First, read this post by Rob on Old Spice - take in the point about relieving tension and contradiction.
Then buy and read How Brands Become Icons by Douglas Holt. It's a disgrace this book doesn't get talked about more.
Don't be put off by the, pretty much accepted premise, that brands become icons through carving a values position in culture and becoming and outward demonstration of ones values and identity. Do be excited by the idea that they resolve clashed between cultural values and expectations and personal realities (or that's how I read it).
So Johnnie Walker makes you feel like a modern man with depth, experience and inner strength even if you're a one dimensional, avaricious image conscious idiot (or an account handler).
Levis makes you feel confident, rebellious and cool, even if you're a nerd.
Innocent makes you feel good, naturist and environmentally aware, even if you leave your telly on standby.
One interesting outcome though - it really does point to a problem with contemporary society. We may have moved from 'image and owning' in some cases, but 'Values and experience' still seems to encourage us to have impossible ideas of who we can be, and make us feel bad for not living up to them.