In today’s short-term economy, long-term success stories are increasingly hard to find. Brands that endure are becoming a scarce resource. In fact the average lifespan of a company listed on the Standard and Poor’s 500 is just 15 years.
Legacy in the Making: Building a Long-Term Brand to Stand out in a Short-Term World by Mark Miller and Lucas Conley is about a new kind of legacy. Miller established The Legacy Lab in 2012 to research pioneering brands. The goal was to find out what it takes to create, nurture, and sustain brands that last.
The researchers soon discovered two traps that many companies fell into: one – repeating the past, and two – reviling it. The brands that repeat the past are simply playing it safe, explain the authors, whereas those that revile the past generally view it as an obstacle to the future. Both approaches are myopic, because they “mismanage the past, either clinging to it too closely, or rejecting it outright.”
After six years of research across 20 countries, The Legacy Lab found that the best short-term strategy is a long-term one.
Traditional legacy, explain the authors, is about telling the same old story, a caretaker of the past.
Modern legacy builders, by contrast, add to the brand story every day, inspiring others to carry their brands forward. What they share in common is a cohesive mindset – a dynamic, visionary worldview suited to a rapidly evolving economy.
Along the way, the team discovered:
- The five guiding principles of legacy building and how to apply them
- The methods of modern legacy thinkers who are transforming business as we know it
- How to drive your long-term ambitions in a world paralyzed by short-term thinking
Let’s begin by looking at the five guiding principles of legacy building. Each of the five involves a shift in mindset:
- From following institutional practices to leading with personal ambitions
- From attitudinal posturing to behaving your beliefs
- From commanding and controlling customers to influencing social movements
- From obeying orthodox boundaries to pioneering unconventional solutions
- From episodic innovation to perpetual adaptation
The authors dig deep into these five shifts, and provide insights into how they guide legacy makers in their ceaseless quest for better. For example, leaders with the modern legacy mindset invest in individuals who are seeking to make a meaningful contribution. By contrast, nearsighted leaders buy into management systems and institutional processes with the goal of following market trends. Obstacles are viewed as opportunities.
One very interesting observation was that legacy builders gauged their reason for being. The authors serve up the example of Brent Bushnell of Two Bit Circus, who found his sweet spot using the Japanese concept of Ikigai:
For Bushnell, the traditional western societal view was a choice – either you choose to make a buck, or your choose to make a difference. Ikigai requires four aspects:
- doing what you love
- doing what you’re good at
- doing what you can be paid for
- doing what the world needs.
The book is simply a delight to read and more importantly, it serves as a guide to creating meaningful work. It truly is a handbook for building a lasting brand. The 21 interviews in the book are important lessons for those that seek to build iconic brands.
Jenny Cheung is a freelance marketer and project manager based in Texas.