by Bernie Furshpan


I’ve been in the business of helping people and organizations in making lasting impressions and selling their stuff for over 30 years.  I absolutely love the marketing and branding space and I want to share my knowledge and wisdom that I’ve accumulated over the years.  However, there’s something about “Branding” that people and companies are missing and I’m going to explain what it is in this brief article. If you really want to “get it,” then pay close attention to what I’m about to say.  Give it some time to sink in, keep thinking about it.  When you site examples in your personal experiences in the next few weeks of what I’m about to share, you’ll see how this idea actually works.  You’ll begin to understand it and be able to make it work for you. 

Here it is.  Are you listening?  Branding is Ownership.  That’s it!  The customer, fan, patron, patient, audience, whatever… they OWN YOU.  That’s right!  They own you and not the other way around.  That’s where things get sticky — people and businesses have it backwards and think they “own” their customers.   

Conventional definitions of “Branding” range from, the promotion of a particular product or company by means of advertising and distinctive design to branding as a company’s way of life with a greater purpose than being just the “visual face” of an organization.

Where did this word, “Branding” actually come from.  It’s a simple trail, historically.  Branding came from the Livestock industry, where domesticated animals are raised in an agricultural setting and marked with a branding iron to make it perfectly clear who “owns” the livestock. 

Ownership is also part and parcel of survival instincts and a primordial territorial social behavior.  As language evolved, people shared their pride in the list of all the apparent things they had tethered to them.  It became part of our identities.  And with identities, we can clearly distinguish ourselves and stand out in a crowd when we can list the things that we “own” to impress others, which demonstrate our value to them and society.  The quality of the list of things you own substantially impacts the demand for your existence.  And that’s the ultimate high, to be and feel needed.  When we feel special and needed, we have a sense of purpose and energized for creativity and longevity.  The feeling of being unwanted is quite the opposite of what we all desire and this leads to an early demise in many instances. 

So how does branding play a role here.  First, it’s important to understand how ownership is basic to survival.  You own a physical body that you clothe, feed and entertain.  You own “relationships” with others.  You claim that it’s “your” child, spouse, friend, partner, co-worker, doctor, pizzeria, singer, comedian, landscaper and so on.  There’s pride in ownership.  “You should go to “My” doctor, he’s the best.”  “Did you listen to ‘my’ singer?  Didn’t I tell you how great she is? Wasn’t I right?  Don’t I add value to your life by sharing the things and experiences I own?”   You also have a stake in groups and associations.  “My” team is the NY Giants.”  Other layers of ownership included material things, from paper clips in your desk drawer to the car in your garage.  You keep a mental inventory of all the things you own and these can range in the thousands — and you’re very much aware when someone borrows one of your items and keep tabs until it’s returned to its rightful place.  Not many of you may consider these things as a measure of ownership; however, consider “your” accomplishments, roles, experiences and knowledge as part of your inventory of things you own.  You hold on to these as if your life depended on them.  In fact, if anyone insults anyone of them, you quickly react physiologically and emotionally and might even break off a relationship on account of this.  How sensitive are you when someone says, “I can do that much better than you did?” or… “You make a lousy parent.” or… “So what if you read that book or saw that movie, it’s no big deal.” or… “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”  How dare they!

Here’s an eye opener.  How do you describe your best friend to me before I meet him or her?  It might sound something like this… “She is originally from Brazil and is an Aquarian.  She’s got straight mahogany hair and blue eyes.  She sang the National Anthem at Yankee Stadium.  She’s got 2 kids and drives a Porsche.  She wears Chanel perfume, Hermes blouses, has Gucci bags and Prada shoes. You’re going to love her!”  What am I going to love? — that she wears Prada shoes?  Who is this person, I ask?!   I’ve got a picture of brand names and products surrounding what?   I still don’t know this person based on the “Brands” she “Owns.”  That’s how we describe others, by the brands they “own.” Who is this person?  What makes their inner soul different? What is unique about their values?  Here are some brands you may or may not consider as brands:  New York, Love, Vacation, Harvard, mahogany, Crooner, and so on.  Some are descriptions, some are names, and some are feelings and experiences.  Anything can be a brand if you attach a value to it.   If I say that I’m the “Vacation Expert,” that makes me branded with the word Vacation. 

So if you’re looking to brand your name, your service, your art, your business, you need to become part of someone’s laundry list of brands that they use as their unique identity.  More to the point, your value must be compelling and important to them and then you need to let them “Own” you.  That’s right.  Let them own you, in a psychic or virtual way.  “She’s my singer.  She’s my comedian. She’s my doctor.  She’s also my friend and I’ve hung out with her.”  Now that’s branding.  Did you get it? 

How do we get others to call our brand their own?  That’s an entirely different discussion in another article.  But first, in the next few weeks, pay close attention to how you use brands in creating value for yourself and how others do that for themselves.  We’re all competing in a way to show how valuable we are.  This is not a judgment, but a fact of life and it comes from inherent survival instincts, so let’s harness this information and make it work for us.