Is Dan Kennedy Anti-Brand? The Surprising Answer

By: Dan Kennedy on: September 21st, 2009 15 Comments

This post, I’ll address a question I get confronted with a lot, about “branding” – the tough guys pointing out that I rail against branding yet obviously engage in brand-building myself.

Actually I’m not “anti-brand” at all, and as you can observe, have diligently turned myself into a personality brand (go ahead, Google ‘Dan Kennedy’ and see what turns up. Be sure you’ve packed a lunch. You’ll be there a while.), and have “NO B.S.” as a brand extending over books, newsletters, products; “RENEGADE MILLIONAIRE” to a lesser extent.

I do counsel AGAINST investing directly into brand-building, especially with large-company style ‘image’ advertising that cannot be accurately and ruthlessly held accountable. So here are a few principles and tips about your brand identity:

  1. By all means, work at creating name-brand identity and recognition for yourself and your small business – but do it where it counts, with a carefully selected target, niche or subculture market small enough that you can have impact with whatever resources you have, defined narrowly enough you can create compelling messages for it.A giant market is only useful to someone with a giant wallet. You do not want to waste your life peeing into the ocean. (For example, I have aimed myself at “entrepreneurs” pretty successfully, but “corporate America” has been sacrificed. Stephen Covey may have 10,000 copies of one of his books bought by American Airlines or Citibank. I most assuredly will not.) Whatever your business, nationally or locally, there is a PRIME market, a PRIME audience: build brand identity with them.
  2. A brand or brand identity is, essentially, a recognized symbol that represents and calls to mind WHAT you and your business is about. I maintain it should also be designed to resonate with a very specific WHO that your business is for. Many marketers are reasonably clear about their WHAT but woefully unclear about their WHO, thus their WHAT is often wrong.
  3. By all means, work at creating name-brand identity and recognition for yourself and your business – but do it as a by-product and bonus of solid, accountable, profitable direct-response advertising and marketing….avoid buying it outright, such as with image advertising. Refer to the “Direct Marketing DIET” on pages 20 and 21 of my No B.S. DIRECT Marketing for NON-Direct Marketing Businesses book. If you are a new Member, new to this kind of marketing, this book is MANDATORY reading, and your makeover of your business should begin with this ‘Diet.’
  4. Do not confuse ‘brand identity’ with logos and slogans. Logos, slogans, color schemes and other imagery are simply devices used to convey or support brand identity, just as typefaces are a means of conveying words. Brand identity is about ideas, first – representations of ideas second. If you’re up for an interesting book germane to this point (not written by me!), get Made To Stick. Also, do not confuse ordinary slogans with Unique Selling Propositions: a USP answers my copyrighted question, THE most important question you’ll ever answer: “why should I choose to do business with you vs. any and every other option available to me?”
  5. If you do develop brand identity, develop a ‘customer culture’ with it, so your brand is theirs. Think Starbucks or Disney. The customers are part of something, not just people being sold to. But, whatever you do, don’t blindly copy big companies’ advertising practices. Very, very, very carefully learn from the very few smart ones, like Disney. But remember they are playing in a different league with different rules and different means of keeping score… example, you may keep score by profit while they must keep score by stock price (which rarely, formulaically reflects profit). And they have more resources than you do.
  6. For most small businesses, personal branding is far superior to corporate/business branding. People prefer dealing with people, than with nameless, faceless, soulless institutions. Put yourself out there! For advanced strategies on this, get my CUSTOMERS FOR LIFE/PERSONALITY IN COPY Program from the Glazer-Kennedy webstore.
  7. Most basic, starting-point summary: begin with WHO is your business for? + WHAT do you want to be known for, by that WHO?, then HOW can you represent, symbolize, summarize that in a memorable way.

Dan Kennedy is internationally recognized as the 'Millionaire Maker,' helping people in just about every category of business turn their ideas into fortunes. Dan's "No B.S." approach is refreshing amidst a world of small business marketing hype and enriches those who act on his advice. For more money-making marketing tips, tactics and strategies, go to

15 Responses

  1. Outstanding advice for all business owners — big and small — as usual.

    If every one of them followed your advice, no way the economy would be in as bad a shape as it is.

    Instead, for those of us who follow your advice, we’re having a blast!

    Thanks, Dan!

  2. Brian says:

    Agreed! 2009 has been a great year. No signs of slowing…having to work twice as hard, but totally worth it. Thanks Dan!

  3. Steven Sands says:

    I like your thoughts Dan. I don’t advocate brand promotions for small businesses since their marketing budgets are usually small – better use of their money to gain new customers and to increase life time value of existing customers. I remember Cory Rudl saying that he really didn’t focus on the brand but let it take care of itself by promoting create products and himself. I agree. BTW, I have enjoyed the Gold Membership CDs and your No BS books immensely, especially the No B.S. Guide To Marketing To The Affluent. Keep it up.

  4. People who encourage people to brand build when the have no sales skills and no Unique Value Proposition, should be jailed.

  5. Renegade is a word I just love. Maverick is another. I attended Renegades of Persuasion with Dave Lakhani and Joel Bauer and other kings of persuasion recently, and I confess, from Renegades who have branded themselves in the Persuasion and Influence market, I have learned to fight normal–and be ME. My dad said, “You’re always going against the grain” it was a program…and maybe now–a belief–and next, a brand?

  6. Jim Rowe says:

    My business gets better and better and my logo has shrunk along the way. Make a great offer with a call to action and they will find you

  7. Sweet Advice, Mr. Rowe. Call to Action–and may I add, “Do it with embedded commands, soothing tonalities, and a tag question such as, ‘won’t you?’ to remind them at a subconsious level that their decision to join you is assumed in their mind, not questioned. This 3-point structure is the basis of all effective NLP, Hypnosis, Persuasion & Negotiation in selling and closing!

    This immediately actionable advice is $500.00. Send your check to St Judes Research Hospital for Children in the name of your Mother.

    Stage Hypnotist Simone
    Las Vegas

  8. Rob Anspach says:

    LOL Stage Hypnotist Simone… “This immediately actionable advice is $500.00. Send your check to St Judes Research Hospital for Children in the name of your Mother.” I almost fell out of my seat laughing so hard when I read that… then I felt guilty for laughing … I’d better open up my check book!

  9. Catholic or Jewish?

    Dude, you know we’ve trademarked guilt. 😉

    Stage Hypnotist Simone
    Las Vegas

  10. One more thing….
    NOTHING gets done without guilt.

    I could write a book on the subject.

    Good news is that we are Forgiven, we just usually are unaware of this fact.

    Stage Hypnotist Simone
    Las Vegas

  11. Rob Anspach says:

    Please stop making me laugh…
    I feel so guilty and yet I’m laughing too hard!

  12. nope. laughing is the cure.

    Don’t Tase Me, Bro!

    Stage Hypnotist Simone
    Las Vegas

  13. […] Dan has, in at least one blog post, explained his distinction between branding, which he definitely recommends, and branding-only […]

  14. I just added this blog to my google reader, excellent stuff. Cannot get enough!

  15. Oh my goodness! Amazing article dude! Thank you so much, However I am encountering difficulties with your RSS. I don’t know the reason why I am unable to join it. Is there anybody else getting similar RSS problems? Anyone who knows the solution can you kindly respond? Thanx!!

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