Five or so years ago I met an innovation agency head, ex Senior VP of Marketing of a very well known worldwide consumer brand, for lunch to talk about collaboration opportunities; we initially met through Twitter. The first thing she said to me when we finally met in person was “Congratulations on your Game-Changer brand, I’m very impressed with what you’ve done.”
Though I was a bit surprised, up until that point I’d never been complimented for my brand, I wasn’t shocked by her comments because of her background working in an industry that is heavily brand drive; so she understands what it takes to build a brand. The funny thing is when I first started my blog I didn’t think of creating my own brand, I never did a formal branding exercise to arrive at conclusions; I was mostly focused on putting my ideas out there.
But, at the beginning I knew what I wanted and didn’t want to stand for (checkout my about page); so my decisions and actions are driven by that, and that’s how I built the brand.
It took some time for me to notice that my thoughts and ideas were resonating with people, but I received some validation from my peers and audience three years after I started blogging when I was given the moniker of “Innovation Insurgent” on Twitter by Jonathan Amm; then head of a branding agency in Ireland:
— Jonathan Amm (@changeagents_) March 27, 2010
— Jorge Barba (@jorgebarba) March 29, 2010
Now you know how I got that moniker and why I use it in my bio! I don’t use it to sound different or interesting; it’s my mindset and attitude.
Mimicry is not a strategy
Most entrepreneurs don’t set out to build a brand, an idea that transcends product or service; rather they worry about sales. But even if you don’t set out to build a brand you have to do both. In my experience I’ve seen that most entrepreneurs are scared of putting themselves out there and see no value in building brand ahead of building business, if they do they want to take shortcuts to building it by mimicking how established brands operate and how their brand visuals look like.
The idea of mimicking and looking like everyone else came up on a recent project with a collaborator. There comes a point where every company in an industry looks, talks and acts the same; the only thing different is the color of their logo. And most don’t follow through on what they supposedly stand for, only when it suits them.
And that’s the reason why mimicry is not a strategy. The problem with mimicking is you’re not yourself and are only thinking short-term. On to of that, you’re assuming that whoever you’re mimicking has the same set of challenges you do.
Put simply: Why is most everyone ok being a cheaper version of someone else?
Stand for Something
There are many athletic performance gear providers, but most of us associate Nike with athletic achievement. Think about it, the Nike logo isn’t what it was when it was drawn. You recognize it today because of all the decisions and actions the brand took to become synonymous with athletic achievement; not with athletic performance gear.
There’s a reason why Nike stands out above the rest in their industry: they’re deeply driven by their brand values and are committed to innovation. They wouldn’t be Nike if they didn’t follow through on that.
Building a brand is hard, but the benefits of brand building are immense. It’s hard to put a number on it, but mostly it’s influence. Just think about Nike, Starbucks, Apple, Google, Tesla, Burberry, Ferrari, Porsche, McLaren, Ikea and many others who wield influence over their industry, their customers and users; many businesses would kill to have that position.
Still, many won’t precisely because they have to commit to a set of values that drive their way of being 365 days a year; you have to be authentic. From my perspective, brand is what you stand for and why you do what you do. It’s what creates loyalty beyond filling a person’s functional need.
Remember: Brand is not what say you do but what you stand for. And those who stand for anything stand for nothing.
Also published on Medium.