What It Means To Build A Legendary Brand

I am by no means a seasoned marketer.

I’ve never built a billion dollar business, nor orchestrated an IPO roadshow campaign. I have not led a major brand overhaul or released multiple product lines. No one has ever invited me to speak about marketing on their podcast or at their conferences.

But none of that makes me under-qualified to speak at length about my experiences with legendary marketing, lastings brands, and world-changing products.

Before I was ever a marketer, I was a consumer. And a legendary consumer I have always been.

When I encounter a brand that makes me feel like a different version – an aspirational version – of myself, I latch onto it. I promote it. I tell everyone I know about it. I preach its gospel from the mountain tops.

Brands that do this so-so occasionally convince me to part with a few dollars. But the ones that do it in a legendary way become part of my own personal brand story arc. That story arc makes up the fabric of who I say I am.

My Logo-Bar Identity

Like a NASCAR driver, my personal brand bears a tapestry of logos, slogans, and points of view that help define and describe who I am as a person. Powerful brand’s logos offer symbolism for explaining my identity to others in ways words often cannot.

The most effective brands deliver more than products into the world. They shape the backdrop of many stories of my life. In many cases, these brands affect nostalgia of former, better days. In other cases, they lay a path of possibility for who I’d like to become.

But here’s a secret I’ve learned as a consumer that lays the foundation of my core belief a marketer:

The best brands don’t sell products. They reveal a version of ourselves who we aspire to be.

Brands That Describe Me

So many brands inspire me. But the ones I really love act as a proxy for one aspect of my personality or another. Every brand that achieves some aspect of this does so because of the story I associate with the brand – and what that story means to my identity.

Consider some brand examples and the stories that surround them for me:


What many people don’t know about Jeff Bezos is that prior to selling books on the internet, he worked as a successful quant on Wall Street in at a well-respected firm. When Jeff decided to leave, people laughed at him. They told him all the reasons it wouldn’t work. Even after he proved them wrong, when set his targets on other industries, experts still scoffed. They told Jeff to stay in his lane. Incumbents tried to destroy his company. Regulators attempted to interfere. And analysts underrated stock. Still, Amazon persisted, kept innovating, and continued beating prices. When some punk asshole tried to blackmail Bezos, he rose above it. Through every trial, Jeff Bezos proves he remains committed to the customer and to building something lasting. Amazon provides the de facto example of how I think business should be done.


Steve Jobs was not always the legendary innovator or product and design genius many revere him as. Long before the first iPhone or app, many found Steve to be a disagreeable asshole. But Steve did not care – he saw something different, something that would change everything. Steve believed every encounter with the brand that became Apple deserved to be special and human. He did not believe in following the mainstream. He believed in creating a new way of doing things, and in giving access to world-class technological experiences to a class of people the incumbents disregarded. Steve believed in bring revolutionary ideas and change to the world by empowering the individual. While everyone else focused on serving the business class, Steve brought personal computing – and free, democratized information access – to the masses. His legacy empowers BILLIONS of people to this day.


I drank my first beer at age 13 (If you’re reading this, sorry, mom). Alcohol was not allowed in my house growing up, so sneaking beers served as an act of rebellion at that time in my life. When my brother would leave his ice chest in his truck bed after trips to the lake during summers, I used to pilfer a few beers and share them with my friends. He and his friends drank Budweiser and Bud Light. The first drink out of every Bud Light takes me back to a specific time and place in my life of skirting rules and seeking thrills. Of being too big for my britches and wishing to be as cool as one of my biggest, earliest role models: my older brother. No craft beer can recreate the era of my life and sentimental, freedom-seeking experiences that are owned by Budweiser.


We didn’t have money growing up. Designer jeans were, as my mother called them, ‘a want, not a need.’ My dad wore jeans. But not just any jeans. Dad wore Levi’s. I remember curiously perusing through stacks of various-colored denim in my Dad’s closet as a kid. I marveled at the dark blues and the light, frayed almost-white fabric. I realized in time that my Dad viewed jeans as an investment. As a contractor, these were essentially part of his uniform. And as someone whose job requires trust, my Dad has always looked the part: jeans, a belt, a collared shirt tucked in, and work boots. When I got older, Mom outfitted me with Levi’s. I wore the hell out of them until years later when I could afford to buy designer jeans. And buy designer jeans I did. But here’s what I found, I’ve rarely found a pair of designer jeans that ‘fit’ me right. And I’m not just talking about the way the cuff breaks at the heel or the breathing room in the crotch. The jeans didn’t fit me because they felt impractical, overpriced, like a waste of money, and rarely lasted a justifiable amount of time considering the cost. As a brand, Levi’s has always dominated my denim market share –  both as a provider of a reliable, comfortable option, and a brand whose identity represents values of practicality and reliability that equal my own.

(PS – your boy here likes to rock those 501s and 505s)


Before we wore “Just Do It” emblazoned on shirts, or shoes ever had shox, Phil Knight labored for decades to bring his vision for a new brand of shoes to life. What he achieved likely outpaced his wildest dreams. Nike has since become a powerhouse brand, both provocative and empowering. It’s a brand for athletes, for dreamers, for those committed to never give up. And it’s the first brand of basketball shoes I remember putting on my feet when I took the hardwood for the very first time. Nike is a reflection to the years I spent waking up at 5 am to get a two-hour workout in before school. It’s the thousands of suicides, dribbling and shooting drills busting my ass to earn a spot on the Varsity team. It’s the first jersey with my number on it. It’s the sound of the swishing net when I made a winning shot, and the sound of the buzzer when we came up short. Today, it’s the comfortable brand I turn to leisure and workout wear – because when I wear Nike it reminds me of a hard-working, focused, relentless version of myself I still want to be.

What It Means For Marketers

Most marketers obsess over the latest tools. They scurry around like coveys of quail chasing “best practices” and Gartner magic quadrants. Seasoned- and new- marketers alike burn cash and demo products like schizophrenic maniacs trying to discover the latest growth-hack silver bullet to magically lift their business into the marketing stratosphere.

But what most marketers completely miss is how what they create makes people feel.

From content, to product, to company, most marketer overlook the experience of their customers at each interaction with their brands. And when this happens, their businesses fail to create lasting relationships with their customers.

As legendary CMO and godfather of category design Christopher Lochhead puts it:

“The most exciting companies create. They give us new ways of living, thinking, or doing business, many times solving a problem we didn’t know we had – or a problem we didn’t pay attention to because we never thought there was another way.”

The marketers (and companies) who succeed at this don’t just capture a big share of the market, they create a lasting legacy customers latch on to. Those experiences go on to shape more than their customers’ opinions of the brand. The most legendary brands give their customers a way to make a powerful statement of identity to their peers and the world at large.

And it doesn’t take a marketer to recognize that is a beautiful thing.




15 Days of Self-Improvement

Take-Home Message: As the world evolves, so should you.

Writer’s Note: This piece is inspired by 15 days with Ash Ambirge, rather, her e-course, “You Don’t Need a Job, You Need Guts.”

Thanks to the rapid rise in communications technologies, jump-starting the lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of becomes more possible each and every day. Today, we each carry around access to a platform of permissionless innovation in our pocket. With internet more accessible than ever, there’s no time like the present to take control of your life by turning your ideas and skills into cold, hard cash.

So, how do you make it in this great big world with your ideas?

Easy. Set up shop online and allow your customers to find you. But first, let’s take a quick look at some important steps.

First and foremost, you need to think about the lifestyle you desire. What does it look like? Do you want to travel? How frequently do you want to work? How much money do you want to make? These are good starting points.

After you’ve answered those, let’s weigh in on your passions. What could you do every day for the rest of your life? What makes you come alive? What keeps you up at night? What ideas are you carrying around in your head that you’d like to turn into reality?

Great! Now, that you’ve identified those, we are are getting somewhere. Here comes the tough part. Who would want what you’ve got to offer? What’s their story? What are their hopes, fears, dreams, goals, needs, wants, etc.? What makes them tick? And, other important questions, like: Are they abel to pay for your idea? and Are they willing to pay for your idea?

Cool. If you answered yes to those, then, it’s time to start figuring out how to make them paying customers. But before you start spilling your candy in their lobby, let’s figure out how you can add value to their lives aside from your product. How can you become irreplaceable to them? What valuable tips, free advice, and attention can you provide them by virtue of your online storefront?

These are important steps, and they each need the proper attention should you like to see your business idea succeed. With the proper attention to detail and enough grit, your idea will sell itself.

So, you know what you can offer, and who you’re offering it to. Fantastic! You’ve validated your business, because you know your target demographic is not only able, but willing to pay for your product. Now, what do you say to them?

This is the imperative part. You are trying to become the go-to expert in your particular field. When you’re hunting for new customers, it’s important to take a rifle-approach, not use a shotgun. You don’t go yelling at every Tom, Dick, and Harry about your product. You speak to Tom like Tom needs to be spoken to. You woo Dick. You sweet talk Harry. You make them each feel seen.

You cater to the differences among your target audience. You make them feel like you get them, because, you do. You’re  business soul mates. If you want them to be your customers, you can’t just have things to offer them. You need to welcome them into your life and make them know you care. Give them attention. Understand their needs, and provide them with the resources to meet those.

So, how does this all happen?

Use your words, of course! As you are building your website and developing your marketing strategy, you are thinking about Tom. You are thinking about Dick. AND, let’s not forget about Harry. Each of them is important. You are crafting your message to them and making it not only accessible once they are on your site, but you are making yours site easy to find. You are using keywords and discussing topics that they find relevant. You are making the pages navigable. And, you’re providing opportunity to collect their email addresses, so you remain in control. You want to do this so you can keep them interested. It’s like asking someone for their phone number, you want to keep the ball in your court.

But why is it important?

At the heart of every business, there should be at least one important fundamental understanding: You’ve got to make money. Not just to keep the lights on, but you’ve got to make money, otherwise, your ideas can’t infiltrate the world and make it a better place. And to do this, you need customers. Paying customers. Preferably, these customers keep coming back for more, too, because what you’re offering them is so great and so important to them they’ve got to have more. (It’s kind of like slingin’ crack, except, the good kind, like, the kind that doesn’t kill anyone or make them an addict.)

Thanks, again, to technology, the cost of acquiring these new customers is diminishing. It’s what an MBA-type or economics would call, “Diminishing Marginal Cost of Customer Acquisition” or some other super-fancy jargon. But, let’s make it a habit of purging that type of talk from our lingo. We want to use words that empower our customers. We don’t want to tell them how smart we are. We want to show them how valuable we can be to them.

You can do all of this through your website, through integration of Google Analytics, and email marketing software. Here’s how: Build your website (as we discussed earlier) for your audience. Make it navigable, and use the world that will make them feel relevant. Earn their email address by showing them something of value. You will be monitoring how customers find your page and how they behave once they arrive through Google Analytics. You will be using email software to continue providing value to them long after they click away from your site.

Sound easy enough, right? I think so, too. So, let’s set to work on it together as we turn our ideas into reality. I’m going to keep learning more and modifying my answers as I develop more insight, and I hope that you’re going to begin answering some of those questions for yourself.

Let’s go change the world together. It’s simple. Now, let’s go to work.

Because I don’t want to steal all of Ash’s thunder, I kept this piece semi-vague. If you’d like to learn more, visit her site. It’s phenomenal. It’s called The Middle Finger Project. I will continue to share my insights from her course, You Don’t Need A Job, You Need Guts,” as I trek through it. If you’d like to learn along with me, you can find her course here.