Why is branding so hard?

Branding is hard. Trying to see outside of your organization enough to create something radically different that will draw people in and create loyalty is just not simple.

I think it’s because branding is the water we swim in. We are so immersed in it, we don’t even know it’s there. So much so, we don’t think it “works on us.”

Think of an experience, any experience, that didn’t involve a single brand. The national parks are branded, Michigan is branded. Hell, water is branded.

The thing about building a brand is it can often feel so difficult, like trying to tame a wild animal or worse, trying to raise something dead to life. Whatever you do feels so obvious or done before. Stale.

You end up with mission statements that boil everything down to “our people and our products” or start with a definition of the word “manifesto.”

What if branding isn’t about manufacturing anything at all? What if it’s accepting we’re already swimming in deep waters. The deep waters of story, culture, and humanity. And so instead, maybe it’s more about finding our own place in the ocean, where people of a similar mind love to swim, too.

Then we can just describe our place in that world, why we’re there in the first place and how we want to make life a little better, easier, or more fun. We can let the stories that have already been there do some of the heavy lifting for us, and not try to come up with something entirely new that in the end just seems foreign.

I’m suggesting that bringing a brand to life is just as much about life – in its fullness and latent creativity – as much as it’s about the brand itself.