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How My Toddler Gave Me a Lesson in Branding.

I don’t know about your children, but my toddlers are not yet considered wise sages full of advice. But there are those moments when, probably not by their intention, they teach me some pretty valuable lessons. One day, my toddler gave us a major lesson in branding just in the way he introduced himself.

Both of my sons have always been outgoing – they go out of their way to talk to every single person they see. They want to make sure everyone knows their name.

A couple of years ago, my oldest was at the gym with my wife. As they were walking inside, my son decided to stop a lady on her way out. My son walked right up to her and said,

“My name is Allen, but my mommy calls me Allen Jefferson Lyles don’t hit, don’t kick, don’t push, don’t pinch!”

Hearing my wife relay that story I realized that, even before the age of three, my toddler was wise in the ways of branding. Many never learn this lesson. Many that do learn it tend to forget it over time.

There’s a name that we have for ourselves, and there’s a name that others have for us. If those names match – awesome! If they don’t – well we need to recognize that and know we have some work to do.

Marty Neumeier shares this lesson in his book, The Brand Gap. I like to turn Marty’s lesson into a game of Bad News/Good News. I’ll give you the bad news first.


Bad news: Your brand isn’t what YOU say it is. It’s what THEY say it is.

Who are THEY?  They are every person that interacts with you, your organization, your product or service. They are every person that even hears about you from those you interact with.

Your brand isn’t your logo, your products or what you believe about your business. It isn’t what you believe about yourself.  It is what THEY feel in their gut – the sum total of all experiences they have with your brand. founder, Jeff Bezos, offered up more of a Mean Girls approach when he said that your brand is “what other people say about you when you leave the room.”


Good news: You can still influence what THEY say your brand is.

Once you define your brand attributes (the words you want people to think of when they hear your name) you need to make sure that everything you do, everything you say, everything you create matches those attributes. They’ll soon start to see it and will start to give you the name that you have for yourself. It’s as simple (and difficult) as that.

Want to find out if what they say your brand is matches what you say it is? Ask. Survey your customers. Ask your peers, co-workers and friends for feedback. Given the chance, most people will tell you exactly what they think. The good news? They most likely won’t say your brand name includes “don’t kick, don’t push, don’t pinch…”


Question: What steps are you going to take this week to understand what THEY say your brand is?

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