Humans, for thousands of years, have brought mythic creatures to life in stories, songs, and art. From the brawny Sasquatch to the soaring Phoenix, the powerful dragon to the enchanting mermaid – these stories have become part of our shared human consciousness. What is it about these mythic creatures that thrills us, frightens us, and transfixes us? Their origin.

Do you remember the Chupacabra? It turns out that chupacabras are simply wild dogs inflicted with a deadly form of mange. Not the bloodthirsty, vicious, fanged mythic creatures ravaging Mexican livestock. Understanding the origin takes all of the mystery out it, right?

In the same way and for far too many entrepreneurs, the concept of ‘brand’ has reached the designation of mythic creature – an elusive and paralyzing force in their business. For many, brand development is a prospect that thrills, frightens and transfixes. The mystery about brand is real and extremely alarming.

If you feel like developing your brand is as elusive as a Sasquatch…keep reading.

Brand Origin Myths

Brand development typically grows into myth as a result of a fundamental misunderstanding of the origin of your brand. This misunderstanding allows you to make the mental jump to equating your brand with mystery and shrouds it’s development in obscurity.

Here are some, sadly, all too common brand origin myths I’ve heard in my work with entrepreneurs:

The Product Myth: A good product creates a good brand. My product and my brand are one in the same. If I just work on creating the best product, I’ll have the best brand.

The Lottery Myth: You have to win the branding lottery in order have a great brand. Sometimes you’re lucky, sometimes you’re not. The chips will fall where they may.

The Appeal Myth: If I have appeal, I have a brand. Brand is used for creating appeal. Brand is the outward facing portion of my business…that’s all.

The Identity System Myth: When I get my logo, packaging, business cards, letterhead and website done, I’ll have my brand.

The Right of Passage Myth: Brand development is for when my business “grows up.” Right now, it doesn’t matter. I’ll deal with my brand when my startup grows up.

The Silo Myth: Branding is just part of my advertising strategy and lives in my marketing silo. Brand isn’t interconnected, its just a marketing strategy. My marketing team will take care of it.

The PR Myth: Branding and PR are one in the same. I’ll hire the best PR agency to create my brand.

The Expert Myth: I’ll outsource my brand to a branding firm. They’ll do their magic and present my brand to me. They’re the experts, right?

The Creativity Myth: Creativity is the most important thing in developing my brand, and I’m just not that creative. I can’t add any value to the brand development process, I’m the ___[insert description]____ (engineer, MBA, numbers guy, sales gal, etc.).

The Control Myth: I define my brand. My brand is what I say it is and will be received in the market as I envision it to be.

The Clandestine Myth: My brand is a secret I’ll only tell once I’m ready. It doesn’t exist until I utter it into existence.

The Democratic Myth: My brand will be defined by the market and what’s popular there. I’ll roll with what people think my brand is.

The Emulation Myth: My brand has to resemble my competition or the company I hope to become. If I want to be taken seriously, my brand should emulate those that came before me or those that are successful.

The Disposal Myth: I’ll just keep changing my brand until something ‘clicks.’ Brands are disposable, what really matters is what I’m making.

The Seclusion Myth: Each product I launch will have a secluded brand. Branding is just what I name my products.

The Biggest Myth of All Time: My graphic designer / web designer will create my brand. After all, it does say, “branding” on their website.

…I’m sure there are loads more. What have you heard?

The Brand ‘Hunt’

Each of the 16 myths outlined above have one thing in common. They assume that your brand is knowable and finite. Brand development, then, is just a matter of tracking down an already existing entity. Conventional branding even tells us that there is a process to this ‘brand hunt.’ If we follow a certain path, that path will lead us to the lair where our brand has been hiding all along.

This mindset only works to mystify the concept of brand and limits the potential of what your brand can become. If brand development is equitable to the hunt for Bigfoot, it’s only natural that we would be terrified, mesmerized and paralyzed by the prospect of locating our true brand. If any of these myths have become truth for you, it’s time to demystify your brand.

Demystify Your Brand

The truth is, your brand’s origin is relatively straightforward and best understood in a single word: discovery.

Brand development is about discovering the whyWhy you exist. Why you matter. Why you are emotionally valuable to people. It’s as simple as that. Discovery is different from knowledge because there is no predetermined destination, no process, and no ‘brand hunt.’ Instead it’s about where the discovery leads you and what you learn along the way.

For startups to discover the why, brand development has to be continualearlyinclusive, transparent, and relational. Run from anything and anyone that tells you otherwise.

Don’t allow your brand to grow to mystical proportions. Jump in and start your discovery. Hypothesize, experiment and validate your brand development. Learn from your discoveries and iterate on your brand. Get in front of your customers and absorb what you can from them. Get in and get your hands dirty.

Discovery allows you to demystify your brand, and in turn, create real value in the marketplace. If you’re interested, you can check out the brand framework we talked about last week here. It may useful as a way of shirking off the mystery about your brand development.