Chapter 2. What a Brand Isn’t

If you are not a brand, you are a commodity.

Phillip Kotler

In the next few pages, I will address some of the common lies that we’ve believed about brands so that you can embrace the rest of the lessons in this book with complete clarity.

Here’s something that baffles me, every time. I’m speaking to a crowd of business people and say, “Please raise your hand if you are currently a brand manager.” I get two hands. Four, at most. So I go on and make a second request: “Please raise your hand if you currently have a business card.” That’s where it gets interesting: “Could those of you who raised hands for the business card explain to me what it is you’re doing other than managing your personal brand?”

Blank stares. Disbelief. Confusion. You can hear a pin drop. Everyone is expecting me to come up with some brilliant phrase and break the silence. Here’s what that phrase is:

We’ve believed far too many lies about brands. Dangerous lies.

Why These Lies Are Dangerous

At the beginning of my career I, too, was drawn to thinking that “brand” related solely to the visual identity of a product or service. I, too, thought of branding as something that a graphic designer could pull off on her own. Sadly, I had also been misinformed by the narrow view that avoids looking at concepts holistically because it just takes too much brain fuel.

The problem with this is that large corporations have the human and capital resources to harness the full power of branding. And, if there’s ...

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