Building brand is Deep Work

I’m a voracious reader and always on the look out for titles to add to my reading list. It’s particularly nice when that reading connects with the enduring question about how to build a brand.

The book in this case is Deep Work by Cal Newport. And while the title of today’s blog gives away the link between the two things, the substance is less obvious.

With apologies to Cal for hijacking his idea about the necessity for a less distracted individual focus to deliver work of value, the premise also applies to the work and effort of building brand and the distractions that so often get in the way of that work.

In the book he notes that, “knowledge workers, I’m arguing, are tending towards increasingly visible busyness because they lack a better way to demonstrate their value…

You could replace “knowledge workers” with “organisations” and have a great description of what passes for brand building today. Lacking a connection to or even understanding of what they care about, too many organisations throw busy at the problem. Pushing ever more things at their customers and employees to try and engage them amidst their shrinking and fragmented attention spans.

Deep work is described as “the ability to concentrate on hard things”. And to build a brand that is strong, resilient and woven from the fabric of an organisation’s promises, deep work is what is needed.

The surface things, the busy things such as visual presence and social media postings all have their place. But a focus on them alone forfeits the opportunity to build something of value. To resonate they need to be layered onto the kind of substance that only deep work can provide.

Deep work requires a voluntary sequestering from the myriad distractions of today’s business landscape. Not only phones, apps, email, social media, and customer complaints to name a few, but also from what other companies are doing. A bit of regular structured organisational solitude goes a long way.

What does brand deep work look like?

It’s exploring and understanding what the foundations of purpose and values are for your organisaton, not stopping until you’re clear on what they are. No matter how long it takes.

And once you know them, it’s asking “does this help us meet our purpose?” not just during the strategy offsite, but in every meeting. And changing your approach if the answer is no.

It’s saying we’re not doing that because it’s out of alignment with our values, even though to say no might be a competitive disadvantage at the time.

It’s finding ways to make purpose and values things visible and tangible even in the small stuff. Especially in the small stuff.

It’s avoiding the trappings of best practice as most do practice and looking for what is you practice.

It’s resisting the distractions of image and spending time on the unsexy hard stuff (a whole blog coming next week on this).

It’s knowing that you’re never done, because there will always be another decision to make.

And mostly it’s making the time and taking the time because building brand is a ongoing result not an event.

The deep work approach to building brand is so antithetical to the way organisations typically go about it I might have to call it the anti-brand.

See you next week when I tackle part two of this topic, “Deep work – the small and unsexy stuff”.

Get your brand questions answered by posting them on twitter @michelhogan or emailing me at [email protected]

Michel is an Independent Brand Analyst dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make. She also publishes a blog at You can follow Michel on Twitter @michelhogan.


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