When you want to change the world: Build a Brand
Turn around what you think a brand can be.
Few professions are held in as little regard as advertising. Its output butts into our lives
uninvited, leers at us from tall buildings and makes us feel small. But brands don’t just attract us towards the supermarket shelf. They turn us into consumers of football clubs, pop stars and even religions. When you think about it, brands are simply devices built to pull people in. They package up an ideal, an identity and an image that those on the inside are proud of and those on the outside can covet. If you want to get people onside, you need to get to know how brands work. Because no matter how worthy your fight, it needs eyeballs to have impact.
We can learn from the great revolutions of the past.
This might make you uncomfortable. The idea of linking your noble intent with something as tawdry and commercial as branding. But real change won’t come from a round of kumbaya at the fringes. Whether knowingly or not, successful revolutionaries have long used the techniques of advertising and marketing. And branding is the art you’ll need to master if you want to make your revolution a success. Gandhi told us to be the change you want to see in the world. But when you brand that change, it can pull in an army of support that will multiply your impact. The better the brand, the bigger the revolution.
When you pick the right fight, your brand can ignite that rage in others.
The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire. It takes a small spark to get going. But if you tremble with indignation, a brand can be your kindling.
The brand is what turned two blokes with mo’s into the world’s most powerful voice on men’s health. What turned the death of two African-Americans into an international activist movement. What turned two comedians wearing red noses into a £1 billion commitment to fighting poverty.
None of these had more worthy causes or more will to succeed. They simply had more people on their side. And your brand can rally an army too. Because there’s never been a better time to revolt. The internet has levelled the playing field. Its tools can help recruit your army faster, further and cheaper than ever before. They can be your weapons of mass persuasion.
The formula for success is clear.
If branding is the alchemy, its spells are easy to identify. The tactics they’ve used are not only clear, they are replicable: Pick a fight. Revolutions start with a no and end with a yes. Find a battle small enough to win and big enough to matter. Establish an action. There’s no point rallying an army without a battle plan. Will they raise pressure, or raise funds? Do you want to shift behaviours or shift minds? Build an action around this that makes your followers part of the solution. Lead a rally-cry. Your statement of intent. Your Black Lives Matter, your Ban the Bomb. The call to arms that will become your chant, your sign-off, your #hashtag. Create a symbol. An icon that acts as an invitation to participate. A Red Nose, a Movember. Build it around your action. And give your followers licence to play with it creatively. Launch a mindbomb. An image that can’t be ignored. Shock your audience out of their indolence. Make them act. Turn the volume up to 11. Spoon-feed the facts, forcefeed the emotion.When everyone is silent, you’ll be amazed how loud one voice can be. Develop propaganda. Worship at the temple of publicity with tactics that maintain a constant hum in popular culture. New stories, fresh ideas, content, opinion pieces. Never underestimate the importance of small multiplied by often. Finally, forge allies. Insure yourself against rejection and criticism with partners that can back you up. Lone wolves often starve; hunt with the hungriest pack you can find.
Remember that great brands are easy enough to build.
Coming up with the ideas that will create your brand is relatively easy. The tricky thing is making them happen. Fear sterilizes progress. And anyone can ‘what if?’ themselves into inertia. So the only way to finish is to start. Stop planning tomorrow. Jump in at the deep end. Start making waves today. Above all, never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. You’ll find it’s all who ever have.