Guest Column: BHAG Branding

By Sean Tracey, Brand Strategist/Creative Director at Sean Tracey Associates

How “Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals” apply to financial marketing

Most of you have heard the term BHAG. If not, it’s pronounced BEE’hag, and it stands for “Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal.” BHAGs should push you way outside your comfort zone — something scary-but-doable, provided you have a lot of faith, a positive attitude and the ability to ignore naysayers.

Well, you want your brand to have it’s own BHAG. You want it to be pushed to new ground, higher ground, a leadership position. Ford’s BHAG was to “democratize the automobile.” Microsoft wants “a computer on every desk and in every home.” Amazon offers “every book, ever printed, in any language, in less than 60 seconds.” Twitter aims to be “the pulse of the planet.”

When you first hear or think of your BHAG, it should scare you. It should be rare (or never seen before). Think “Bigfoot.” That’s right, the Sasquatch. It leaves a big footprint…if you’re lucky enough to find one in the first place. It leaves you wanting to learn and see more. In other words, BHAG branding makes a huge impression. It can generate earned media like Bigfoot, who has never placed an ad and yet still gets so much buzz.

Town & Country FCU in Maine, uses the word “love” when describing how their customers feel about them. This came from a series of branding workshops conducted a couple years ago, part of a re-branding project. As you might imagine, senior management was not comfortable with the “L” word when the term first came up. It’s scary. “Would consumers believe that someone could actually love their bank?” they wondered. “Would it seem frivolous? Disingenuous?” But Town & County was confident it was appropriate and would match their member experience. So they pushed through their fears and went with it.

For these guys, using the word “love” in their ads and making sure their service always lived up to it was a BHAG. Eighteen months later, research showed that people not only remembered and retained the credit union’s ads, but were actually moved by it.


Sean Tracey is Brand Strategist/Creative Director at Sean Tracey Associates in Portsmouth, NH. Sean Tracey’s “ABC’s of Marketing” includes Audacious Advertising, BHAG Branding, Concise Creative, and Dogged Development. Feel free to send Sean an email.

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