Is Your Brand Intentional or Unintentional?

by Mark Levy

In my last post, “Make Your Elevator Speech Distinctive,” I said I’ve become known as “the guy who helps his clients raise their fees by up to 2,000%.” That’s true. People refer to me as the 2,000% guy all the time.

It’s important to note, though, that my 2,000% “brand” or “promise” had to be invented. That is, I had to dig through my projects and study the facts, after which I discovered this result I’d been producing but hadn’t been advertising. If I hadn’t dug, the market wasn’t going to come up with that fee-raising benefit on its own.

You could call my 2,000% moniker a feat of intentional branding. I manufactured it, and pushed it out there through my materials, networking, workshops, and speeches.

At times, though, I’m not sure we have to work so hard coming up  with a brand. Sometimes a brand finds us. Call it unintentional branding. I have a story about that kind of branding, too.

I wrote the first edition of my problem-solving book, “Accidental Genius,” ten years ago. At the time, I was 37 years old, and let me tell you: For the first 37 years of my life, no one ever called me a genius. Not once. Enthusiastic, yes. Creative, yes. Funny, yes. A genius? No.

When “Accidental Genius” was released, that changed. Suddenly, people were calling me a genius right and left. Since the book came out, I must have been called by that name five hundred times.

Understand, I’m not knocking it. Every time I’m called a genius, I’m grateful. But here’s the thing: In the ten years since that book came out, I’m no smarter than I was the previous 37. If anything, I’m not as bright as I once was.

The word, though, became associated with me through repetition. 25,000 copies of my book were sold with my name and the word genius on the cover. I gave speeches where I talked about ways of accessing your genius. I did dozens of interviews where I talked about how people could have “a genius moment.” The association was unintentional, but it stuck.

My questions to you, then are these:

  • What happy branding accidents have happened in your career?
  • How have you been tagged by your audience in ways you didn’t expect?
  • Is there a brand growing around you that you’ve been ignoring or resisting?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark Levy

You couldn’t have picked a better name, Bob. When you have people smile and comment in causal conversation, you know your brand is one that hits them naturally. They’re not talking about it out of duty. They’re talking about it because it’s fun and evocative. You’re adding to their conversation.

By the way everyone, I think Bob does great work. If you like the way this blog looks, he designed it.


Bob von Elgg

Our graphic design firm name, Bigfish Smallpond, always attracts comments, even from customer service staff when we conduct our general business tasks such as banking, paying utilities, tech support, etc. When we pay for a meal with our company card, we often get a remark and a smile from the wait staff.

The mental image that the name conjures up for people is one element of its attraction, but I also believe it is the phonetic quality of the name as it rolls off the tongue. There is a rhythm to it, and it is also a familiar expression for success: the big fish in the small pond.

I didn’t really expect so much attention on the name itself, but it’s working on a daily basis for us. Once in a while however we get a call for a fish pond design.


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