I’ve just stepped out of the cinema having watched Top Gun: Maverick with fellow brandgym partner David T. And wow, what a film! As an acrobatic pilot myself (more on that in another post!), the original Top Gun holds a special place for me. I was fully expecting a competent but cheesy follow-on story, but what we got was an excellent film in its own right. And there is a reason why this sequel works so well. It has taken heed of one of our most important brandgym principles: FRESH CONSISTENCY.

Fresh consistency is the key to creating the distinctive memory structure that is crucial for brand choice. Consistency comes from building and then amplifying distinctive brand properties (e.g. slogans, music, colour) and having a consistent brand positioning. Freshness is also key, to keep you relevant for today. This in turn ensures you drive penetration by recruiting new, younger consumers.

The producers of Top Gun: Maverick have not simply put a new coat of paint on the original. Rather, they have followed the Brand Bond playbook we posted on here to pull off a brilliant act of brand revitalisation. In this post, we look at how they have done this using our KULA framework: what to Keep, Update, Lose and Add in terms of the TOP GUN brand properties.

Post by David Nichols, Group Managing Partner and Head of Invention


The first and most fundamental thing that has been kept consistent is the brand story: Maverick breaks the rules to beat the baddies (and find love).

In addition there is a long list of brand properties from the original Top Gun that have been kept in ‘Maverick’. These work in their own right for younger, first-time viewers of the Top Gun franchise. They also trigger positive memories and nostalgia for oldies like me who have fond memories of the first movie!

Intro paragraph: opening explanation of the Navy’s Fighter Weapons School and how it’s called ‘Top Gun’

Motorbike: Tom chasing a jet alongside the runway

Tom’s look: Jeans, white t-shirt, leather jacket & aviators

Dangerzone’: iconic song by Kenny Loggins  

Top Gun Anthem: atmospheric 80s instrumental from Harold Faltemeyer 

Helmets: painted helmets each with a unique callsign

Beach bodies: oiled male torsos playing ball on the beach!

Catchphrases: “The best of the best”, “Don’t go below the hard deck”


Fresh consistency is not just about repetition. There is also a need to update your brand to reflect the evolution of culture. And here Tom Cruise and his team have done just this to ensure the new movie meets the needs of a modern audience:

Gender roles: there were 3 women among the 12 top pilots, but it was never mentioned or commented on – it was treated as completely normal. The female bar owner, played by Jennifer Connolly, is a strong character with a central role

Music: Lady Gaga wrote and performed a new song Hold My Hand to go alongside the classic tracks

Flying: all the flying sequences were actually flown in real jets to give a sense of realism way beyond the very best CGI.  There are many YouTube videos about how the actors were each put through a 3 month accelerated flight training course to enable them to play their roles – you can see the G-forces contort their faces for real

Beach football not volleyball: in a nice touch of freshness, the bare topped pilots play American football not volleyball on the beach, including a visual reference to the “ball spinning” sequence at the start of the match (below)

Graduates not students: in another fresh twist, Maverick goes back to Top Gun not to teach trainee pilots, but rather the best of the best graduates


One of the hardest calls to make and align on when revitalising a brands is what to cut. Here, there were some significant things that didn’t make it into the sequel. The following items were cut to make way for freshness:

Catchphrases: Nobody felt “…the need for speed”!

Tower flyby: no coffee spilt in the control tower

You’ve lost that loving feeling“: the famous bar song was not recreated


Tom Cruise and his fellow producers have also managed to add a lot of new elements to spice up the Top Gun story:

Higher tech: the new movie is packed full of cool new technology, from a prototype hypersonic jet, codenamed “Darkstar”, through to the advanced computer simulation used to practice the bombing run

Catchphrase: “Don’t think, just act” was a new catch-phrase, bringing to life a new life philosophy

Clear end goal: rather than just having to fight some enemy jets, like in the original movie, the mission in this new film is, well, impossible! The difficulty of the mission dials up the tension and the need for Maverick’s rule-breaking approach

Goose’s son: one obvious new addition is the son of Goose, Maverick’s co-pilot who (plot spoiler) tragically dies in the original Top Gun. This casting adds a fresh twist and a clever link back to the first film, brought to life with flashbacks

New movie stars: Tom Cruise is back, of course, alongside a sadly very ill Val Kilmer. We also have a selection of new stars, including Ed Harris, Jon Hamm, Miles Teller and Jennifer Connolly


Tom Cruise & his team have crafted a great film that brings the Top Gun brand bang up to date for today’s audiences. It is a great example of how to use the KULA approach to deliver fresh consistency.