Monday, August 10, 2009 a foolish man builds his house upon the sand

I remember a cute song from Sunday School that said:
A foolish man builds his house upon the sand. A wise man builds his house upon a rock.

It was a metaphor describing the importance of a solid foundation. Hey, we all want a cool house right on the beach, but there are a lot of fools in southern California. Buildabrand is offering some good beachfront property.

A recent Techcrunch article seems to prematurely sing the praises of Wrong approach to branding. You are allowing a single individual to provide input when the process does not allow for input from the prospective audience...the actual user of the brand. I do believe the nuts and bolts will spit out a cool image and type suggestion, but it is another example of cheapening the definition of a brand. Why not call this "Build an Identity" instead of build a brand.

A true brand is build on foundational principles and not points and clicks.

I know the resources for start-ups are very limited, and many cannot afford to hire a brand guru to get into the minds of the audience to develop a snazzy logo. That is the problem: Brand gurus miss the mark sometimes and sell visual identity as branding. They are different.

Think of branding as a giant (I mean GIANT) umbrella. The visual representation is but only one panel of the umbrella. I work with entrepreneurs who think that image is everything (still trying to believe Andre Agassi) and who cares about substance...


I want to experience brands. I want to define them as the consumer. I want to know about the brand's foundation. I don't want to know how the VP of Marketing for ACME defines the brand. He probably will get it wrong.

Sorry to rain on the parade. I would be very interested to see what would happen if the Build-A-Bear company used the would create a DIY vortex.

Can provide an actionable platform or just neat icons complete with a little shine and reflection?


  1. Totally agreed with most of your thoughts above, and I would NEVER recommend buildabrand for my corporate clients as anything other than a think-piece.

    However, I do think there is a place for "basic branding" services like this at the entry level of the market - where the alternative is something designed badly with NO brand logic by someone's nephew. Better a small amount of consideration and brand foundation-building than none at all.

    Last night I had a long conversation with a friend who was designing a logo and Web site for her mother's new micro-retail venture with a $0 budget.

    If it wasn't a friend, it would have been easy for me to pull the consultant's trick of saying "if you don't want to do it right (i.e. spend $), don't talk to me!" Instead, I tried to patiently walk through the reasons a brand is important, why a name isn't just a name, why a logo has to be more than just a set of letters, basically why what I do matters... but she wasn't there yet.

    I would have loved to be able to take her to a simple, step-by-step service that could have made her think about her brand, and look BETTER than she does now (and certainly better than 99% of her competitors in a very old-economy market).

    I did recommend (which also would have given my designer friends a hernia), but it would have been nice to provide some basic branding theory along with it...

  2. @Dennis That's exactly what this site is supposed to do, as far as I can see.

  3. Dennis -
    Your point is very valid. In my work with start-ups I often encourage them to spend just a little bit of money for a basic corporate identity. I even have a buddy who does logo packages for 75 bucks or so.

    My bigger issue is passing these services (even my friend's) as brand building. It weakens branding in my opinion.

    I'm all for resourcefulness, I am just concerned that people will stop short.

    I bet they will make tons of dough because most start-ups are looking for the path of least resistance. I can support resource management. I just can't keep enabling laziness.

  4. Hello Travis

    Very much appreciate your feedback following the TC post today.

    I agree entirely: brand is not a logo.

    But before we can get to that giant umbrella stage, we need to start somewhere.

    We do care as well and that is why we have spent endless nights developing this service. “Buildbrand” is as much a description of what the service will aim to deliver, as it is a call to action to our prospective users. To inspire them and to help them build the foundation for a brand.

    We are trying to lower the barriers to entry for start-ups by providing them with accessible and affordable tools. We will not solve the complex branding problems a large enterprise might face.

    Eventually we would like to provide branding knowledge and support as well as products and would appreciate contributions from experts such as yourself.

  5. Justin -
    Thanks for joining the discussion. I am glad that low-cost solutions exist for start-up companies. Every penny counts. I have no doubt you and your team have put in the work and have build on our own expertise. The call to action is a bit of a stretch (in my opinion) mainly because the entrepreneur could see the brand as being built after delivery of initial assets. I would like to see some educational pieces added to your site. It would make for a good up-sell opportunity for your company.

    It really comes down to the consultant's true role and that is to empower the client. Buildabrand (in it's current state) gives the start-up some power, but you need to want to avoid a false sense of strength.

    Reminds me of the Carpenters...We've only just begun.

    Best of luck and I'll follow your company with great interest.

  6. Total climbdown... nice.

  7. I look at brand building the same way I look at career building. If someone wanted to define their ideal career, the most logical process would be to inventory and collect the best attributes/strengths of that persons identity to see the whole picture of a person and define their ideal career from there. This is how I add and summarize the equation of a person. It leads to a more authentic definition of who someone is.

    I think the same rules should be applied to a company. Telling consumer's the truth of who you are as a business seems to be the most sustainable kind of marketing plan. In order to get an authentic definition of a business, an inventory of that entity's core values, mission, passion and history should be done.

    When the true story of a person or entity is told, the definition and picture of what that looks like is already there. It's a puzzle that should be assembled first before you can define what the whole picture looks like. Sure you can probably make a good guess of what the end picture looks like, but it won't be nearly as accurate or authentic as doing the math.

  8. I agree entirely: brand is not a logo.
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