BREW keynote speaker Ryan Holiday reveals how to build a lasting brand

The Business Report

The brands that have stood the test of time are still so relevant today that you may forget just how old they are.

Think of WD-40, which was created in 1964, or the book What to Expect When You’re Expecting, published in 1984. Here in Baton Rouge, call to mind Louie’s Cafe or Chicken Shack, both of which were founded more than 75 years ago.

Brands like these are timeless and form the premise of Perennial Seller by marketing guru and best-selling author Ryan Holiday, who delivered a keynote address Wednesday evening at Baton Rouge Entrepreneurship Week. The book explores why some business ideas achieve longevity and others perish after initial success.

“I’m fascinated by things that last,” Holiday said. “Once something becomes a classic, it remains a classic. We’re never going to suddenly stop reading Harry Potter or assigning To Kill a Mockingbird in school, or quoting the Bible.”

Speaking to an audience of more than 100 at the Manship Theatre, Holiday said creating a product that lasts, first and foremost, takes work. If you’re doing it for fun, you probably won’t make it.

“Wanting to do it is not nearly enough,” Holiday said. “Passion dissipates when it starts to get hard.”

Lasting brands should also have a three essential qualities: uniqueness, timeliness and effectiveness. Don’t look at competition as validation of an idea—if others are doing it, that means profits are already taken. Instead, try something no one else has. Holiday quoted the law of leadership, which says, “It’s better to be first than it is to be better.” There’s also opportunity to create a category within a market. Look at Curves, he says, a successful gym that caters to older women.

Timelessness is found in things that don’t change. Online retail giant Amazon was built on the fact that people like things that are cheap and fast, Holiday says. That won’t change. Trendy products, like fidget spinners, will change and often don’t last.

Finally, a product or business must be effective, which means it must do a job. Holiday referenced his Red Wing boots, which he’s had for years simply because he believes they’re great shoes. All timeless brands serve a purpose for some group.

“Even creative expressions, a book or song, has to do a job for someone,” he said.

After establishing a brand, the next steps are marketing, creating a fan base and giving it time to achieve lasting success, Holiday said. The best way to market a product is to get people to use it. Give it away or offer a discount. If it’s worthy of attention, people will spread the word. Holiday gave his books to professional athletes who promoted them.

Then you cultivate a community of loyal fans. Holiday’s favorite band, Iron Maiden, has developed a tribe-like following. That fan base has driven their success, and they don’t care about anyone outside of that.

“Your fanbase is everything. You have to love and respect it,” Holiday says. “A loyal audience is something that can never be taken from you.”

BREW, which kicked off Tuesday, wraps up today with panel discussions on search engine optimization, press coverage, productivity and fundraising. The final BREW event takes place tonight with the final PitchBR event, featuring SellSwipe, The Healing Sole and Aqua Pak.

Check back with Daily Report PM for more coverage on BREW. See the full schedule of remaining events.

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