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The Minimalists

Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus write about living a meaningful life with less stuff for 4 million readers. As featured on: ABC, CBS, NBC, BBC, TODAY, NPR, TIME, Forbes, The Atlantic, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and National Post. They live in Missoula, Montana.

Too Much Branding These Days


There’s too much branding going on.

I tweeted these six words the other day (you know this if you follow me on Twitter, where I promulgate many of my personal views, introspective thoughts, and life lessons I don’t touch upon here). I received quite a few questions about this statement, and so I’ll attempt to expand on my thoughts here.

First, consider this: there is a difference between a brand and branding.

McDonald’s, Johnson & Johnson, and Walmart are brands. And you, if you’re a creator of something, can also be a brand. The difference between a corporation as a brand and you the brand is that the corporation’s primary objective is, by definition, to make money. You, on the other hand, needn’t bear profit as your main objective.

If you the maker are concerned principally with earning money by creating something, and yet you pretend this something is being made to benefit the greater good, then your product will reek of insincerity, pretense, and disingenuousness. This is commonplace for corporations, so much so that we’ve come to expect it in their advertisements—we know that their fundamental goal is money.

For example, have you ever believed that a corporation truly understands you? I certainly haven’t. Not as an adult at least. But I have regarded as true that certain musicians or authors or artists understand me as a person; there is often a connection between me and the artist and her work.

This doesn’t mean that products devised for profit aren’t useful (they often are); it simply means that people won’t find the same connection with that product as they do with the literature, music, or artwork they love—for the main objective of these personal works isn’t (typically) financial in nature; it is to develop a connection with other human beings.

When making money is the dominant driver for what you create, you are branding—carefully composing your image, neurotically considering your demographic, and obsessively tweaking your good or service to fit a customer base.

There’s nothing wrong with earning money; I simply prefer for it to result from what I write (not the other way around). I’ve found that when I’m honest and open and add value to other people’s lives, people are willing to support my work whenever they are given the opportunity.

I also posited this topic as question — Is there too much branding going on these days? — in our newly formed Asymmetrical Community, a place for writers and creative types to learn more about getting their work out to the world. Feel free to weigh in on the discussion over there. I’d like to hear your point of view on branding.