Blue Skies and Branding

July 28th, 2013

Blue Skies and BrandingWhat is a brand, anyway?  Here’s what Marty Neumier says it’s not: it’s not  a logo, it’s not a tagline,  it’s not even a product or service.

I believe that a brand is our legacy.  It is the culmination of all we’ve done, all we’ve accomplished, the connections we’ve made and perhaps most important, the karmic footprint we leave behind as we make our way through life.  By that I mean all of the things we’ve done that have left an impact on those around us, especially those that have put their trust in us.

How will we know when we’re headed in the right direction and traveling a path that leads to long term, lasting value in our relationships and our work?

I have been reflecting on this for quite some time now.   What I’m thinking is that when we look back and total up all of our actions, add the impact of those actions, and most importantly consider the perceived results of our actions, then it behooves us to truly pay attention to how others actually feel about our actions.  We need to be more mindful of the impact of our actions, since that is what matters most.

Let’s focus on the value of feedback in building a brand.  On the downside, we need only look back at the Exxon oil spill in 1989 in Alaska’s Prince William Sound.  They didn’t take it seriously at first, waited weeks to respond and when they did they did a poor job of communicating the truth about it.  Their brand has suffered ever since.

On the other hand, take for example what happened to Johnson & Johnson back in 1982, when six people died in Chicago from Tylenol that had been tampered with.  Not only did they pull 31 million bottles from the shelves immediately, at a cost of over $100 million dollars, when they re-introduced the brand they did it with a triple-seal tamper resistant packaging. It became the first company to comply with the Food and Drug Administration mandate of tamper-resistant packaging.  Furthermore, they promoted caplets, which are more resistant to tampering.  J&J went from being the brand leader before the tampering (at 37% market share) to pretty much last place at 7% right after the scandal, to back on top just a few years later.

Whether we’re talking about our company’s brand or our own personal brand, it is essential that we continually find ways to solicit direct, honest feedback.  I’m talking about feedback on how we’re perceived.  Also, getting to the core of what others expect from us, and how good a job we’ve done at meeting that expectation.   At that point, with that truth in hand, we have something to work with both positive and negative.  The key here is that branding is not so much affected by our intentions, or even our actions (at least how we perceive those actions), but by the impact of those actions on others.

Perception is reality.  Look no further than Andrew Wiener’s current fate.  He may (or may not) be in recovery, as he claims, but the public has clearly had its fill, and his political life is surely over.

Since perception is what really matters, let’s build in the steps, the systems, and the habitual checks and balances to help us stay in touch with how we are perceived.  We can separate impact from intent and then work from there to build a legacy we can be proud of.   I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.  What do you think a brand is?


Here are  a few resources we hope will inspire you to take a look at your own branding (though I encourage you to start with Marty Neumeir’s “The Brand Gap” on SlideShare):

Blue Ocean Strategy – W. Chan Kim & Renee Mauborgne (this link is to their website which has lots of free info in addition to their book)

I Am the Walrus: Personal Branding from The Beatles – By Parr and Ansbaugh

This I Believe – by Tom Peters

Once Upon a Time…The Best Brand Stories Ever – from the Volusion blog

And please, don’t be shy… share your thoughts with me on branding: via a post, an email, give me a call, send up some smoke signals!

Engage with others around this topic and see where it takes you.

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