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Building a brand is hard work, and terms like “brand management”, “brand equity”, and other corporate buzzwords get thrown around a lot in meetings and vision statements, but it doesn’t have to be that complicated. Building a strong brand may be hard work, but it can be boiled down into a few simple principles:
It all starts here. If you aren’t passionate about what you’re doing and the brand you’re trying to build, stop. Life is too short, there’s too much noise out there already, and there’s way too many people living lives they hate. Don’t be another one. Figure out what your passion is and work hard on getting there. If you don’t, the next two steps will be almost impossible.
A good example of this is blogging itself. There are tons of blogs out there posting the same content about the same topics, in hopes of making some quick cash. However, being a financially successful blogger is a tremendous amount of work, and if you don’t have the true passion for it, and are just in it for the money, you’ll find yourself posting a lot of the same types of content as everyone else out there, because passion drives original thought, creativity, and honesty. And in the end, you’ll probably make less money than you would doing something a lot less stressful, like working at Starbucks.
This ties in really well with the one above, but the message is slightly different: be who you are and don’t try and hide it. You can’t hide it very well anymore anyway, and over the next few years, your ability to hide will continue to erode as more and more of our lives move online and become more transparent. Because a brand is about building trust, your partners, clients, and colleagues need to know who you are in order to be able to trust you. Find your voice, decide what positions matter to you, and don’t be afraid to champion them.
I think this is one of the reasons that TechCrunch is so popular. I attended a roundtable on the Mobile Web that was hosted by TechCrunch and Michael Arrington, the founder of TC, was one of the people on the panel. There was this guy in the audience who was absolutely livid at Mike’s position that the iPhone had made Nokia and other platforms irrelevant. The guy was ranting and raving about the lunacy of such a claim and how Michael was so irresponsible for making such a brash statement, and Michael just said that if he didn’t say the things he believed, no matter how extreme they are, no one would pay any attention to him. I think there’s real value in not worrying about what people will think if you throw an extreme belief out there. But the key is, do NOT throw extreme statements out there if you don’t really believe in them (linkbait). People will see through that, and you’ll end up with a lousy reputation.
Now that you’ve found something that you’re passionate about, and found your voice about that thing, you have one more principle to keep in mind: never settle for doing something half-heartedly, for turning out a mediocre product, for getting by. Concentrate on winning the hearts and minds of your customers by finding out what they want and need before they even know it, and giving it to them without compromise.
Now, a final warning about being relentless. There’s a very dangerous slippery slope here, where you can strive for perfection so much that you never really accomplish anything. That’s a topic for another day, but in general, I would say that if you’re facing a problem where you don’t have the resources to be relentless in your development of a solution, you have three options:
- Cut the problem down into a smaller piece that you can solve
- Find another problem to solve
- Try to do it all, fail, and harm your brand
A good example of this is Apple’s recent release of MobileMe, which has been plagued with problems from day one. In an internal memo, Steve Jobs told Apple employees that “It was a mistake to launch MobileMe at the same time as iPhone 3G, iPhone 2.0 software and the App Store,” and that “We all had more than enough to do, and MobileMe could have been delayed without consequence.”
The moral here is that Apple has created a couple of great products (iPhone and App Store), but they tried to be relentless on too many fronts at once. Better to conquer a small niche and expand from there than try and take on everything and fail.