Brand fluff

People love to attach their processes, frameworks, terms and taxonomies to brand, trying to make brand proprietary and give the appearance of added value. Hey, I’ve been guilty of it myself.

But I’ve come to see things a bit differently these days. That’s all just fluff.

What follows is a bit of a rant, I don’t mean to offend anyone, however this needs to be said, as more and more people seem to be adding brand (and its variations) to their menu of services.

Here’s the fundamental truth – brand is nowhere near as complex as many would have you believe. It isn’t a magic equation or a special formula. There is no secret ingredient that anyone else can add to your brand.

The basis of your brand is already present in your organisation. It lives in your purpose. You make it real via your values. People connect to it through the story you tell. It is reinforced via everything you do. Spread those things out across ALL your stakeholders (internally and externally) and you pretty much have the elements that contribute to the final result – your brand.

Notice the common thread here? It’s the one that many will try and obscure. YOU.
Your purpose, your values, your story, your actions.

If there is a secret ingredient of brands it could be called “ownership”. You have to own your own brand. If you want it to be strong and sustainable, you have to put in the work, pushing it into the corners and rigorously aligning your organisation around it.

There isn’t an outside brand practitioner alive who can bring anything but window dressing to a brand that is owned and lived heart and soul by its organisation.

Of course, there are others out there who will disagree and maintain that organisations need a guiding hand. However, I maintain that a deep and authentic internal ownership and commitment to the brand and all its elements will always come up trumps.

And I am someone who works with brands for a living!

Instead of the all too common brand fluff, I would love to see brand practitioners stand side-by-side with the organisations they work with, understanding, supporting, defending and growing the value of the brand that IS.

Instead, what happens far too often is a strip mining approach that starts with the premise that what exists is wrong and needs to be fixed and then uses the weight of strategy and brand “discovery” as nothing more than a justification for creative services. This approach more often than not decimates the ownership of the brand internally, leaving behind disenfranchisement and cynicism.

Brand is far to valuable an entity to the organisation to be treated like that.

By all means, if you don’t have the skills in your company, bring in people to help you align and communicate what your brand stands for. But defend ownership of the core “what it is” as if your company depends on it.

So (at risk of doing myself and others out of work), next time you think about bringing someone in to “work on your brand” – ask yourself exactly what are you giving away?

See you next week.

Michel Hogan is a Brand Advocate. Through her work with Brandology here in Australia and in the United States, she helps organisations recognise who they are and align that with what they do and say, to build more authentic and sustainable brands. She also publishes the Brand thought leadership blog – Brand Alignment.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
SmartCompany Plus

Sign in

To connect a sign in method the email must match the one on your SmartCompany Plus account.
Or use your email
Forgot your password?

Want some assistance?

Contact us on: or call the hotline: +61 (03) 8623 9900.