Around The Space-19.jpg

Branding Matters Now More Than Ever

Building your brand can be a tricky task. Luckily, David Kelbaugh, Founder of Tacklebox Brand Partners, has put together a guest post on how companies of all shapes and sizes can build a successful and long-lasting brand.

brand-coffee-coffee-cup-216490Photo Courtesy of Pexels

Guest Author: David Kelbaugh, Founder and CEO, Tacklebox Brand Partners

Never in the course of history has it been so easy to start a business.

Capital is flowing pretty well, there is no shortage of advisors, incubators, accelerators, bankers, manufacturers, etc. The consequence of this is that the market is absolutely flooded with incredible, emerging products and companies. No matter what product you plan to take to market, it’s very likely that there’s somebody else already doing it or not far behind you. And if you seem to be on to a good idea, it won’t be long until someone else - who likely has a better team, is better-capitalized, with a better network, and better marketing - will come along and knock you off your throne.

I say all of this not to scare you, but to remind you that great products and services are a dime a dozen. The companies that will ultimately experience mass-market success are the companies that have a remarkable product or service, AND an equally-remarkable brand.

I took my first unpaid internship at a branding agency when I was 12. Since then, I’ve read about branding, studied branding, majored in, and have worked for pretty much every big ad agency in town (Leo Burnett, Ogilvy, DraftFCB, to name a few). Here are some of the observations and philosophies on branding that I’ve picked up along the way…

  • Your product and your brand are separate things.

They’re both things. They both need to be constructed, tested, and refined, but let’s be clear; they are separate. They are not as inter-related as you think. Perhaps we could learn a little from consumer brands like Levi’s or Ray Ban. They’re not wasting their breath telling the world how incredible their UV coating is or how impeccable the stitching on their denim is. They know better. Instead, they’re telling the world to “never hide” and “go forth”, respectively. Their brand has nothing to do with their products. In fact, some of the most inspired companies in the world have brands that have very little to do with the product they sell.

  • Your company name, logo and colors have very little to do with the power of your brand.

There is so much more to brand building than logos and colors and whatnot. If a brand is not a logo, a name, a color, a design, then what is it? We’ll have to save that for another day because I’m told I need to work within a word-count limit here.  For now, just trust me when I say that your name, your logo, your brand colors aren’t nearly as important as you think they are.

  • Nobody cares about your product as much as you do.

You love it. It’s incredible. The fact that version 3.0 of your software will sync with Strava and automatically integrate with your CRM is really a great accomplishment. Congratulations. But here’s the thing; it’s not impressing anyone else as much as it’s impressing you. Please, don’t use your marketing dollars and breath telling consumers all the ways that your product is so grand. Instead, consider using that effort to remind consumers WHY  what you’re doing is important. That’s what they care about! And if you don’t believe me, see if Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why” TedTalk will do the trick.

  • Instead of trying to get people to care about your product, try to link your product to something that people already care about.

It’s far easier to get a following by going to where the people already are than to invite them over to your house in the country. It’s far easier to put your name on top of a building that’s already constructed than it is to build a new building. Find out what people care about, what they love, what they hate, what they’re passionate about – and take your product’s brand to them through the development of a smart, emotion-chasing strategy. I tell folks that you could sell a whole lot of bottled water by telling the world that you’re the bottled water company that believes Donald Trump is an a-hole. Or you could also sell a whole lot of bottled water by telling the world that you’re the bottled water company that believes Donald Trump is the golden child. Either way you go, you’ll sell more water talking about your belief in Donald Trump than you will talking about how awesome your water tastes. 

  • We should be relentlessly focused on building advocates, not just customers and repeat customers.

Surprisingly, increasing the likelihood of someone becoming an advocate for your company starts when they first encounter your brand, not when they first try your product. Reminds me of the expression “you make money on a house when you buy it, not when you sell it.” Actions now cause benefits much later.  Make sure that you’re using the right branding to attract the right type of customer up front. If you do that, and deliver on the product experience you promised them, that customer is much more likely to advocate for you through word-of-mouth and social media. That’s what we want, isn’t it? Thousands of people advocating for our brand while we sleep. To accomplish that you need a solid brand from the start. Are you doing all you can to build a brand that’s as exceptional as your product is?


The opinions expressed here by 1871 guest writers are their own, not those of 1871. To learn more about Tacklebox Brand Partners follow this link. To get in touch with David Kelbaugh, drop him a line at

Topics: Insights

Read the 1871 Blog for news about the Chicago technology and entrepreneurship community, as well as helpful tips, guides, and insights into the startup and investment world.

Subscribe to Email Updates

Recent Posts

1871 On Instagram