We’ve Got Brand Building Backward

Date: May 29th, 2023
Location: Scottsdale, AZ

Years ago I was approached by a prospective client. He wanted me to help him build a personal brand as a Facebook marketing coach.

I said I’d be happy to help. Building brands is something I’ve become quite adept at.

Then I asked what I thought was a throwaway question.

“So how long have you been running Facebook ads?”

“Oh, I don’t know anything about it yet.” He replied.

What he wanted was for me to help him build a reputation as someone who knew about advertising so he could get a few clients and learn how it was done.

I politely declined and never spoke to him again.

That might sound crazy (and wildly unethical) but I work with clients every day who are trying to build a brand and can’t understand why it’s not working.

I’ve become convinced we’ve got brand-building backward.

You see, a brand is really just a fancy word for reputation. And the first thing you need to know about reputation is that it exists only in the minds of the people who know you.

You can’t own it

You can’t control it.

All you can do is influence it.

Unfortunately, too many people are trying to build a world-class reputation without doing world-class shit.

Instead, they go online, look at what the really successful people are doing and copy it.  They end up looking and sounding like every other copycat and wonder why their following isn’t growing.

Stop trying to build a brand that way.

Great brands emerge from great reputations.

Mercedes-Benz has a reputation for building some of the most reliable cars in the world. They earned that reputation by actually building reliable cars.

You can’t present yourself as “an industry leader” unless you are one.  There was a time – before social media matured when it was possible. But we’ve gotten too good at spotting wantrepreneurs.

Here’s the good news: You don’t have to wait until you’re part of the 1% before you build a following. But you do have to modify the way position yourself.

Nate Black is a great case study.

I’ve been following Nate for years. He runs a Youtube Channel called Channel Makers. If you’re trying to grow a YouTube channel he’s a guy to follow.

In fact, he was just featured on one of my favorite podcasts, “Social Media Marketing with Michael Stelzner”.

Nate’s channel has 216,000 subscribers.  But when he launched his channel he didn’t know the first thing about growing on Youtube.

What he did have was a passion for video production and the dream of starting a YouTube channel around that passion. 

So instead of positioning himself as an expert at growing YouTube channels (a ridiculously transparent lie), he researched other successful channels and reported on what they all had in common.

He differentiated by saying, “Hey I want to grow a channel just like you do. Let’s see if we can figure this out together.” 

He wasn’t afraid to look stupid or admit he didn’t know what he was doing.

As his channel began to grow, he started critiquing his follower’s videos to help them improve. A massive value to other YouTubers and well within his area of expertise.

Over the years his channel grew. Today he’s one of the top authorities on growing a YouTube channel.  He doesn’t have to pretend to be an authority. He IS one.

Don’t try to grow your brand by “proving” you know what you’re doing. You look desperate. You might as well be saying, “Hey guys, look at me. I’m cool too.”

Don’t retread the same vapid advice and slogans you see peddled by other wannabe influencers. Instead, look at what others are saying and doing and come up with a contrarian opinion.

Say something nobody else is saying. Something like this,

While the vast majority of content creators are all focused on short-form video I’ve taken a contrarian position. But I’ve done it politely.

I didn’t call anyone out. I didn’t tell others what they should do. I just took a position, explained why, and backed it up with action.

Do that and your reputation will grow. Eventually, that reputation will develop into a brand. And you’ll have the following to go with it.

Until next week,


If  you enjoyed this newsletter there are 2 ways I can help you:

1. If you’re looking to start or grow your business and you’re making less than $100k/yr, I’d recommend starting with an affordable course designed specifically to help you do that:

“Bootstrap It” is a comprehensive course for solopreneurs who want to grow a six-figure business but need a little help getting started.

2. If you have a successful business but you’re feeling burned out and frustrated then it’s time to start building the systems into your business that will free you from the day-to-day grind:

The Business Growth Accelerator – Get your business unstuck so you can enjoy the freedom and flexibility that comes from building a company correctly.

Share the Post:

Give Yourself an Unfair Advantage

Enter your best email address below: