Forget about building a brand

There’s one reason not to become a brand. Why it’s better to be a real person than an image or story. It’s this:

Brands have to be consistent. People don’t.

Let’s play a game. I’m going to give you three sentences. I want you to rate them on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 being no fucking way would that happen. 10 being as likely as the sun rising tomorrow morning.

  • Crossfit proclaiming that Crossfit isn’t actually the best way for the average person to train.
  • Coca-Cola saying that Pepsi is a much nicer drink.
  • Apple tipping their hat to Samsung, admitting they did it better this time.

I bet you got closer to 1 than to 10 on all those statements.

See, that’s the problem. Brands tell stories. And anything that conflicts with those stories weakens their position. So to survive, they have to keep suppressing the truth. They can’t change their mind because they don’t have one. All they have is a story and they can’t, they won’t tolerate anything that contradicts it.

But people? People tell stories. People want to, like to, need to be right. But people aren’t bound by the same constraints that a brand is. They can change direction more easily. They can come out and say, “I was wrong/stupid/mean” and not get crushed for it. In fact, contrary to brands, people often benefit from vulnerability. From openness. From changing their mind. From being human.

In today’s climate, where a quick fall is more likely than a rapid climb, being a brand is a huge, competitive advantage. It means you’ve got enough clout to be recognised for something. It likely means you have enough wealth to survive a storm. And it shows people that you stand for something. But the problem comes when what you stand for is the wrong thing. When your story is out of touch with reality. Because the bigger the brand, the harder it is to change the story.

If you have a brand already, cool. Leverage the assets that position gives you. But if you don’t? If your name doesn’t instantly conjure up associations and adjectives? Forget about building a brand. Build your humanity instead. 

Why? Because in an uncertain, unknowable world, the need to be consistent is a curse.