I'm With The Brand, Part 2: The Only Branding Tip You'll Ever Need
My grandfather, William Richardson, Jr., never heard the word "branding." A World War II veteran, he would likely shake his head at so much time and energy spent cultivating and maintaining an image. His outlook on such things was much more direct.
"Kyle," he said to me countless times, "always be a gentleman."
Every article I've read about image-making has been a pale imitation of that sentence. How can they possibly compare? Branding is about creating the appearance of something, acting at an image, when what we should do is not act as but be the person we want to project. The same lesson applies to business.
As I wrote last week, Tim Cook may be benefitting from Apple's strong image as its new CEO, but he did not create that brand. Steve Jobs created the company as we know it, not with a design-by-committee branding team, but through the force of his personality. Everything Apple is came about because of who Jobs was. Innovative. Driven. Aspirational. Those adjectives apply equally to the company as well as its creator. You would never describe Apple as "cuddly," because Jobs knew that isn't who he was, and didn't try to convince the world otherwise.
Apple is held up today as some perfection of successful branding that can never be replicated. In reality, what Jobs did with that company is the most traditional model in the world: he made products he could stand behind. He didn't sell anything he didn't believe in. He didn't need to stay on message because everything he did was genuine. You don't need a script if it's true.
I think about the things my grandfather told me every day. What it means to be a gentleman: Being polite, behaving considerately, putting the needs of others first, remaining honest. I could simply tell everyone I meet that I'm a gentleman, tell them I do those things, but I could also tell them I'm the embodiment of Apollo. That doesn't make it real. You've got to show your work.