will you always picture this actress as Flo? Be honest.
Doing a quality job is something to appreciate and being recognized right away by the public is great for any actor or business, but sometimes this type of “personal” brand association causes more harm than good. Let’s say that you don’t automatically associate Dan Conner with John Goodman, as I do. Try to think of another actor or actress instead, like Flo from the Progressive Insurance commercials. Would you have a tough time believing that actress as any other character without picturing her as Flo? Be honest. When you think of it that way, brand association seems to benefit brands most of the time but personal brand association is trickier for the people involved. In an actor’s case, if he or she isn’t careful, fans’ personal brand association could equal typecasting or eventually a failed career.
Of course, neither of those unfortunate things apply to John Goodman on a large scale since he’s had so much success after his role on Roseanne. Playing Dan Conner helped him become very famous and added something very valuable to his resume that he will be remembered for forever. So, way to go Dan Conner…um, I mean John Goodman…for all of your success and for forever branding yourself into my head as the one and only man for Roseanne!
What brands, famous people, or characters have branded themselves in your mind forever? Do you think that any association is good, or do you think that some brand association (whether in the traditional sense or in the personal sense) has negatives?