Phineas & Ferb on Mental Real Estate

When you hear the word “band-aid”, do you automatically think about the adhesive tape that we put on scrapes and scratches? Band-Aid is actually the brand. Isn’t it interesting that a company can create a product so iconic that we call every adhesive tape a band-aid? Cartoons have the same power.

On the Disney Channel is an extremely popular show called Phineas & Ferb. Unlike many cartoons that give parents the feeling they are being punished, this show is known for its blend of kid and adult humor. It features two stepbrothers who are always contriving some outlandish invention – a roller coaster, a mind-swapping device, adding their sister’s face to Mount Rushmore, etc. With them is their pet platypus, Perry.

Wait, what? A platypus?

In an effort to take ownership of a brand (in this case, a platypus), the creators of Phineas & Ferb wanted to depict a character that had never been on a television show. The team behind Shrek applied the concept of ‘mental real estate.’

…before Shrek came out, people knew what an ogre was, but they didn’t have a specific one in mind if you said ‘ogre’ to them. The creators [of Shrek] felt that was mental real estate they could claim. And they claimed it. Now all you have to do is say ‘ogre’ and the first thing you think of …is this big green guy with funny ears, voiced by Mike Myers.

The creators of Phineas decided that they were going to own the mental real estate of ‘platypus’. As leaders, we need to determine our mental real estate. What concept, practice, terminology, or process can you make your own? You didn’t become a leader so you can copy other people’s best practices. You are goal-oriented with a natural drive to be innovative, so do things that reflect your own style, preferences, and experiences. Whenever someone sees one of your projects, they should know it was yours.

There was no band-aid before Band-Aid®, no classic ogre before Shrek, and no definitive platypus before Perry. There is also no leader like you. Put your stamp on your workplace. Claim your mental real estate.