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, accosts our eardrums, leers at us from tall buildings and makes us feel small.
But brands aren’t just about supermarket shelves. They turn us into consumers of football clubs, pop stars and even religions. When you think about it, brands are simply devices 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 covet.
If you want to get people onside, you need to get to know how brands work. And they only work when they have a captive audience. 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 whole idea of linking your noble intent with something as tawdry and commercial as branding.
But here’s the hard truth. Real change won’t come from a round of Kumbaya with those on the fringes.
Whether knowingly or not, successful revolutionaries have long used the tried and trusted techniques of advertising and marketing. And branding is the art you’ll need to master if you want to make your revolution a success. Give your fight a fighting chance.
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 broader the impact, the bigger the bang. 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 only takes a small spark to get going. And a brand can be the breeze that fans the flames of your discontent.
The brand is what turned two blokes with taches into the world’s most powerful voice on men’s health. What turned the death of two African-Americans into an international activist movement to show all our lives matter.
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 of its own 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. The buttons on your keyboard are as powerful as anybody else’s. They can be your weapons of mass persuasion.
The formula for success is clear.
If branding is the alchemy, its spells are simple to identify. The tactics they’ve used are not only clear, they’re easily replicated.
3 magic words: Pick a fight.
Revolutions start with a No and end with a Yes. So find a battle small enough to win but big enough to matter. Establish a cause and act on it. After all, there’s no point rallying an army without a battle plan. Do you want them to raise pressure? Or raise funds? Are you trying to shift behaviours or minds? Change laws or attitudes?
Build an action around this that makes your followers part of the solution. Lead a rallying cry. A 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. Spoonfeed the facts, force-feed 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. Once you’ve made your point – keep making it. New stories, fresh ideas, content, opinion pieces. Never underestimate the power 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. So 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. Making them happen is not.
Fear sterilizes progress. Procrastination is painless. And anyone can ‘What if?’ themselves into oblivion and inertia. So the only way to finish is to start. Stop planning tomorrow. Because tomorrow never comes. Jump in at the deep end. Start making waves today.
Above all, never believe that a few caring people aren’t capable of changing the world.
You’ll find they’re the only ones who ever have.