I hear it all the time. “I HAVE a brand, look…” “I need to GET a brand.” No doubt, people and businesses need to brand. But, as I just used the word, “brand” is a verb, not a noun. Check it out…
The path to a strong brand is paved with the mindset that it is an action. It's something you do, you brand.
If you HAVE a brand, it is implied that you are done, finito.
The truth is, you are never done with a brand.
A brand is built over time
A brand evolves with its customers.
In fact, it's the customers who decide what your brand actually is, not you.
I just read an article in Fast Company that mega-brand Harley-Davidson is suing a small town Massachusetts diner for trademark infringement. Apparently, the $5 billion motorcycle giant feels the diner is profiting from the use of its logo on a mural. The diner had a local artist paint the mark has an homage to the brand that has brought its community of bikers together. The eatery has become a well-known hangout for riders of the iconic brand.
Harley-Davidson's take: "…by using our trademark on the exterior, public facing portion of your business, you have created the impression that there is an affiliation or other relationship with Harley-Davidson when no such relationship exists.”
Hmmm… let me get this straight.
The people who made the brand what it is today, are being attacked by the very brand that owes them their success.
Here's the branding point:
What started out in 1903 as simply a company that builds motorcycles, has evolved into a lifestyle brand that has created followers so loyal they will go so far as to get the company's logo tattooed on their arms. Imagine that, you have no financial stake whatsoever in the business, but you'll permanently mark your body with its name. Now that's a strong brand!
What their short-sighted legal team doesn't seem to understand though, is that brands are constantly being built, business ebbing and flowing depending on how your customers continue to relate to the brand. By alienating the very people who actually created the brand (not the company by the way) they are endangering the future of the brand as we know it. What is widely known as a brand that represents freedom and individuality could easily slip into the brand of restriction and conformity.
Keep this in mind as you embark on your brand building journey. You are forever building, protecting, listening and responding. Mostly to the people that you have come to embrace as your core fans.
Evolve with them.
And always remember, you don't have a brand, you develop a brand over time.