When you are creating a brand, the first thing you need to be true to is yourself. Do not share the ownership of your brand with anyone else. This does not mean that your corporate brand is your private property. This does not mean you have to be a brand Nazi. It is more like your brand is a child you personally are responsible for. The child needs to be protected. Kept close to people who understand its nature and needs. Kept away from people who don’t. This is how branding works.
Don’t expect your mother to understand your brand. Just because she knows what’s best for you doesn’t mean she knows what’s best for your brand. A designer who worked closely with Steve Jobs told me that when Steve was on sick leave for a few months, a lot of people blithely went off the reservation and took liberties with the Apple brand that never would have happened had Steve been there. When he got back, he went ballistic and put everything back in order. What stuck in my head is that the designer said that there were only five people in the entire company who understood the Apple brand.
When brands run amok, it’s not pretty. Brands do not take kindly to crowd sourcing or being run by committees. When you create a brand, you are building something that is based on a coherent, consistent set of attitudes and beliefs. It’s not just about a set of rules. If it was, life would be easy. When brands run amok, it’s not pretty. Think about Absolut or BMW when they abandoned campaigns that defined their brands for many years. Show up at your house with a completely different personality and see how people react to you.
Owning something means taking it under your wing. This idea of taking responsibility is at the heart of how branding works. If you’ve read The Little Prince, you grasp the existential importance of taking responsibility for something that can’t protect itself. The Little Prince finds himself all alone on a little asteroid with a flower that owes its life to his constant vigilance and protection. This relationship is more important than anything else. It gives meaning to his entire life.
If it’s your idea, it’s your brand. In the same way, the hands that create, nurture and manage your brand need to know the difference between shit and Shinola. There is only one way to make sure that this happens. Pick one person to own your brand. 99 times out of 100 that person is you. There is a big temptation to hand off the responsibility to a marketing person. Marketing people are good at taking things apart and not so good at putting them back together. Your brand is way too important to give it to someone who really doesn’t get it and won’t protect it with their life. Branding is Just Like Life is a weekly series on branding. If you are out to change the world, there are a few things you need to know first.