My first lesson in branding came from a cobbler. Not just any cobbler – my uncle, who’s made repairing people’s shoes his life’s work. It doesn’t sound glamorous, but it affords him a comfortable lifestyle. He must be good at it, too, because he charges an arm and a leg (no pun intended), yet people reserve spots weeks in advance.
Here’s what he taught me: “First, you work for your name. Then your name starts working for you.” He said it in passing while fiddling with a pair of fancy shoes, but those words were burned into my brain as any good advice should be.
At the time, I didn’t realize how much impact those two sentences would have on my own work. Yet, years later, I find myself coming back to them again and again, like a gravitational pull I can’t escape.
The idea is simple, yet at the very core of branding. First, you work for your name. Then your name starts working for you. At the beginning stages of your business, no one knows you and no one knows what to expect from you. So you have to work extra hard to find and win over new clients.
You need to make promises and keep them. Create expectations and exceed them. You’re building the name. You’re building a brand. But if you do that consistently enough, something magical happens. Before you know it, you find yourself in a position where your name starts doing the work. People flock to buy your products and use your services because the name now has meaning.
It’s up to you what that meaning will be. It can be synonymous with quality, consistency, or even low prices (although I wouldn’t recommend the last one, especially for a service business). Whatever people associate your brand with, this is the core of your business. And you build and maintain it every day.
One final point – don’t obsess about the name. The world’s most valuable tech company bears the name of a fruit. And the world’s largest retailer is named after a river. It’s not the names that made these companies successful. It’s the work that was put in them behind the scenes.
Sure, it’s nice if the name communicates what your business does. But it’s not a prerequisite to success. Doing the damn work is.
Till next time.