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There is no way to create a brand that connects with your customers if you don’t let other people collaborate on the vision. Doing so takes courage and vulnerability, but as Ken Meyers, founder of the Smartfood brand, and Meghan Lynch, CEO of Six-Point Creative, discussed, it leads to much stronger results.

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Robert Glazer

Meghan Lynch

Ruth Lund

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Leaders should think of their brand like a flag or a badge. A brand is a way to deliver a message that they want other people to absorb and embrace. And a big leadership lesson is that just because a message that you personally created resonates with you, it does not mean that it will resonate with others.

If the vast majority of the people a company is trying to reach don’t share a particular view because a founder or CEO stubbornly stuck to certain elements or features or messages, it can quickly become impossible to succeed, especially as you grow and scale. It may work for a short period, but it won’t be sustainable in the long term. Understanding this is especially for early-stage entrepreneurs (those who are young, not by age, but on the timeline of a company’s development or a brand development). It is difficult for them to let go and engage the people who they are trying to influence. But if leaders don’t do that, then they are standing on the railroad tracks with your back to the headlight. Sooner or later, they’re going to get run over.

It takes a certain amount of vulnerability to do that too. There was a study in Helsinki, Finland in which the researchers performed brain scans of business owners and they showed them a picture of their child and they showed them a picture of their company or their logo, and the same parts of their brain lit up. So engaging other people to collaborate on your brand is literally like putting your child in the hands of somebody else and saying, “What do you think?” It is incredibly difficult and emotional, but it is still necessary in order to get the insight you need to build a strong, sustainable brand.