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LOVE YOUR BRAND

People want to commit to things that give their lives meaning, but of course people fear committing to things that will fail to return the love. Many institutions have done just that, leaving people with a lack of faith in any organization. So today, the dream seems to be of “passive income,” “the 4-hour Work Week”, the billion-dollar exit, freelancing, personal branding, trading in and out to make money.

In other words, the current popular dream is all about Freedom. Freedom from commitment. Freedom from sacrifice. Freedom from geographical limitations. Freedom from work. Freedom from want.

Yet, most people either fail to achieve this freedom and therefore exist in a dissatisfied purgatory of long hours and no love, or they achieve their detachment and feel a lack of meaningful connection in their lives. They realize they want to be part of something.

Look at it from the customer’s point of view. Do you want to do business with something that is just good enough to be easy money for the owner, or do you want to interact with something that represents a core commitment of the people who are involved? Do you want to work for someone who just wants “envelope money” or do you want to be part of something that is incredibly meaningful to the owner.

Love for one’s company strikes the post-modern ear as almost completely ridiculous, a total anachronism. Yet, I will argue that this sort of love is both more needed and more effective today than ever, and that love for company alone has separated many of the super-performing organizations of our era from the also-rans and failures that are all too common. This love that I speak of is not a “strategy” or “tactic.” It’s not an MBA lesson that can be trained into managers in some sort of executive finishing school. It represents a very real, deep, often painful level of commitment, a level of commitment that can ultimately create great success, great wealth, but much more than that, great fellowship and a great sense of significance and achievement.

Listen to Howard Schultz of Starbucks:
“One of the questions that I’ve been asked throughout the tour last couple of weeks is, “Why did you come back to Starbucks? It didn’t seem like this is something you had to do.  Or, what motivated you to come back?”  And when I answer that question it is with a word that generally is not used to describe people in business, or for that matter a word that is used in business schools, and it is ‘love.’  And the only way I can say it, is that besides from my family, there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do to preserve and enhance the company, and our relationship with our customers, our shareholders, and doing everything that I can to exceed the expectations of our own people.  But it is love and devotion, and when you love something as much as I love Starbucks, there is a great responsibility that goes with it.”

Read Steve Jobs email to Apple employees on the occasion of his second medical leave in three years from the company:
“Team,
 At my request, the board of directors has granted me a medical leave of absence so I can focus on my health. I will continue as CEO and be involved in major strategic decisions for the company.
I have asked Tim Cook to be responsible for all of Apple’s day to day operations. I have great confidence that Tim and the rest of the executive management team will do a terrific job executing the exciting plans we have in place for 2011.
I love Apple so much and hope to be back as soon as I can. In the meantime, my family and I would deeply appreciate respect for our privacy.
Steve”

I’ve begun work on a small book on this subject, tentatively titled LOVE YOUR BRAND. I welcome your input and anecdotes, and I’ll post updates here.

— Mark DiMassimo