Rob Frankel - Branding Expert

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Branding and the sincerest form of flattery

Well, you knew it was bound to happen. I certainly knew it was bound to happen. And it finally has. Take a gander at this note I got today from another list manager -- a nice guy, by the way -- and see if it has a familiar ring to it:

"Dear Rob:

I am thinking about adding a form list [my] community to allow [members] to seek and exchange services amongst each other. I realize that this type of NEED: OFFER: etc. is something that you've done in the past with FrankelBiz and I wanted to write to let you know that I'm not trying to copy what you've done, but recognize that my own community could benefit from that sort of free exchange as well. I'm sure you understand, but wanted to give you the heads up out of courtesy."

Naturally, I've removed the names to protect the innocent. But clearly, it brings up a couple of points that I thought were worth discussing. The time has come, it seems, to test brand theory out for real. I figure if you see it in action right here on my own turf, you might well be able to more appropriately apply it to your own.

The first thought I had when I read this note was, well, human. That creepy, hackle-raised response that emanates from the reptilian part of my brain, a distant relative of the old "fight-or-flight" response. I mean, who was this person, anyway that was "letting me know out of courtesy" THAT HE WAS RIPPING ME OFF?

My head was swimming with panicky thoughts. All of a sudden, my idea wasn't MY idea anymore. What would this mean? Should I grab a gun? Hustle the wife and kids into the Buick and head to higher ground?

Then my branding brain took over. Things became much clearer. For one thing, I realized that we don't even own a Buick. More importantly, I realized what had happened is that I had achieved the first level of true entrepreneurial success: inspiring competition.

Let's face it, there's no trademark on Subject Headers with the words NEED or OFFER. And the idea that FrankelBiz generates connections between people can't be patented. But where does that leave me? Alas, a Dictator without a throne?


I sweat not, And you know why? Because we're sitting on a killer brand, pal. I don't care how many lists post notices of who needs what, because -- as I've mentioned so many times in the past -- they can't steal the brand. There were lots of lists before FrankelBiz and there'll be lots more imitators to come. But none will engender the brand experience that we've built here. The fact is that FrankelBiz is more than just a bunch of listserv posts. But if you take away those posts, what have you got left? The brand. The culture. That's what makes our group what it is. And that, I believe, can't be duplicated.

People can try to imitate it all they want, I suppose, but duplicate it? Somehow I don't think so.

So what does this mean to you? Just what I've always said all along. These are the times when a strong brand is going to count -- big time. So start branding your gig right now. Today. If you DON'T brand yourself as anything different, people will have no reason to think you're any different. You're only just "one of a thousand web designers" as long as you allow yourself to be thought of as "one of a thousand web designers". Or consultant. Or carpenter. Or anything else that has any competition at all.

It also tells you that originality has its place -- but only for so long. Eventually you do succeed -- and have a rash of imitators that prove it. Wear it proudly. You deserve it.

Rob Frankel

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