The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Anything Is Easy If You Don’t Want It To Last

I am unashamedly a believer in brand.

I know there is a huge amount of talk about its commercial value, but – like the talk about whether we need ‘insights’ – there is plenty of evidence to suggest it continues to drive companies growth and revenue.

And while there are accademics, like Byron Sharp, who have proven people are far less loyal than they claim, the fact remains that loyalty – whether emotional or transactional – has significant value in building sustainable success for a brand.

But here’s the thing many brand owners forget.

To stand any chance of loyalty from your audience you need to be loyal to them.


It’s not good enough to simply offer discounts and early access.

Sure, that can help, but audiences know exactly why you’re doing it.

Real loyalty – by which I mean there is an almost irrational connection to a brand – is born from brands acting in ways that prove why people should care and keep believing in you.

Behaviour not just words.

Progress over the comfort of repetition.

Authenticity not just chasing popularity.

Telling beautiful stories not just spouting facts or contrived ‘ads’.

As I said, there are some marketers who say none of this matters in a world where digital enables them to have ‘direct to consumer’ relationships at a fraction of the cost of brand building.

I get it. It’s quick and it can be powerful which explains why every day there seems to be a new company claiming it will disrupt the category.

But where they go wrong is not realising disruption without distinction [ie: brand building] doesn’t create long term sustainable value, it just creates new commoditization.

In such an extremely competitive, highly-pressured, fast moving world, I would argue that brand has never been so important to stand a chance of having a stronger future.

And while this might all sound hypocritical given I work for a company who is trying to invent the future of marketing – which includes building new ways to have D2C relationships for clients, finding new ways to interact with subcultures through digital and passionately believes in disrupting categories – the fact is we never do this without an obsessive focus on the authenticity of the brand and how we can help it create the future culture wants to follow rather than just exploiting the offers of the present.

For me, the real issue is we are seeing is companies wanting all the good bits of brand loyalty without much of the effort, for which I leave them with this story I heard when living in China.

The successful farmer plants their seeds and nurtures them in the knowledge that when it comes time to harvest, their crop is bigger and healthier. It takes time, but it is always worth it.

24 Comments so far
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Well said Robert.

I am shocked how many people think a brand is a series of sales tactics under the banner of a singular product name expressed through a common design template.

Comment by George

Or think a brand is just about the digital experience.

Comment by Pete

Or think it’s a ‘relaunch’ … while they keep everything else the same. Except the logo. Or the packaging. Or the endline.

Comment by Rob

Love all of this. Especially like the Chinese farmer story. Planting crops and waiting for them to grow seems to have been out of fashion for a long time, which is strange, as the brands others want to be like are the ones who did exactly that.

Seeing a lot more brand focused creative work coming out these days. Maybe they have learnt their lesson and are trying to plant some seeds. Hope they know it’s not just about putting a manifesto film out there.

Comment by Pete

I do think we are returning to brand building – at least from a comms perspective. And that’s good, except – as you say – when they think all it means they have to do is put out a z-grade brand manifesto that tries to elevate the purpose of the brand to a place where only the board of directors ego, likes.

Comment by Rob

I find it funny that D2C is viewed as a new concept when it’s been around for decades. It’s evolved and got more sophisticated but it’s not a new concept. All those consultants who charge millions to bring a new era of brand building to companies show they’re fraudsters or have collective amnesia.

Comment by Bazza


As I said before, if adland or consultants or business came up with the paper plane, we would all try and claim we invented flight.

Comment by Rob

Or planners.

Comment by Bazza

If you want to learn how loyalty is emotional stupidity, talk to the person who bought a season ticket for a crap soccer team when he lived on the other side of the world.

Over to you Rob. Hope it raises you some money to make up for all you spent on that poor excuse of a team.

Comment by Bazza

That’s a good burn Baz, and yet ialso a valid observation about true brand loyalty.

Comment by Pete

That’s loyalty to a place and time not a brand.

Comment by John

There’s a lot of sneaker-heads, car buyers and music fansI could point you to that may disagree.

Comment by Rob


Comment by John

A well written piece that I agree wholeheartedly with.

There is one point that I want to challenge. You say disruption without distinction leads to commodotization. However if you are the first to disrupt a category, I would argue that achieves your distinction. The challenge will be whether you can maintain that once the sea of copycats follow your lead and offer the public greater choice.

This is where brand building comes in to its own. Brand building as you describe, not the lazy excuse adopted by so many.

Comment by Lee Hill

That’s a fair point, but as you said, it’s harder to stay at the top than get there and most of the people obsessed with the disruption part of the equation forget that or their ego doesn’t let them accept it.

Which then means all their hard work gets lost to a competitor who does play the long game or they fall into a sea of commoditisation.

Comment by Rob

good fucking work lee. make campbell bleed.

Comment by andy@cynic

Reminds me of this story I just read from Stephen Covey’s book, First Things First.


Some time ago, a friend of mine — a business consultant — was moving into his new home. He decided to hire a friend of his to landscape the grounds. She had a doctorate in horticulture and was extremely bright and knowledgable.

He had a great vision for the grounds, and because he was very busy and travelled a lot, he kept emphasizing to her the need to create his garden in a way that would require little or no maintenance on his part. He pointed out the absolute necessity of automatic sprinklers and other labour-saving devices. He was always looking for ways to cut the amount of time he’d have to spend taking care of things.

Finally, she stopped him and said, “Fred, I can see what you’re saying. But there’s one thing you need to deal with before we go any further…”

“If there’s no gardener, there’s no garden.”

Comment by Trevor_L

anyone who uses acronyms needs to be shot in the fucking face.

Comment by andy@cynic

I’ve missed your commentary on what makes good/bad work. You’re right, acronyms are the tool of the lazy and the controlling. You should write more about this, you still have it and people need to hear more of it.

Comment by George

why do all the wankers who say they know how to create a brand work at companies that look like every other fucker.

Comment by andy@cynic

Futurebrand. The least inspiring name ever created.

Comment by DH

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