Like Life, Branding Needs Vision Too

Do the Beatles, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and the invention of the radio have anything in common?

The key ingredient
Branding, the art of distinguishing one product from the glut in an overstimulated marketplace, relies upon strategy, observation, design, planning, and the intelligent use of marketing skills. There is another key ingredient, too often overlooked, that makes the difference between a great brand and a mere commodity. What is it? Vision coupled with commitment.


Look at any great brand, or even more broadly, any worthwhile accomplishment.

Before the Empire State Building, what existed? Vision. How did this vision come into existence? Commitment and tenacity.

If twenty-plus years ago, someone had proposed: “I’ve developed a sci-fi movie trilogy that
people of all ages and nations will want to see. It has heroes, villains, mystical concepts and neat special effects,” I’m sure executives would have laughed him out of the office. Fortunately, George Lucas stuck with his vision, making Star Wars one of the top-grossing movies of all time.


James Cameron did the same with Titanic, breaking all-time records.

So did the executive who single-handedly developed the hugely successful, new and improved VW bug as did Steve Jobs with the iMac, making it at the time the most successful computer launch to date, with some 280,000 advance orders before the product was even released.

Challenging conventional wisdom
Being short-sighted in branding, as well as in life, is as avoidable a shortcoming as poor manners at a formal dining engagement. How bad can this become? Look at these “famous last words” and you be the judge.


“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”—Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943

“I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won’t last out the year.”—The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957

“But what… is it good for?”—Commenting on the microchip, an engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968


“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”—Ken Olson, President, Chairman and Founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977

“This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.”—Western Union internal memo, 1876

“The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?”—David Sarnoff’s associates, in response to his urging for investment in the radio during the 1920s


“The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C,’ the idea must be feasible.”—A Yale University management professor, in response to Fred Smith’s paper
proposing reliable overnight delivery service (Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.).

“Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” — H.M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927 (Good thing no-one listened to him)

“A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, the market research reports say America likes
crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make.”
—Response to Debbi Fields’ idea of starting Mrs. Fields’ Cookies


“We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.”—Decca Recording Company, rejecting the Beatles, 1962

“If I had thought about it, I wouldn’t have done the experiment. The literature was full
of examples that said you can’t do this.”
—Spencer Silver, on the work that led to the unique adhesives for 3-M “Post-It” Notepads

“So we went to Atari and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got this amazing thing, even built with some
of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we’ll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we’ll come work for you.’ And they said, ‘No.’ So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, ‘Hey, we don’t need you. You haven’t got through college yet.’”
— Apple Computer Inc. founder Steve Jobs, on attempts to get Atari and HP interested in his and Steve Wozniak’s personal computer


“You want to have consistent and uniform muscle development across all of your muscles?
It can’t be done. It’s just a fact of life. You just have to accept inconsistent muscle development as an unalterable condition of weight training.”
—Response to Arthur Jones, who solved the “unsolvable” problem by inventing Nautilus

“Everything that can be invented has been invented.”—Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899 (In 1899, there were 25,527 patents and today, there are well more than 7,000,000 from what we can ascertain)

“640K ought to be enough for anybody.”— Bill Gates, 1981


Dream on
Great brands begin with a dream and a vision first, and the willingness to see them through.

Remember this next time someone looks at you cross-eyed about a new idea. That’s where branding comes in—and how you create something the consumer will not only want, but demand.

Here are some of my favorite quotes that apply equally to life as they do to branding. I thought I would share them here, so you’re overly cynical about other people’s lack of foresight:

“In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer. It’s interior decorating. It’s the fabric of the curtains of the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design.
Design is the fundamental soul of a human-made creation that ends up
expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or
Steve Jobs, Apple
“Customers must recognize that you stand for something.” Howard Schultz, Starbucks
“A brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” Jeff Bezos,
“People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.” George Bernard Shaw
“If each of us hires people who are smaller than we
are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires
people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants.”
David Ogilvy
“Business to Business is a misnomer. Businesses don’t buy anything. People do.” Dan Kennedy
“If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.” Yogi Berra
“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” Henry Ford
“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Peter Drucker, Management Thinker & Author
“Do or do not, there is no try.” Yoda
“Rules enable one to follow. Knowledge enables one to lead.” David Brier
“If you ever have the good fortune to create a great
advertising campaign, you will soon see another agency steal it. This
is irritating, but don’t let it worry you; nobody has ever built a
brand by imitating somebody else’s advertising.”
David Ogilvy

“I think the most important CEO task is defining the
course that the business will take over the next five or so years. You
have to have the ability to see what the business environment might be
like a long way out, not just over the coming months. You need to be
able to both set a broad direction, and also to take particular
decisions along the way that make that broad direction unfold
Chris Corrigan, Famous Australian Businessman
“Fear is a reaction. Courage is a decision.” Winston Churchill
“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein

David Brier, Chief Gravity Defyer at DBD
International, is the recipient of over 300 industry awards creating
brands for such company’s as Estee Lauder, Revlon, New York City
Ballet, Legacy
Chocolates, Sunbelt Software and many more.

Award-winning and result-driven examples can be seen at and a side-by-side comparison of before-and after-client identites can be seen at

Want one the country’s leading designers of identites and more? His talent can be yours. Contact


About the author

Brand identity expert, veteran designer, author, speaker and Fast Company expert blogger. Shark Tank investor and CEO of fashion brand Fubu, Daymond John states, "David Brier is brilliant with branding." He’s been written about in, INC and Fortune Small Business. In addition to being a branding specialist and a Fast Company expert blogger, David's Slideshare presentations on branding have exceeded the 500,000 view milestone (a founding member of Slideshare's Half-a-Million Views Club) and is the 1st place winner in the 2013 Shorty Awards (known industry-wide as “The Oscars for Social Media”) for branding