Six Ways Growing a Brand Is Like Raising a Child

You’re responsible for keeping it alive. Feeding it, caring for it, making sure it doesn’t wander into traffic or stick its fingers into electrical sockets. You nurture it for as long as you can, but sooner or later, you have to let go and watch it make its way in the world.

“It” is your brand, of course. This isn’t a parenting blog. But raising a child and growing a brand have more in common than you think.

1. They thrive on rules and routine. Establishing guidelines for your brand helps it stay consistent no matter where it is — online, on the shelf, or in the real world. Brands crave routine. They love consistency. If you are firm about what your brand means, you’ll find that your brand becomes clearer and more resonant with your customers.

2. You need to help choose their friends carefully. Every brand has thought about running with a bad crowd. You know the people I’m talking about. Indecisive agencies. Indifferent retail partners. User-experience deficient website developers. It takes a village to raise a brand, and the right influence can help guide your brand through tough times, so you don’t have to do everything yourself.

3. Sometimes, they need a time-out. Brands misbehave. It’s not their fault. They meet the wrong people, start going on sale a little too often, and start to become something other than what you intended. Don’t be afraid to pull back and regroup. Brand managers are so focused on doing something that sometimes they forget that often, a little research and reflection can make your next steps a lot more clear.

4. You instill them with values. Brands live and die by their values. They create the resonance you need to keep customers coming back through thick and thin. Brands get their values from their parents, their brand managers. If you treat the brand with respect, that’s how the brand will treat others. If you discount your brand, or undervalue it, that’s the image it will portray to your customers.

5. It’s a hard, thankless job. The brand manager is rarely thanked when things are going well and almost always blamed when they aren’t. Your brand certainly won’t thank you. It’s too busy hanging with the wrong crowd. We need to remember that the hard days and long nights are going to be worth it, in the end.

6. It’s a reflection of who you are. We spend so much time focusing on brands that sometimes we forget that we helped make them happen. The longer you work on a brand, the more influence you have over its image, its halo, and its meaning. So the next time your brand has a record sales week, or goes toe-to-toe with the competition, be proud. That’s your baby up there. You did that.

Obviously, there is only so much any brand manager can do to raise a brand. Ultimately, your brand will encounter forces you can’t control, and the normal rules won’t apply. But the next time you encounter a brand that’s acting out, take a deep breath, be patient, and act like a parent.

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