The original reason for brands was to let the buyer know the source of the goods. "We made this," says the organization we trust when we buy something.
Over time, though, brands have evolved into something we want other people to see, not just us. "I bought this," says the person who wears or drinks or drives something with status.
The essence of a brand with social juice, of one that matters as a label, isn't how big the logo is. No, what matters is that the buyer thinks the brand is important, and that the logo is a signifier that they're paying for.
So no one complains that the logo on the wine bottle is not in tiny 18 point type, or that the BMW convertible has 8 or 9 or 14 logos on it, or that we can tell it's a Harley just from the sound it makes driving down the street.
If you are angling to make your logo bigger but your customers don't care (or resist), if your customers aren't eager to say, "I bought this," then you're doing the wrong angling. The work that needs to be done is to create a product and a story that makes your customers want you to make the logo more prominent.
Those people who owe you—because you mowed their lawn, drove carpool, promoted their site, gave them advice, listened to you in the middle of the night—they will probably let you down.
Favors aren't for trading, they wear out, they fade away, they are valued differently by the giver and the receiver.
No, the best favors are worth doing for the doing, not because we'll ever get paid back appropriately.
Last night on the bike path I passed a well-dressed citizen, walking along with a bottle of water. I was stunned to see him finish his water and hurl the bottle into the woods.
I stopped and said, "Hey, please don't do that."
He looked at me with complete surprise and said, "what?" as if he didn't understand what 'that' was. His conception of the world seemed to be that there was two kinds of stuff... his and not-his. The park wasn't his, so it was just fine to throw trash, in fact, why not?
The challenge we have in the connection economy, in a world built on ever more shared resources and public digital spaces is that some people persist in acting like it belongs to someone else. When they spit in the pool or troll anonymously, when they spam or break things, it's as if they're doing it to someone else, or to the man.
Too often, we accept this vandalism as if it's a law of nature, like dealing with the termites that will inevitably chew exposed wood on a house's foundation. It doesn't have to be this way. Over and over, we see that tribes and communities and organizations are able to teach people that this is ours, that it's worth taking care of and most of all, that people like us care for things like this.
We know what you want to accomplish. We know how you'd like everything to turn out.
The real question is, "what are you willing to push through the dip for?" What are you willing to stand up for, bleed for, commit to and generally be unreasonable about?
Because that's what's going to actually get done.
One model of organization is to find something that you're good at and that's easy and straightforward and get paid for that.
The other model is to seek out things that are insanely difficult and do those instead.
Dave Ramsey does a three hour radio show every day. He books theaters and has a traveling road show. He has the discipline to only publish a new book quite rarely, and to stick with it for years and years as it moves through the marketplace. He has scores of employees. And on and on. By doing hard work that others fear, he creates unique value.
Henry Ford did the same thing with the relentless scale and efficiency he built at Ford. Others couldn't imagine raising their own sheep to make their own wool to make their own seat fabric...
"How do we do something so difficult that others can't imagine doing it?" is a fine question to ask today.
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