Illustration by Konani Chinn

Your brand is your name, and your reputation. It’s easy for new brands to get attention these days; the hard part is making them strong and successful over time.

Story: Staying Power Wins

Brands started thousands of years ago as a way of specifying ownership of cattle. A distinctive mark would be ‘branded’ into the cattle with a hot iron – ouch.

Later these marks became a way of communicating reputation, when potters and artists started putting them on their own works. Craftsmen who did amazing work became widely known by their marks.

Brands began to go global when the industrial revolution enabled large-scale mass production around 1900. That’s when many of the brands we know today began building reputations, spending millions on advertising and offering products consumers could rely on. Brands like Michelin, McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Nestle, Mercedes, Disney – and dozens of other companies that seem like they’ve been around forever.

Then came Television in the 1950s and 60s. TV with its mass audiences enabled brands to burst on the scene in just a few short weeks or with a few amazing performances. Think Elvis, The Beatles, John F. Kennedy. Barbie, Sony, Polaroid, Fox, and thousands more.

Today, new brands show up constantly. Thousands of apps, websites, games, artists and personalities seem to appear overnight, and can become huge quickly. They can be companies (Peloton or Chewy), digital experiences (TikTok or Minecraft) or individuals on YouTube. The best ones don’t spend money on advertising; their brand grows by word of mouth.

But that only gets them into the game. Global competition for attention (and dollars) has gotten so intense, that being an overnight sensation doesn’t matter, if you can’t sustain it.

Most brands (think MySpace and WeWork) fizzle quickly after flying too high and then crashing. While a small handful (like Apple) consistently innovate, deliver great products and build their reputations (brands) bigger year after year.

The formula for brand success is simple: brand = quality + staying power. You can’t get arrogant and rest on your laurels or do something stupid. Because the world of brands (reputations) isn’t very forgiving.