The driver’s side of branding

Have you ever been inspired by someone’s random interpretation of life?

I used to work with a woman who couldn’t remember her left from her right.  I’m not kidding.  She told me her workaround was thinking of life in general as either “driver’s side” or “passenger side.” 

At any rate, we were having a staff meeting one afternoon.  We were discussing strategy for a client and the different channels they could use to tell their story and engage their various audiences.   We went to the white board, and started making some lists.

On the left, we listed out a series of things that a business or a brand can control, such as a company website, a blog, events, retail presence, its visual identity, its employees’ uniforms, etc. This was the brand’s owned channels.

On the right hand side of the board, we listed parts of a brand that the company can influence. That contained things like purchased media, earned media coverage, comments on a public forum – that kind of thing.  These were channels owned by someone else.

About mid-way through this brainstorming discussion, the aforementioned colleague commented on something I’d written on the board.  I wasn’t sure which list she was talking about.  I teased her asking if it was the list on the right or left—she smiled and took it in stride.  Then, she suddenly pointed and exclaimed, “That one.  The driver’s side of the brand!”

I believe the area where Forte has the most impact is on the “driver’s side” of the brand.  To be honest, the notion of helping a client develop and deliver their brand is the most exciting part of what we do—it’s the most valuable thing we do. And to today’s empowered consumer, the driver side of the brand has the most credibility.

What the brand says in its own channels matters more than its advertising or even third party proof.  This focus wakes me up totally motivated every morning.

And that phrase – “the driver’s side of the brand” has stuck with me ever since. Hopefully now it will stick with you.

Jamie Warren is the President of The Forte Marketing Group, a branding agency in Birmingham, Alabama. Check out more of Jamie’s “Braver Branding” series at