The Fallacy of Brand Building

I love creating and building new brands.  There’s just something about creating something that truly invokes some kind of The MouseDriver Chroniclesemotional reaction with a customer. Whether that customers is a consumer, a business, an agency,  it doesn’t matter to me.  The whole idea of just invoking that emotion, (ideally a positive, happy, incredibly delighted emotion), and creating a phenomenal customer experience invigorates me.

When we started the MouseDriver Insider Newsletter, our objective was to create an emotional connection with potential customers. Our hope was that these ‘readers’ would be so inspired by our story that they’d buy a bunch of MouseDrivers for themselves or for their companies.  And on some scale, that strategy worked as ~50% of our sales were generated through Word-of-Mouth (WOM).  But what we didn’t expect was that the emotional connection we were creating with MouseDriver was inspiring and motivating thousands of people around the world to follow their entrepreneurial dreams.  By shear accident, the MouseDriver brand become much more than an awesome impulse buy gift item.  It became a beacon of hope, a product of entrepreneurial inspiration and a proof point that anybody could bring a product to market with passion, guts and effort.

My point here?  Companies don’t own their brands.  Yeah, you can go through the initial work of putting together a brand platform, brand architecture, brand voice, products, positioning, etc. and you absolutely should. But at the end of the day, a company is just trying to guide the brand. Your customers, your partners, your vendors, and even your employees will ultimately define your brand. And honestly, you really have no idea where they’re going to take it.  You just have to be ready to listen, to react and to execute.

The Key Takeaway:  When you’re first launching, don’t spend too much time focusing on the brand. Make sure you have the frameworks in place and that you’re staying consistent with what you believe the brand to be, but don’t overthink it.  Focus on building a customer base, listen to those customers, and let them tell you what they what your brand to be and what they want your company to stand for.  

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  1. says

    John, a few thoughts from a recent HBR blog post. Yong contends that companies own their brands, and I think what she means is that it’s a company’s responsibility to manage the brand, and that this management is about focusing specifically on the target customer and providing that perfect experience.

    She talks about fledgeling organizations considering a “Minimum Viable Brand” (MVB) to clearly focus its value proposition, then testing that brand in the marketplace. I think this perspective is interesting because is provides for a traditional view that companies should protect and stay true to a brand while recognizing that young organizations have the opportunity (and the obligation) to adjust their positioning to meet the specific tastes of the target segment.

    • John Lusk says

      Thanks Taylor. I agree with Yong’s post in that it’s up to companies to manage their brands and determine what their MVB should initially look like. That being said, companies don’t control the emotions that customers might show towards the brand. In that sense, I believe that customers do ultimately ‘own’ the brand…but as business owners, we need to everything we can to not only understand the experience our customers want but also deliver on that experience. I’ve seen way too many Founders put so much emphasis on ‘building’ their brand before they’ve even started selling product…that’s where Yong’s thoughts are dead-on.