It takes a village to build a brand

We need to shatter the myth of the Lone Brand Genius if we want to get brands for change off the ground.

There is this myth that it only takes one person to build a strong brand. Some visionary who knows it all, controls it all, and ignores everyone else, emerging one day with some mind-blowing, uncompromising brand created out of thin air.

The Brand The Change community, illustration by Zsuzsanna Ilijin

The truth is that for 99.9% of us, it takes a village. Someone to come up with the idea, someone who can pitch it, someone who can bring it to life with great design, someone who captures the essence in great photos. Customers who give input, marketeers who go out and test in the field. Team members creating culture together.

And yet so many of us go at it on our own.

In a world that glorifies lone geniuses and self-starters, we expect ourselves to master every single skill needed to build companies, movements, or careers.

While many of us are deeply intertwined with what we are building, we somehow hope to retain the clarity of an outsider's perspective, so crucial in building brands that resonate with our audiences.

Or we perform to the best of our abilities, constantly curious how someone else would approach the same challenge, but never reach out.

The individualistic and self-starting approach can be effective, but if you end up feeling ineffective, inadequate or flatlining your learning curve, it might be a sign you are ready for a community-minded approach to building your brand.

I know this because I’ve been there myself, and have to actively suppress my own inclinations. And because I have a support group of hundreds of people around me who prove to me every day that this is the way to go.

Co-creation is a cornerstone of the Brand The Change method, and community is at the heart of all the learning experiences we develop. The interactions with participants, the peer coaching and matchmaking within our network, are never what people come to us for, but by the time they graduate a programme, they rate it the most valuable part of the experience.

One participant teamed up with another to create a deck to convince their leadership teams to invest more resources in their constantly underfunded brand building effort.

A community member gets up at 2am her time for a peer coaching session with another member who is about to deliver her first big solo pitch.

It’s no coincidence that the most popular meetup format in the Brand the Change lineup is “Analyse My Brand”: it puts founders in front of an audience to get the feedback they need. The format, designed by Maja Grcic, continues to energize crowds in a city that has become spoilt for choice.

All these experiences have shown me how isolated we actually often are — whether caught in a pandemic or not.

If you have been going at it all by yourself, while longing for exchange, support and deep insights, you are invited to join the Brand The Change community.

We all recognize that even the best soloist needs a support team. We celebrate our fellow villagers and don’t hold back when we have gifts to give and to receive.

More support for brand building changemakers

Brand the Change, the guidebook — A full guide to building brands for change, with 13 case studies, 22 tools, the anatomy of a strong brand explained, and 5 guest essays by brand experts with tips and tricks on everything from trademarking to PR.

Brand The Change Meetups — If you are based in Lisbon, Amsterdam or Nairobi, consider putting your brand in front of the community and get the feedback you need to grow your brand.

TED Talk — How branding can help accelerate social change

Social Good is Always Good Branding, or is it? — essay for Stanford Social Innovation Review. Why putting social first is not always effective, or as impactful, as it appears to be.

Three Dysfunctional Beliefs about Branding — blogpost. Beliefs that hold social impact ventures back from reaching the audience they deserve.

Working to see the day when organisations with positive social and environmental impact outperform traditional ventures. Weapon of choice: branding.

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