Building a Brand Takes Time

Bill S Kenney,

Please accept my congratulations for your having written a thorough post about how to present a branding document to a client, but — and there is almost always a but rather than unqualified praise, unless it comes from your employees (particularly those approaching their annual performance reviews) or your loved ones — so I want to issue a point of clarification about some of your wording, while further emphasizing the importance of another section of your memorandum.

First, as I never tire of writing (and saying to current or prospective clients), there are many businesses but few brands. Meaning: A business can be successful — it can be very profitable — but still not be a brand because, to go from being transactional to being transcendent, to establish an emotional connection with consumers — to have men and women extol the excellence you provide, and to have them enter an experiential space of performance art — involves the one thing no executive can accelerate and no marketing guru can manipulate, which is also the same thing no physicist can shorten and no mathematician can shirk, sidestep or squeeze: Time.

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Building a brand takes time; and time requires patience, which is antithetical to human nature.

For we are, as a species, extremely predictable — and not in a good way — since, though we may acknowledge the need for a business to become transcendent, we have great difficulty transcending (or resisting) ourselves; all the sinful traits of mankind — all the vices described in the Bible, a religious tome to billions and a secular treatise for many atheists and agnostics alike — are inseparable from our very being, save a grand leap in evolution and a revolutionary change in the power and processes of the brain.

We are as much wardens and prisoners of our minds, too easily weakened by pride, anger, envy, greed, denial, sloth, violence and ignorance. When we do not repeat our mistakes, which we too often repeatedly repeat, we create new ones — all in a futile quest to find some secret password, some elusive rite of initiation or some talisman — some badge or armband to brandish before a select minority of the rich and powerful — to grant us the fruits of our labor . . . without having to expend an ounce of labor by ourselves for ourselves.

Secondly, a brand cannot tell a story, never mind attempt to tell “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” without magisterial prose that informs and inspires readers to do something; to spread the Gospel (literally), or to “evangelize” on behalf of all that a brand is, and all that brand promises to be, in an effort to convert consumers into adherents — to make them impassioned itinerant preachers of your personal virtues and your professional values — traveling near and far for a cause greater themselves.

Give them the tools, and they will finish the job.

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