Malcolm Gladwell is a Rebel // Reading For Rebels

fertilizerThis announcement should come as no surprise. I've heard people reference Gladwell's first book, The Tipping Point, when describing our company many times, as if to say the book validated our existence. True, we do practice what he preaches — that great brands were built on the backs of small core audiences who were the first to discover them. But I've always felt that the comparison was a bit overly simplistic. On the other hand, Gladwell's newest work, Outliers, does a much better job of summarizing Rebel's core purpose. If you listen to the interview at the end of the audio book, the author summarizes his central point: success is not self-made — it is the product of culture.

See, hip hop got it wrong: It ain't (just) where ya at; it is very much where ya from. What Outliers teaches us, besides how to fly a plane, is that you get to be successful because of your environment, and often your heritage, in addition to your own hard work.

So, what does this have to do with us? Well, I argue that this truth applies not only to individuals, but equally to brands. Building successful brands is never simply the work of a superstar CMO or award-winning agency. Brands are created by their environments: the people and conditions that will enable a brand to thrive. Our job, as we see it, is to nurture that environment.

What Mr. Gladwell understands that many marketers don't is that circumstances converge to fertilize the grounds that make success possible. This is as true for corporate brands as it is for lawyers and soccer players. I'm adding to the argument that this can be manipulated. Not only is it possible to spread "cultural fertilizer," but marketers need to see that as their primary responsibilities, above approving copy for ads that nobody's going to care about.