Why Is Building Your Brand Like Learning To Ride A Bike?

Published October 8th, 2013 with 3 responses.


Do you remember the first time you rode a bike by yourself? I remember when I did.

I hopped up on the shiny blue two-wheeler I got for my birthday, and my dad ran alongside me holding onto the saddle while I furiously pumped my legs and struggled to control the wobbling handlebars.

Danny-FinalAt some point my dad quietly let go of the seat and let me ride on my own. I shot down the street without a care in the world until I looked back and realized he wasn’t keeping me steady — which is when the wobbly handlebars won the war and I went crashing to the ground.

It was almost exactly the same story some 30 years later when I taught my son to ride his bike. He fought with the handlebars and wobbled along and did spend some time sprawled out on the pavement. But before long Danny figured out how to ride and his life changed forever. All of a sudden he could get to friends’ houses or the park on his own. He was free.

A few years later I taught my daughter to swim. She’d stand on the side of the pool while I bobbed in the water just a few feet away. With an excited, “Ready Daddy?!” she’d hurl herself into the air, splash down in the water, and lead a trail of bubbles straight to the bottom where she’d stay until I’d dive down to grab her and bring her up to the surface. After a big breath and an even bigger smile, she’d push the wet curls out of her face and squeal, “Again Daddy!!” and we’d repeat the whole process. Eventually Ali figured out the secret to buoyancy and could splash into the pool and dog-paddle all the way over to me. Now she could go to swim parties at friends’ houses and run along the surf at the beach without worrying about touching the water. Life was never the same again.

Ali-in-Water-FinalThat instant where everything changes is what Malcolm Gladwell calls “The Tipping Point” — the momentary catalytic mechanism that introduces a whole new world of opportunity and possibility. Steering a bike without your parent holding onto the seat and swimming on the top of the water instead of sinking to the bottom both require a leap of faith and some new skills. But in both cases, figuring out the counterintuitive solution makes all the difference and changes everything.

Building your brand is just like that. Once you you create a compelling brand you reach your own tipping point and everything changes. The big question is: How do you achieve that?

Ahhh, THAT’S where the branding process becomes counterintuitive and requires some new skills.

Most average marketing and branding talks all about the product. How many locations the retailer has; how powerful their computers are; how long they’ve been in business; se habla español. But the problem is that nobody cares about those things until they’re interested in the product (or service) in the first place.

The-TIpping-Point-FinalDon’t get me wrong – all of those product attributes are critical. But they’re the RTBs (Reasons To Believe) and are of no interest or consequence to the potential customer until the customer is interested in the product.

I don’t care how many bottles of wine are on the menu of a restaurant I’m not planning to visit. I don’t care how inexpensive a pair of running shoes are if I don’t want to try them on. It doesn’t matter how many lawyers work for a firm I’ve never heard of.

The secret to building a powerful brand can be summed up in three words: All About Them. Make your  brand resonate with who I am and what I care about or, even better, make your brand help me feel good about myself and then I’ll be all ears when you share all of your wonderful RTBs.

Like learning how to swim or learning how to ride a bike, learning how to make your brand All About Them changes everything. And once you figure that out, nothing will ever be the same again.

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3 Responses to “Why Is Building Your Brand Like Learning To Ride A Bike?”

  1. Very true – the first time I rode a bike on my own, I got over ambitious and decided to ride over the hill behind our house. I did fine on the way up, but lost control on the way down and ended up slamming into the side of a parked car.

    Unfortunately, it seems that unlike riding a bicycle, when many people / companies hit a bump (or a parked car) trying to brand themselves they give up, and never reach the tipping point.

  2. Thanks for such a great, yet simple, reminder of why we’re in the business in the first place. It is all about them, and I appreciate the nudge. With all the challenges of marketing and social networking today, it’s easy to get caught up in what we need to do to grow our business. Nice to recall that I’m really in the business as a servant leader.

  3. Same goes for new product development, doesn’t it?

    Great marketing organizations research their markets, identify unfulfilled needs within those markets then develop & offer products to fill those voids. Those are products given the opportunity to succeed.

    Yet, how many manufacturers and service organizations develop and launch products based solely on their abilities to produce, ignoring the customer’s wants or needs? In my experience, more than are reasonable, and that’s not true just of the smallest privately held companies but the mightiest of the Fortune 500, too.

    Brands are most effective when they appeal to their most likely customers. “It’s all about them.”

    New products are likely to succeed in their respective markets if their most likely customers see, feel, or perceive a need. “It’s all about them.”

    All components of the marketing disciplines must focus on the customer. MARKETING “is all about them!”

    Seems so obvious. Doesn’t it?

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