The Great Myth of Brand and Finding a Simpler Understanding

great myth of brand

Conventional thinking says we should grow reach.

Conventional thinking says we should look for more.

Conventional thinking says bigger is better.

Conventional thinking ... is conventional for a reason.

No matter how sound or logical, pervasive or pithy, best practices are lagging indicators, not leading indicators. On my newsletter, Damn the Best Practices, and really in all my work, I've long advocated for a renewed focus on resonance instead of reach. It's not just my little corner of the internet, either. Over the past 6 months, I've gone inside 10 of the world's best B2B organizations to uncover how and why they're prioritizing brand. In this docuseries, Exceptions, I profiled InVision, Zoom, Wistia, Help Scout, First Round Capital, Grado Labs, ProfitWell, Lessonly, Buffer, and Gusto. In talking to both their teams AND their customers, my eyes were opened to a simple fact: Great brands grow by prioritizing resonance instead of reach.

In the end, brand is merely the sum total of every experience others have with you (whether that's "customer experience" or "employee experience"). Every tweet, every email, every purchase, every MOMENT -- it all adds up to create the brand. In other words:

Brand is how others feel about your people.

Period. That's it. It's all about those two things: how they FEEL ... about YOUR PEOPLE.

Again, brand is the sum total of every experience they have. Every experience is created by people. Thus, every brand is built by the collective behavior of your people. That's all this is. We overcomplicate this, and we hide that blunt reality behind words like "company" and "department" and "campaign," but these are merely constructs. They are legal or theoretical entities. The words are shorthand for "the people who work for us." In reality, a "company" is a nonexistent, empty container -- that is, until we, the people doing the work, fill those containers with what we create. Brand is thus the emotional reaction that others have to our stuff that creates a brand.

And today, in this world of infinite choice, we choose to spend time with great experiences. In other words, we choose great brands.

In the business world, we tend to inflate these ideas into more sophisticated-sounding but ultimately meaningless ideas. We think building a brand means launching one-off “brand initiatives,” but in reality, EVERYTHING we do builds the brand.

We chalk up those discrete “brand initiatives” as things that don't drive results, but in reality, a great brand grows inbound results while making it easier to go outbound.

We think “brand” means putting some final polish on something or perhaps launching something fun or “viral.”

In short, the conventional thinking on "brand" is that it's a nice-to-have thing which is all about reach. In reality, it's all about resonance. It's the emotional response others have to our work.

Here’s the bottom line: Every individual has AN experience of our work. The only real question is: Are we being proactive about crafting a great one?

This idea was originally shared to my newsletter. You can subscribe below.

Posted on December 9, 2018 .