I am on a mission to demystify brand and brand strategy.
It’s why I write a blog about brand. It’s why I developed the LinkedIn Learning course “Create a Brand Strategy.” It’s why I guest lecture on college campuses, and why I love to talk to people about brand over coffee.
But there came a point where I wanted to go deeper into brand than these shorter formats and conversations would allow. The best medium to plumb that depth is a book, and I had to write it. The result is Forging an Ironclad Brand: A Leader’s Guide.
Let’s Demystify Brand Strategy
I’m continually astounded at how smart business leaders, who want growth and clarity, dismiss a tool that provides those in spades: brand strategy. I want to demystify brand strategy because I know that leaders are at once intimidated by and scornful of it, because they view it as soft, amorphous, unmeasurable. Yet it can be their unassailable competitive advantage.
These same business leaders are the very people who stand the most to gain from the clarity and conviction a brand strategy brings. Those most likely to dismiss brand strategy are those most poised to benefit from it.
Some leaders already get it. I spent the formative years of my career in an environment where business leaders – CEOs, general managers, P&L owners – viewed brand as their most value-creating asset. To these leaders within the consumer-packaged goods sector, it is a given that brand forms their North Star, guiding their every decision. They also know that brand builds a competitive moat, safeguarding their assets.
But the leaders outside of consumer-packaged goods aren’t so different. They love the same stuff – product, running a P&L, running a business. No-nonsense, practical folks, sometimes M.B.A. trained, sometimes not. The difference is environment. They just aren’t immersed in a deep understanding of brand as the crux of their business.
That can change. I wanted to take this deep understanding, this “it’s a given” value for brand from consumer-packaged goods, and carry it outside of that world. So that leaders from other sectors could gain the same advantages as their brand-breathing brethren.
How to Build Evergreen Value and Meaning
For the skeptics, brand at once provokes scorn (“It’s squishy”) and intimidates (“I’m not a brand person – I can’t possibly do brand strategy”). It need not do either. It simply needs to be broken down to its essence. It then becomes a tool that allows businesses to know their essence.
The book divides in thirds. The first third of the book demystifies brand so you understand what it really is, how empowering it is as a leadership tool. I “de-squish” brand, taking it apart to show what it really means.
And since the other barrier to harnessing brand is its seeming intimidation, the second third of the book unveils my Ironclad Method. This eight-step process shows you how to build a robust and hard-working brand strategy. By following each of the eight steps, you will articulate your brand strategy in an empowered, proactive way, rather than waiting for creative lightning to strike.
Lastly, once you grasp a firm understanding of and articulate your brand’s value, you must bring your brand to life. So in the final third of the book, I reveal the three major levers for activating a brand that will build a beloved business.
It’s the why, what, and how of brand strategy. You will come away knowing what brand is, why you should care, and how to build one. When you finish the book, you will be equipped with the ultimate tool for what you care most about – leading a business that ever increases in value and meaning.
What 50 Business Leaders Taught Me
From the beginning of this project, my goal has been to share my expertise in brand building, to tell you what I know. But along the way there was also a surprise. While interviewing 50 business leaders for this book, my appreciation for and grasp of brand grew tremendously. The unexpected reward of writing of this book turned out to be learning even more about brand, and then crystalizing those things so that my readers could learn with me.
If you’re curious about how to make brand strategy work for your company, this book is for you.