2000px-Anishinabe.svgWhile branding has a history tied to Madison Avenue, I recently realized that its roots go back much further.

A short time ago I had the privilege to hear First Nation Lakota tribe member Sadie Red Wing at an AIGA event.  She talked about how American Indians face identity challenges.  The range of difficulties from the lack of uniquely identifying its 566 tribes, to the lack of an alphabet that accurately communicates the history of the indigenous people.

Today with social media, brands rely on storytelling, no different than stories that are shared from generation to generation by tribal leaders.  Other aspects that are similar are the use of icons to communicate.  The resent use of infographic’s roots can be traced to tribe iconography that dates back thousands of years through the use of pictograms found in ancient dwellings. These drawing created stories without the use of an alphabet. They generated a platform or manifesto for tribes to differentiate themselves from others as well as position them within the First Nations hierarchy, no different than brands of today defining their position within a marketplace.

American residents also had a naming structure for themselves that created their personal identity no different than how personal brands are developed today.  Like Sadie Redwing’s tribal name “Her Shawl is Yellow”, it helps to define her as a person as well her place within her tribe, much like the naming architecture developed by businesses today to define products and sub-brands within a brand structure.

As you can see the development of brands is really nothing new, we just need to look at history to understand how it can be used.

To learn more about the work Sadie is doing to help First Nation tribes define themselves as well as develop tools for indigenous tribes and foster design as a communication tool visit her website at sadieredwing.com.



Many times brands veer off path from the core on which they are founded. A variety of aspects come into play from wayward acquisitions to loss of focus on the pillars of what created the brand in the first place.

Recently I had the opportunity to listen to a Harvard Business Review interview with Phil Knight former chair and CEO of Nike.

During his interview, Knight talked about co-founder Bill Bowerman’s attitude was that “Nike makes the worst shoes in the world except for everybody else’s.”  This drive for excellence was derived from the passion of its founders to allow athletes to be their best through continued innovation. Additionally, Knight’s and Bowerman’s passion to create a culture that believed in the brand is what still drives Nike to be a powerhouse based on these convictions.

In recent years, Nike has reverted to its core idea of allowing athletes of levels to “just do it” by providing them with shoes and clothing to accomplish their goals.  The sale of its hockey division and most recently, the closure of its golf equipment business, demonstrates Nike’s contraction back to its core of shoes and clothing in virtually all segments.By reverting back to its core, Nike solidifies its message to support its history.

Businesses from small to large have this same challenges.  By being true to the brand’s core make it possible to center the brand on a sustainable path.  Brands today have a variety of proactive methods to demonstrate their brands importance and how it’s impact can influence an audience.  The channels allow a brand to create followers that become brand ambassadors and communicate what the brand stands for. This also provides a platform for relationships to contribute to the growth of the brand through collaboration as well as the sharing of knowledge.

e5e5e22a-be43-4edc-9a5c-85caccefdb3aRecently, the business community across the United States is finding it more difficult to attract and retain talent. While some businesses have tried to create a better work environment, others have tried to create a vision of their company that is at the intersection of brand and culture.  What results is a company that has purpose beyond sales figures and performance reviews.  These companies start by internalizing their brand to ensure that not only can they realize their goals, they also create a culture that resonates throughout its environment.

Many successful companies focus on developing a purpose that drives their brand, develops followers and creates powerful relationships.  This strategy is then capable of being leveraged into communities through a variety of channels including social media.  This is especially true in engaging with prospective employees.  Candidates are increasing looking for the intangibles that companies bring to the plate beyond compensation and benefit packages.  This is where purpose becomes critical to the recruitment process.

Brands like Microsoft have implemented this strategy with great results.  Other companies like Patagonia let their brand culture did the recruiting for them with a strong following of like minded individuals that are immersed in the culture the company advocates.

In a recent Forbes article, “Three Unexpected Brands That Are Turning To Storytelling To Drive Recruiting” companies like KPMG demonstrate how they are “linking the impact of a company’s higher purpose on attracting and retaining talent.”

It is this commitment to internalizing a strong, dynamic brand culture that creates community.  It all starts by creating a brand that engages with a purpose that is relevant to the marketplace and community rather than just the bottom line of a business.