Building a brand requires extreme ownership

What do an author, a highly decorated Navy Seal and building brands have in common?

While listening to Four Hour Work Week author Tim Ferris’ long form podcast with retired Navy Seal Jocko Willink a point they were discussing jumped out at me – extreme ownership. (I won’t transcript the exchange here but if you go to the podcast you can listen to it at the two-hour mark and on for about five minutes.)

To put most simply, Jocko was talking about his definition of extreme ownership as being to take deep personal responsibility for what’s happening around you in your work and life, not just expecting others to fix or do things.

Now transport that idea into a brand. I would go so far as to say to build a strong and resilient brand that people will care about, you have to take extreme ownership of all the actions and decisions in your organisation.

In practice that means no detail or area can be exempted from the blast furnace of scrutiny that I would define as extreme ownership.

Do you know any organisation and the people in them who take extreme ownership of the things that build their brand? I know a few. Most are SMEs where it’s easier to stay in intimate contact with the day-to-day details and make sure everyone knows why it matters.

Practicing extreme ownership is of course a leadership issue. But it’s not only a leadership issue. All around me I see organisations outsourcing ownership for things that have a direct and indelible impact on the result that is their brand.

For example, a brand is built on the foundations of what you care about (your purpose) and what you believe (your values). No one else can tell you what those things are or should be. No one. By all means, if you need someone to come in and ask inconvenient questions to help you get uncover them then do it. But make no mistake – what they are has to be understood and owned down to the core by you and your organisation.

And that’s just the starting point for extreme ownership.

Every person in the organisation has a role to play in the actions, decisions and keeping of promises that results in the brand. It’s not just the job of people in marketing. Or people in HR. Or people in customer experience and customer service. It’s also the job of manufacturing. The job of distribution. The job of R&D. The job of the cleaning crew. The job of reception.

Extreme ownership for brand means every person taking responsibility for their part.

“But I don’t know what to do or how I should be doing that” I hear you ask. Why not? If you don’t know, why haven’t you asked? If you are the one who knows, why aren’t you telling others. Every day. In clear unambiguous language.

Extreme ownership is a two-way street and needs to be taken and also demanded. It’s every you in the organisation taking responsibility. For the work. For the outcomes. Is something not working or out of alignment with what the organisation cares about and believes? Fix it. Is fixing it above your pay grade? Make sure the person who can knows about it. Have you told them and they haven’t fixed it? Ask again or go higher up.

Do you take extreme ownership for building your brand? Yes – well done, don’t let up now. No – why not? Start today.

See you next week.

Michel is an Independent Brand Thinker and Adviser dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make – with a strong, resilient organisation as the result. You can find Michel at or you can follow her on Twitter @michelhogan


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