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The Minimalists
The Minimalists are Emmy-nominated Netflix stars and New York Times–bestselling authors Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. Alongside their podcast cohost, T.K. Coleman, this simple-living trio helps millions of people eliminate clutter and live meaningfully with less. Learn More.

Too Much Branding These Days

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 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 we’ve come to expect it in their advertisements—we know their fundamental goal is money.

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

This doesn’t mean products devised for profit aren’t useful (they often are), it simply means 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 when I’m honest, open, and add value to other people’s lives, people are willing to support my work whenever they are given the opportunity.

Read this essay and 150 others in our new book, Essential.