January 30, 2015

Building a Brand is Building a Movement

As I make plans for the next term, I am reminded of one of my first conversations with Victor about my learning goals: Imagine you are a child with a strong sense of wonder in a backyard. There are many places to go and things to do in this yard. What will you dig into? What questions do you find yourself wrestling with? It was a great question. I had worn many hats in the year prior to Ei. Whether as a consumer, a student, a nonprofit board leader, or a consultant, the questions that I’d found myself iterating on were: 1) What is at the core of connection? 2) What themes, ideas, expressions universally resonate with people? 3) Why are people attracted to the brands that they love? 4) How do companies sell their visions in ways that get people excited enough to join them? 5) In a world of clutter and countless options, how do brands create real value, differentiate and reach “their” people? The follow-up question was WHY? Having seen Simon Sinek’s Ted talk on how great brands think, I knew how important my WHY was. The WHY for me, no matter what hat I’m wearing, has always been about doing something meaningful. I ask these questions not just as a thinking exercise, but to understand how I might have greater impact with my own work. Over the past 10 years, I developed an interest in the ‘60s. The ‘60s were a volatile time with multiple simultaneously-occurring movements—counterculture, anti-war, civil rights, feminist and gay rights to name a few. I became fascinated with movements. How do they emerge and why? How do they grow? What are the psychographics of the main characters? What makes people in the movement so passionate about their cause? How do we cultivate that passion and keep it burning? I recognized the thread that linked my questions were people, passion and connection, which is exactly what is seen among top brands with cult followings and social movements of the ‘60s. Brand-building is movement building, and change happens through movements. Movements start with a handful of passionate, committed people and I have that with my Ei community. So, as I plan for next term, and 2015 in general, I want to keep my questions top of mind and be sure I’m seeking experiences that will help me create value, authentically connect, and maybe even eventually start a movement of my own.

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