­How to stand out in a cluttered market

In 1932, a young carpenter named Ole Kirk Kristiansen was tinkering in his workshop in the village of Billund in Denmark. The Great Depression was in full swing and work was hard to find. To improve the design of his household products, Kristiansen began making tiny prototypes—miniature stepladders and ironing boards. But, instead of helping him to refine his designs, the prototypes led Kristiansen along an entirely different path. He looked at these cute little models and was inspired to start making children’s toys.

In a moment that probably seemed insignificant, one of the most well-known and loved brands of our time was born. Not long after Kristiansen began hand making wooden toys in that village workshop, his company designed and made the first interlocking plastic bricks we know today as Lego.

From such humble beginnings, Lego has grown to become a significant part of our lives. Over 400 million excited kids across the world have, at some time, sat on their bedroom floor or at the family dining table, and let their imaginations spring to life, brick by brick. In fact, the world’s children spend five billion hours each year playing with Lego bricks! (Not to mention the adults…). But Lego’s significance is not simply because it has reached so many people. It’s because it has given its customers so much value. Lego is significant, not because of its breadth, but because of its depth.

Lego is significant, not because of its breadth, but because of its depth.

Lego matters. It makes a difference in people’s lives and the world loves it. Yes, the world. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have a soft spot in their heart for Lego. Do you? This is why Lego was named Toy of the Century. Lego stands out because it is significantLego literally means play well in Danish. And in 2002, to realign with their brand heritage, the company changed its tagline to ‘play on’. You’re probably not familiar with this slogan, but nevertheless, I’m sure you know this is why Lego exists. It’s a clarion call to the children of the world to imagine, create and play on!

Why some brands shine in a cluttered market

Brands like Lego that shine in a competitive and cluttered marketplace know exactly why they exist and why they matter to their customers. Their understanding of why is the difference between being an exceptional brand that thrives and an average brand that just survives. It’s the difference between being a brand people love, or, a brand people easily forget.

Their understanding of why is the difference between being an exceptional brand that thrives and an average brand that just survives.

Why do you love the brands that you do?

Think about it for a moment. List some of the brands you love and then write down why each of them matters to you. I’ll bet a key reason why these brands matter is because you know why they exist. And you know it because you feel it in your bones.

Take Camper, for example. I love this brand. A lot! Camper make wonderful shoes, but they also say something important about life that resonates deeply with their customers. Embedded in this brand is a powerful call-to-action that life should be fun, colourful, whimsical and even a little unusual. This is why Camper exists—to make walking and life fun—and that’s the reason why I love them. Sure, their shoes look and feel great, but every time I wear my Campers, I’m reminded to think outside the box and live life with a little more colour and flair. And that’s why Camper matters to me and millions of others around the world.

You need to know why your brand matters

It’s impossible to build a brand people love without being crystal clear about why your brand matters. You’d be surprised how many brand builders do not know their why, and jump straight into the detail of their business without considering the big picture of why their product or service matters. If you want to build a brand customers love, you need to be absolutely clear why they should love it. Then you need to tell that story in authentic, compelling and emotive ways. Great brands take their why and build their whole business upon it. Their why becomes their brand story, and with it they seek to shape how people feel, think and act.

So why does your brand matter?

The way to answer this is, of course, paved with more questions. The significance of your brand is one of the most important qualities for you to get a handle on, so it’s worth taking some time to examine it in depth. Here are two questions I ask myself when I need to gain clarity about my brand:

1. Why should people care?

The aim of this question is to uncover the value that your products and services bring to the people who buy them. What difference does it make to them? Why should they care? What needs and aspirations does your brand satisfy?

2. Why am I doing this?

Answering this question is an important reminder of why your brand was created in the first place. This is about discovering the founding passion of your brand. If you are the founder, ask yourself why you started it. Did it evolve out of a need that you had? Did it solve a problem or meet an aspiration for you? What’s your motivation for doing what you do? If you didn’t start the brand, try to interview the founder (if they’re still around). If that’s not possible, you might need to do a little research to find out why the brand was created in the first place. You’ll be thankful you did, as you will most likely uncover a treasure-chest of purpose.

If you can consider these questions honestly and deeply, you’ll become a lot clearer on why your brand matters. But you’ll need to be patient, because it may take a little while to get clarity, especially if you’ve had your head down in the detail of running your business.

Your next step 

Get all your key people together and ask the key questions I’ve mentioned above. Collect all your thoughts and let it simmer for a while. Then, when you least expect it, while you’re doing something totally unrelated, a phrase or sentence will pop into your head and you’ll know immediately why your brand matters. This process is enlightening and you will start to look at your brand in a completely new way. And you will be grateful for having spent the time uncovering the answers to these crucial questions.

When you understand the significance of your brand, and why it matters, you’ve taken a huge step along the path to creating a brand people will love. The approach is simple. Find out what really matters, what your people deeply love, and give it to them.

This an excerpt from my new book This Way Please. It’s super practical with lots of handy tips and includes inspiring examples that I’ve collected along the way. If you’d like to go a little deeper you can download a few free chapters here.



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comments 4 Comments

    1. Thanks Vic, the unfortunate thing is that while it is the sensible thing to do so many brand builders get side-tracked with “urgent” tasks and often do not lay this `important and crucial foundation.

  1. Yes, good sensible advice, very similar to Simon Senek in Finding Your WHY and if you can understand the Why of your business then having clarity around the PURPOSE of your business is not too far behind, thank you, good read.
    A couple of years ago LEGO lost their way and sales plummeted, have you investigated the Why of that happening – an interesting snapshot into a business losing its way and perhaps an element of hubris.

    1. Thanks Paul. Yes it is a very similar approach to Simon Sinek (that guy’s a legend!), and it forms one of the 9 pillars of building a well loved brand that I explore in my book. Re Lego, I’m very interested in that actually and I’m going to do some research to see what I can find. I’ll let you know if I find anything interesting.

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