How to Turn Your Brand into a Badge

After wearing a nametag twenty-four seven for a decade, my badge became a brand.


The only problem is, you don’t wear a nametag. And you don’t have ten years.

Fortunately, if your story can play an enduring role in people’s lives, it’s no longer a brand – it’s a badge.

And if you want the people who matter most to wear it proud, wear it loud and wear it forever, consider these suggestions:1. Let people into the moment. Advertising is the tax you pay for being average. The only unit of marketing that matters is human engagement. Ever. Everything else is bothering people into buying you by killing trees. And engagement isn’t just a transaction, either – it’s an ongoing process.

Consider these key elements:

First, open a direct channel to your customers. That gives them an opportunity to engage. How many different ways can people contact you?

Second, build a platform for their voices to be heard. That taps into their creative flair. How are you making it easy for people to express themselves?

Third, leave your door unlocked in perpetuity. That gives people permission to reengage over and over again. What’s your policy for treating repeat business?

The point is, engaging in an ongoing daily conversation isn’t just an opportunity – it’s a responsibility. And if your brand doesn’t induce participation, your bank account will endure devaluation. How do you invite people to participate in your brand?

2. Fulfill the need of materialization. Human beings possess an inherent desire to materialize their love and admiration for people and things that are essential to their lives. That’s why they get tattoos of their spouse’s names, stand in line to get celebrity autographs, frame pictures of their pets and embed badges of their favorite companies on their website.

This proves one thing: Joinability is a function of ownability. Which brings up a key question: How can your brand create tangible, ownable assets that you people will regularly and enthusiastically show to their friends?

For example, Maker’s Mark distributes Ambassador Cards to their most dedicated patrons. Nike stores laminate digital headshots and print them on lanyard badges. And both of these engagement tools work because they don’t interrupt and disturb customers; rather, they weave their brand communication into people’s existing social fabric.

Remember: You can’t ignore something if you feel like you’re a part of the action. Make people virtual participants in the scene and your film will rock. Are you helping people with what they’re already doing or artificially squeezing yourself into their already overcrowded lives?

3. Design is your friend. Instead of spewing endless commodities that get trashed after one functional use, joinable brands turn their engagement tools into cool, keepable design items. They create marketing that people seek out and are thankful for.

Take my client, Dennis. He works for the Division of Waste Management in Hamilton, Ontario. And as a way to educate, engage and entertain the residents, his team put together a pocket-sized book of cartoons on recycling and composting. It’s lovable, it’s helpful and it’s a value-driven promotional tool to build awareness around his organization’s brand. Not to mention, the book makes waste management cool.

All because Dennis knew: Design isn’t just about aesthetics – it’s about utility. And customers always engage when you give them something useful. On the other hand, the moment you stop adding value to people’s lives is the moment your brand starts losing momentum.

Look: People don’t need another free pen. They need something beautiful they can play with, show off to their friends and keep in the office for the next five years. How quickly is your marketing stored in people’s circular file cabinets?

4. Build emotional resonance. We all build brands for the same reason: To close the gap between how the world is, and how we wish it was. The trick is, it’s not enough to contend for people’s attention – you also have to compete for their emotions. And if you fail to dig deep down into the human psyche to retrieve them, your brand will be ignored.

Take a tip from Tom Himp, founder of Naked Communications. In his book, Next, he revealed the commonalities of the world’s most successful marketing movements. Here’s my personal favorite:

“Pull the heartstrings of the lowest common emotional denominator. Speak to something innate in people and broaden their awareness of a situation they assumed they were immune from.”

I immediately think of Al Gore. After losing the presidential election, he traveled the world for three years showing people that climate change was real and relevant. Not only did he win a Nobel Prize, but his presentation also launched a global movement that combined charity, multimedia and advocacy via his online social community.

All because the emotional resonance of his brand reverberated through people’s hearts. How would your brand change if you stopped making commercials and started fighting a crusade?

REMEMBER: Your story needs to play a long-term role in people’s lives.

That means people need to wear it proudly.
That means people need to brag about it loudly.

Because when they do, it’s no longer a brand – it’s a badge.

What is your branding becoming?

For the list called, “14 Things You Don’t Have to Do Anymore,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

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Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Publisher, Artist, Mentor

Never the same speech twice.

Now booking for 2011-2012!

Watch The Nametag Guy in action here!


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Author. Speaker. Strategist. Songwriter. Filmmaker. Inventor. Gameshow Host. World Record Holder. I also wear a nametag 24-7. Even to bed.
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