When my grandmother passed away recently she was 103—she missed 104 by only a few short weeks. She lived an extraordinarily full (and long) life. When we celebrated her life and legacy there were tears, laughter and joy at her funeral.

Of course, my grandmother taught me tons about life. She was the matriarch of our family and always offered unconditional love to those around her. Even though she was a proud and long time member of Bossier Federal Credit Union, we never once talked about branding. Since she was raised on a farm, picked cotton as a kid and lived in the south our conversations were more about picking purple hull peas, making homemade biscuits and gardening the perfect vegetables.

But the truth is, Grandma Arnold’s legacy demonstrates several branding principles. Here are three branding lessons my grandma’s life taught me about branding:

  • Build your brand on love—My grandmother lived a very simple life. But that simple life was built on love. She loved everyone with which she came in contact. It’s the same with our brands. Herb Kelleher, the founder of Southwest Airlines, once famously said, “if you love everybody and have fun doing it, you’ll make so much money you won’t know how to spend it all.” Saatchi and Saatchi famously talk about lovemarks when it comes to branding. As you build your organization’s brand, don’t just do it to make money. Do it to love others.
  • Focus your brand on people—My grandmother had 35 direct descendants and came from a family of nine brothers and sisters. So family (and people) were in her genes. She didn’t just love: she loved people. It’s the same with brands today. We live in an oversaturated world of technology. Every “trend” talks about digital this and mobile that. But when it comes to branding you better make sure your messages focus on and resonate with real, live human beings. Don’t lose sight of being real and authentic with people.
  • Market your brand on stories—During my grandmother’s funeral the preacher told several stories. The one about how she wouldn’t move the seat she sat in at church after my grandfather died. The one about traveling 200 miles every October on my dad’s birthday to visit his gravesite. Branding is no different: people don’t remember your marketing messages. They remember your stories and how you make them feel. The best brands tell stories. Make sure your brand efforts involve a great deal of story telling.

I will miss my grandmother. Her warm hugs, her cackle of a laugh and her love of snuff. She taught me so much about life—and about branding.

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