James Loomstein
James Loomstein 24 March 2017

Can My Brand Become A Legend?

No one sets out to create the most average business that’s barely squeezing out a profit, much less a future, but that is where so many end up. A sure-fire recipe for being just a flash in the pan is the all-too-common trap of comparing your chapter one results against your competition’s chapter 20 results.

It’s Sunday morning and I’m sitting at Starbucks. The line is long and I’m flipping through my Facebook feed. Keith Urban pops up on my screen with a tribute to the music legends lost in 2016. The list is long, incredibly distinguished, and then something amazing happens. Keith Urban starts singing the highlights of all of these amazing artists.

From George Michael, Leonard Cohen, and Glenn Frey, to David Bowie, Merle Haggard and Prince. You can listen here. But it’s so simple – Keith Urban and his guitar playing tribute to these amazing artists for their impact on the music industry. Their legacy and brand, now gone. My next thought?

What happens when our brand is gone?

Who’s going to play tribute to us? Or to our clients? There are thousands of music artists – just like there are thousands of companies. So why these fortunate few?

Who Makes the Cut?

A search for music legends pulls up names like Elvis, The Beatles, Madonna, Whitney Houston, Eminem, and many of the artists Keith covered in his video. First, let’s define and map out what it takes to become a legend. What qualities or achievements established their name as a legacy?

  1. They were the industry or genre – they defined, invented, or changed it.
  2. They were iconic – not just famous.
  3. Their popularity and reputation spread beyond their original niche. (Universally recognized for being awesome.)
  4. They did what no one else could do, or had thought of doing before.
  5. They influenced people – inspired people with their story.
  6. They paved the way for other ideas and people who would follow.
  7. They are the benchmark we compare everything to.
  8. They all PUT IN THE WORK!

Let’s compare these legends to a one hit wonder. Many of those artists had great talent. An original sound. Well written songs… what was the difference?

The difference was most never got a chance to become a legend because the people backing them were not in for the long haul. Essentially #1-7 on the “How to become a Legend” list could never happen without #8. There wasn’t an investment to develop their career or brand story beforehand, or any commitment to aim for longevity after the first album.  The business strategy was to make a quick buck. If they didn’t hit a certain number of sales by song 1 or 2, they were put out with yesterday’s newspaper.

Becoming a legend sounds fantastic and all, but how does that translate into business and marketing?

Every business on day one talks about building legacy and culture. Then the doors open and reality strikes. Suddenly, the brand looks around hoping to see audiences showing up in droves. If that doesn’t immediately happen, that’s when the trouble starts. Now the business begins looking around attempting to do what everyone else has done. Decisions are made and a shift in the mindset takes place… and before you know it, the original goal of building a legacy is exchanged for a numbers game. Specifically sales.

Usually what ends up happening when there is no drive or strategy to become a legend is 10% off, BOGO, Black Friday deals, and a race to the bottom based on under-cutting price. The sad story is that it’s all too common across any industry to take this approach; which even if successful can only be sustainable for so long. No one sets out to create the most average business that’s barely squeezing out a profit, much less a future, but that is where so many end up.  Just because you have a chance to race to the bottom doesn’t mean you should take it.

It’s also important to avoid the all-too-common trap of evaluating your chapter one results by comparing it to your competition’s chapter 20. That is a sure-fire recipe for being a flash in the pan… versus the legend you’d like to be.

So let’s take a step back here. Avoid the impulse… Be more like…



Call them what you want, but how did these brands/legends/originators/classics manage to survive and thrive in the last decade? There’s an entrance fee to become part of these brands, but still somehow they kept their value (and values) while everyone else is throwing door-buster sales; saying or doing whatever they think will bring in a new customer.

They thoughtfully created a brand, culture, identity, and connection to consumers. They did not simply create a product;

…they had a story, and they were a story in themselves.

They have tribes and followers, social meet-ups, and a huge brand persona. People want to buy these brands because they want to be these brands. Based on their 10 year revenue growth numbers, investing in the long game for these brands paid off enormously.


Be More Like the Other Half

Longevity in today’s market is hard. In fact, a recent Fortune 500 review showed that 4 out of every 10 companies, almost 50%, were gone a decade later. So what happens to them? And, what happens to the other half? Selling out for quick cash or giving in to a “safe” strategy is more than easy to do. No really, anyone can do that…  Let’s be more like the other half.

So who’s willing to put in the work? Who has the ability to create attention, and communicate their story? And which companies are willing/able to create a brand vs. sell a product?

Want a rogue recommendation? Invest in the long game. It pays off.

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