Brand building – Hogwash. No-one will dispute the top 100 brands – huge worldwide organizations, but for the rest of us, brand-building is smoke and mirrors. For companies, it is an attempt to avoid personal ownership and for agencies it is an opportunity to use big words no-one understands.

brand building william harley arhur davidson 1914

For the first 10 years nobody cared about “Harley Davidson”. They deal with William or Arther who stood behind their products and created a legacy that much later grew into a “brand”.

I have on my desk a 13 page document addressed to one of my clients from a big advertising agency; my client is a new company with some money to spend – the agency wants 12000 USD to “build their brand”. They claim that they will make their brand “authentic, purposeful and competitive”. They claim that they will find “universal truth“. They want to “map the brands DNA and personally” and connect “the brand to a higher order ideal.” Please! – who thinks this stuff up??

William Harley and Arther Davidson did none of these things when they started Harley Davidson in a shed in 1903. If they had been presented with this proposal they would thrown the madman out who suggested such nonsense – they just wanted to create good motorcycles, give good service and earn a profit. They personally stood by their products and took responsibility for any come-backs from an unhappy owner. People bought from William and did business with Arthur the only brands were the characters of the founders.

101 Brand Building – It is true that 99,9% of companies will never become “brands” – and probably not  in their first 10 years. Sure they will have a logo and corporate ID but this is based on the vision of the company founder – it is a personal extension of their personalty and character. Put differently, brands start out as people – a personal brand. It is only with time and expansion that the “personal brand” can no longer stretch into every corner of the business. Then and only then, does one need to create a mythical character, an altered ego, a ghost that can stalk the corridors of out-lying branch offices and enforce the values, culture and character of the now too-distant founder.

For most needs clients don’t want “brands” – they want people of integrity who can solve their problem; they want a fair deal and they want their expectations met.

So if you have 12000 USD to spend on “brand building” for your new company – email me and let’s make better use of your money.

For more on brand building check out this Seth Godin’s video here