I was listening to a 5by5 podcast recently with Marco from Instapaper, and he answered this question someone had sent him. It basically said something like this:
“A friend and I want to make apps. He says we should figure out our brand first, then make apps that fit in that brand’s image. He is in marketing. Should we do it this way?”
When I heard the question I immediately saw how ridiculous it would be to go about starting a business that way, and I totally agreed with Marco’s response to just start making the first app, and take it from there. You may not get far enough to even worry about the brand, and the success or lack thereof may help shape the future of your app development anyway.
But the question made me think about how often in business we listen to sage advice such as “define your brand” and think we will be more successful for some reason we adhere to these popular rules, even though the rules are offered with no peer reviewed scientific method to back them up at all. I look at businesses I have started in the past and I think I have made the mistake of putting too much time and energy into worrying about the brand and the image rather than just rolling up my sleeves and doing what I do and then allowing the brand to take form around me.
Let’s face it. If you are portraying an image or a brand that is not actually an accurate representation of the business, (eg you pretend you are a large successful organisation when you are just one person behind a desk with a mobile phone) you are just lying. And a large amount of your energy will need to be spent on maintaining that lie. Plus whenever a client gets a glimpse through the veil you have hung and sees what your business actually is, you will have lost any chance of establishing trust with that person again.
When I started writing and blogging a little while back, I thought I had to figure out the image and brand and message of my blog before I started. But it caused me so much anxiety because I had no real idea of what I truly enjoyed writing about that I was afraid if I got it wrong I would be stuck writing about crap that I really didn’t care about.
But I decided to just jump in the deep end and start writing any way. I didn’t know what look I wanted the site to have, and it has changed so many times I have lost count. And if I feel I want it to look different then I will change it again (although I like it now). I had about 7 or 8 different blogs going simultaneously for a while because I felt I needed to put all the different topics I liked to write about in different places. Then I decided that sucked, and some of the topics I got bored of ridiculously quick.
I thought I would like to be a certain style of writer, one who was obnoxious and sarcastic, because I enjoyed certain material created by people like that, but it never came naturally for me. But now I don’t feel the need to force it.
I think I’ve figured it out… I like to write about tech, about how it affects our lives, about human nature…
I think sometimes (not always) if we put more attention into doing what we love to do without feeling the need to establish a brand, we would look back on our work after a short while and clearly see what the brand is perfectly.