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Almost every brand comes with built-in assets and liabilities. For example, an ad agency in South Carolina has the built-in liability that people do not associate South Carolina with “hip,” “smart,” “sophisticated,” or much else you might associate with your concept of ad agencies. It’s external to us, so we have to acknowledge it and go with it. It would just be too costly to try to educate people to the contrary…especially since there’s a lot of truth in most folks’ perception of South Carolina.

One built-in asset some brands have, that you can’t buy with any amount of money, is a great story. I worked for a little while on a brand of tea that was served in Buckingham Palace. Now, if you’re into traditional English tea, you just can’t beat that for a story.

I remember when Banana Republic was actually built around war surplus warehouse buyouts. I actually got a Russian Air Force Officer’s overcoat at the one on Walnut Street in Shadyside (Pittsburgh), back in the 1980s. Way to form fitting, and way to warm. But what a story!

We have some friends whose company was founded by some war heroes…yeah, like Purple Heart winners. These were some serious guys. They were mostly from an under-served minority. They did planning sessions in a public park. They refused to fail. It’s a really cool story. You just can’t buy that kind of brand asset!

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