Why does everyone want to be David Attenborough?

“What famous person, alive or dead, real or imaginary, best represents your brand?”

This is a helpful question to get to the personality of your brand. And it’s a question we ask during every brand review.

There are many common answers: Barack & Michelle Obama, Steve Jobs, and Nelson Mandela. But there is one name that always comes up.

David Attenborough.

Attenborough, whose name is affectionally shortened to “the bro” by some, has uncommon resonance among younger audiences. He’s arguably the only 90-year-old naturalist that could draw a 100,000-person crowd at Glastonbury.

He embodies positive purpose, compassion, leadership, and authenticity.

But why do tech companies, sports organisations, and occupational training providers (just to name a few), want to embody his tone of voice?

A more cynical view could be that it’s his general appeal that they are drawn to. His avuncular likeability. The fact that, despite the very serious and important work he does on many of the most dangerous and pressing concerns of the century, he is seen as safe and trustworthy.

But, when you dig a bit deeper, it’s not just that he’s likeable, well-known, and has gone culturally viral with over 700 products in his likeness on Etsy. It’s that he’s prepared to be principled and authentic even when it means being a little bit edgy.

He’s prepared to say things that no one really wants to hear and, to use a common phrase he will ‘speak truth to power’. This makes him much less of a cuddly national treasure and much more about someone who has a powerful voice on matters of global importance (something that many brands aspire to).

How does he manage to have a mass-appeal while still holding tightly to principles and uncomfortable messages?

Here is the core of it. He’s a man who understands his place in the world. The meaning of his life and the courage to follow it through.

So perhaps this is at the bottom of our desire to be David Attenborough. A desire for a clear sense of meaning. Something that grounds us and gives us direction. Meaning, which bridges barriers and demographics and creates instant connection.

You can develop the same kind of resonance by identifying the values which are at your core. Values that are intrinsic to your organisation, instead of borrowed. Then it will be natural for you to be true to them, as a brand, consistently and authentically, over time.

This is how you develop a deeper sense of meaning in your organisation.

If you are interested in developing a brand that means more and achieves more, consider signing up for a brand therapy session with our team.


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