Throughout the years there have been a number of brands who grew into international markets that their names were not suited to.

Before the Honda Jazz was called the Honda Jazz, it was called the Honda Fit. It was only after they launched it as the Honda Fitta into European markets that they realised that “fitta” translates to mean female genitalia in Swedish.

Another car, the Cherovlet Nova sold quite poorly in Latin America because “no va” reads “won’t go” in Spanish.

Coca-Cola, which at its invention meant little in English translates roughly to “bite the wax tadpole” in Chinese. It has since been transliterated into English as “ke kou ke le”, which means something more along the lines of “happiness in the mouth.” Far more appealing.

It goes to show that sometimes the things we build can sometimes grow beyond our own sensibilities.

The world is wide and we will only every be familiar with but a tiny portion.

Brands, however, possess the innate ability to be familiar almost everywhere.

If someone knows your name, you have a brand.

What people think and, more importantly, how people feel when they hear your name is that brand.

It’s got nothing to do with who we think we are and everything to do with who we actually are to other people.

Are we reliable? Trustworthy?Charming? Funny?

Not unless someone else thinks so. Self belief might inspire our action, but it’s our actions which inspire our reputations. Which, in turn, define us.

We are responsible for cultivating our reputation, but we don’t get the privilege of disagreeing with it once it’s out there.

We can seek to improve our reputation, but there is no sense in refuting it.

It just is.

If who we think we are doesn’t matter, then perhaps we should do less thinking about who we are today or who we were ten years ago, and more thinking about who we might aspire to be for someone else tomorrow.

“Maximizing the benefits for the social media platform you’re on are different than maximizing the benefits for you and those you are leading.”

Seth Godin

The influencer dynamic plaguing modern marketing is shallow, but it sells units.

Influencers act as conduits for buyer’s attention.

Which at it’s core makes sense, right?

You see a cool Instagram page which represents your interests, and you follow it.

If they have a big enough following, brands who want to reach people interested in things relevant to the page reach out, and the page gets compensated for putting the brand in view of people likely to be interested in their products (aka you).

The problem is that these pages are usually compensated for their reach, not their quality.

The result is that influencers tend to race for cheap attention rather than fostering deeply engaged communities.

Those who hack the system to demand your attention get preference over those taking their time to foster communities – even when the former are wasting your attention in the process.

Influencing and leading are not the synonymous.

Influencers are out to sell your attention to the highest bidder.

Leaders are out to help you spend it wisely.

There are three blogs which I return to more than any others.

Today I thought I’d share them.

1. Seth’s Blog

The blog of Seth Godin was the inspiration for this one. He’s published work every day for over a decade and in the process has become the best distiller of information I’ve encountered.

2. Brain Pickings

Brain Pickings is a curation of deep dives into the work of great thinkers (often writers, poets or philosophers) by Maria Popova. Maria writes with a distinctive style which I admire greatly, and creates intricate networks throughout her blog by meticulously linking articles and topics to one another.

3. The Blog of Tim Ferris

Tim Ferris is a well known author, entrepreneur and self described ‘human guinea pig’. His blog is the home to his widely successful podcast, The Tim Ferris Show, where he seeks to unpack the successful habits of world class performers. I regularly listen to his podcasts, and find his cataloguing of show notes on the blog to be an invaluable resource.

Here’s two things which are deeply important to me;

Helping people understand what attention deficit disorders look like, how they function, and what someone lucky enough to have one can do to turn their variance into an asset.

Helping people (especially us millennial/Gen Z types) find ways to grow, learn, and reduce anxiety through the dedicated stoic practice of a meaningful pursuit (jiu-jitsu, in my case).

I’m going to be turning one of these into a book.

Perhaps I’ll even end up writing both. But for now, I need to decide which one gets to be first or I’ll bounce between the two forever.

I’m not married to a deadline yet, but I am commited to the outcome.

One book has to die for the other to thrive. If this is going to happen, I need to focus.

I need to make a choice, and I’d appreciate your help in making it.

Which book would you read first (if either)?

Which book are you more likely to champion?

Which book would you gift to a friend?

This is wildly important to me, so I’d appreciate any and all of your thoughts.

You can contact me publicly or privately.

Give me a call.

Let me buy you a coffee.

This is happening one way or the other. I want to do it justice.

‘What if everything you think about branding is wrong?’

The provocative opening line of Michel Hogan‘s keynote at Perth REMIX 2019 rustled a room full of people to whom branding means everything.

A tension washed over the room as people tried to remember the precise wording of their organisation’s mission statement and values. People sat up in their seats and Michel gave us a clinic on brand.

Her lightning efficient talk made the case that brand(ing) is not something you do in a wishy-washy hope to better define or promote your organisation’s objectives.

She argues that we shouldn’t even use the word branding, because brand is not a verb.

Publicising is not brand. Developing a style guide is not brand. And coming up with a fluffy mission statement and a list of values for your employees to memorise before their interviews and then disregard is definitely not brand.

Why not?

Because brand is an output, not an input.

‘Brand is a result of the promises you keep.’

It’s not something you can define, because it’s defined by your action.

This is severely important, and intensely motivating.

For anyone else who loves a mathematic visualisation, Michel has synthesised her thoughts on what makes a brand into the following formula, where;

  • i = Identity (your purpose and values)
  • p = Promises (what you say you do)
  • e = Experience (what you actually do)
  • b = Brand (your reputation)

Identity is important because if your brand revolves around killing puppies, it doesn’t matter how good you are at it.

It also helps if you care about whatever it is that you’re identifying yourself as. It’ll make it much easier to keep your promises.

‘When you take what you care about and use it to help shape the promises you make, you’re more likely to keep them.’

Michel Hogan

Your p/e ratio matters because trust is eroded every time you fail to deliver on the experience you promised a user.

By this defninition, your brand is a living, breathing thing. At any moment in time it has the potential to change.

Defining what you do is important, but it’s only half of the puzzle. Fail to deliver, and all those brand meetings were for nought.

The promise of this blog is that I publish a piece of writing every day.

If I don’t deliver on that promise daily, the blog isn’t what it says it is.

It doesn’t matter whether I’ve made 50 posts or 7000. As soon as I miss a day my p/e goes down the toilet, and it’s not a daily blog.

Strategic promises inform meaningful brands.

What do you promise?

If you’re struggling to answer, perhaps Michel can help.

Be bold. Get specific. Do the work.

This is the first post distilling my learnings from the REMIX Academy Summit I attended earlier in the week. I’ll put links to all the talks I summarise in the post I made on the day of the event for easy referencing.

You can learn more about Michel and her work by visiting her website, following her on Twitter, or by picking up one of her books.

She’s a fantastic speaker and a wonderful thinker, I highly reccomend checking her out.