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Build a Brand Unusual

Answer your 'why,' and point your business in the right direction.

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Successful leaders live out loud. They follow their passions and they're willing to take risks regardless of what others say. To live out loud means to do whatever it takes to see your dreams realized.

Richard Branson, best known for his Virgin brand of over 360 companies, is the quintessential example of a brand unusual due to the leader's willingness to live out loud. Just look at the twinkle in Branson's eye: He is constantly forging new pathways with a spirited and adventurous relentlessness.

Or take a look at the creators of : , Evan Williams and . People originally scoffed at the notion of 140 character "tweets" but their idea has produced a totally original platform that's been embraced worldwide. And that originality is a corner-stone of the Twitter brand.

So what happens when a leader is living out loud? You get a brand unusual. When a company has a brand unusual the primary focus of the brand isn't outward (outsmarting the competition); instead it's internal. It's about the brand doing the best it can and recognizing the value it brings to the table, all the while inspiring others along the way and making a difference.

Here are two ways you can start forging your brand unusual.

Set a Higher Standard and Then Live By It
What used to be an afterthought in business practice, operating within the parameters of social responsibility, is now coming of age. This is essential thinking for entrepreneurs and for future business leaders.

At last year's graduation, more than half of the students volunteered to take a new student-authored MBA Oath. The MBA Oath promises that Harvard MBA's will act responsibly, ethically and refrain from advancing their "own narrow ambitions" at the expense of others.
How amazing is that? The so-called elite saying greed is no good and demonstrating a passion for spreading their new message.

Since that time more than 200 business schools around the world have added the MBA Oath to their commencement.

One of the three creators of the Oath, Teal Carlock, said, "As a class, we have a real opportunity to come together and set a standard as business leaders."

What you can do

  • Challenge yourself and your team to set higher standards by using your brand to define how you want to operate in today's socially conscious business world. It could mean re-evaluating your vision for the future or the way you want to serve your customers. You want to send a clear and powerful message about the positive impact your business brand is having and will continue to have in the future.
  • What kind of stage have you created for your brand? Visionary leaders create a platform for themselves and their brand. Are your brand story and messages in synch with and supportive of whatever your platform says?

Ask and Answer Your 'Whys'
Marketing expert is challenging the status quo and inspiring others to make a difference in this world. Sinek's recent book, Start With Why, studied those leaders who have had the greatest influence in the world. He discovered that they all think, act and communicate in very similar ways--the complete opposite of everyone else, that is. These leaders articulate and understand why their organization exists, and why it does the things it does. What's more, these great leaders never try to manipulate or control. They strive to inspire.

"Start seeing things from this different perspective of asking why," Sinek suggests. "Great companies with a strong sense of why are able to inspire their people. Great leaders give their people a purpose or challenge around which to develop ideas."

What you can do

  • Start by asking yourself the question, "Why?" Why does my organization exist, why does it behave a certain way? This is a transformative process of discovery. Try it, and then invite your team to do the same. Once you've tapped into the reasons, apply the discoveries to your brand. Does your brand reflect these motivations? If it doesn't it's time to align your brand with your 'whys.'

In 1921, George Bernard Shaw wrote, "You see things, and you say, 'Why?' But I dream things that never were, and I say; 'Why not?'" I challenge all you maverick entrepreneurs to ask yourself two questions: "Why?" and "Why not?" It's time to reignite your passion for your brand and be willing to take risks and stand by them--live by them--every day. There's nothing quite as exhilarating as seeing the demonstration of a brand living out loud. So go for it!

Are you an entrepreneur who is living out loud? E-mail us about it at

Mary van de Wiel (Van) is founder, CEO and creative brand analyst of A New Brand Landscape & Co. and, a brand consultancy that specializes in helping entrepreneurs and startup CEOs leverage their irresistible Zing Factor, embed it in their brand and build their business around it. For information on speaking engagements, media appearances and consulting work, go to To see Van's portfolio of global branding campaigns for Fortune 500 clients, go to Follow Van on Twitter

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