Normal People Make Boring Brands

Have you ever noticed that Maroon 5 produces the same kind of song again and again?

Every one of them is about messed-up love. Extreme. Betrayal. Abnormally skinny people with exaggerated makeup and tattoos.

But I can't not listen to the songs.

Mel Gibson has been caught over and over as a ranting, raving anti-Semite. ("The Passion of the Christ" is Exhibit A.)

But when "Braveheart" is on TV, I stop everything and watch.

What is it about branding, that to do it well you have to be obsessed, insane, extreme?

Often the great brands don't even know they are doing branding. In fact the more consciously they brand, the more they ruin it (Madonna).

But their bizarre obsession with a single hyper-specific thing, combined with their skill and personal craziness, makes them totally valuable. (Britney Spears.)

Michael Jackson had it.

Whitney Houston had it.

Marilyn Monroe had it.

Elizabeth Taylor had it.

All the great brands have been slightly off kilter - more than slightly.

The question is whether they can sustain that edge, without falling off the cliff.