May 10, 2019

3 Lessons on What it Takes to Build a Brand

3 Lessons on What it Takes to Build a Brand

The Indy Marketing Leaders group has quickly grown into a community consisting of all different levels of up-and-coming marketers with a vast range of expertise. I continue to be blown away with the emerging tech community in Indianapolis.

The last gathering, hosted by the gracious team at InnovateMap, was our first discussion entirely centered around the science behind brand and product category creation, which was a welcome new flavor to our regular topics.

With three expert panelist, Kolby McElvain from High Alpha, Christian Beck of InnovateMap and Jenn Lisask Golding of Sapphire Strategy, along with Liz Prugh, our rockstar moderator of LP2 Entertainment, the discussion covered a lot of ground. I left the meet-up with several key takeaways, and three lessons about building a brand that rose above the rest. And, while these lessons are most relevant to startups — particularly B2B tech given our panelists’ backgrounds — it’s my hope these also resonate with any marketer.

A brand’s story is not what you think people want

A brand’s story certainly relies on all of these components, but it is simply the vision-driver behind any company. It’s the one-of-a-kind founder tale — from the lightbulb moment to launching, to acquiring early customers. The best brand stories are authentic, so don’t shy away from the narrative that shaped your early days.

A trap that some early-stage founders tend to fall into, a brand’s story is not what one person thinks people will want. A brand is not your products and features, and what sets them apart from competitors. It’s not the color of your logo or the font package.

A brand is not created in a vacuum (or box, or silo)

No brand can be created and then brought to life by just one talented designer. You can have all of the right pieces for what you may think is a great brand, but ultimately you are looking to the wrong litmus test of what your brand is.

Talk to your customers, talk to your partners, talk to your team — gather a collective range of feedback. This is your brand. Instead of what you think your brand is, analyze what groups of people think about you, and most importantly, what they’re saying about you, and that is your brand. Then focus on delivering a consistent experience across all touch points.

Brand authenticity is tough to manufacture

Brands don’t have a purpose until you give it one. Brands don’t exist just because you had a team of designers creates good looking material. This is especially true when it comes to bringing a brand to life through activation channels. Think critically about where your brand lives — are you on Instagram just because you see other brands on Instagram, or because your target audience lives and breaths the channel?

Brand authenticity is best achieved when every interaction your audience has with someone or something within your organization is true to the people behind it. Don’t chase tactics to bring your brand to life simply because you see others doing the same — strategize where your audience interacts and go there first.

Indy Marketing Leaders who attended, what lessons did you walk away with? Drop me a line with your feedback so we can continue the conversation.

Originally published at on May 9, 2019.