Branding Tips From Benjamin Franklin

Ben FranklinThe other day I wrote a blog post about Leonardo da Vinci, highlighting a few of his eccentricities, accomplishments, and work ethic. So, the American in me asked, why not skip ahead to our nation’s favorite renaissance man, Benjamin Franklin? Though Franklin didn’t have a “brand” in the Warholian sense, he definitely had a way of doing things that’s still applicable to today’s Internet Era.

Check out these four facts (whose truth I won’t necessarily vouch for) about the Patron Saint of Advertising…

#1 Franklin knew how to control the public’s perception of him.

This little article from PBS tells two anecdotes about Franklin:

  • Franklin made a point of being at his print shop early in the morning and late at night with the belief that people would notice his hard work and equate it with “good work.”
  • While serving as America’s first Minister to France, Franklin would wear a fur cap, which the Parisians perceived as simple and backwoods. Though he was one of the most cunning and sophisticated diplomats, Franklin wore the cap to keep the simple, down-to-earth image (which helped him get his way).

Ben Franklin knew how to get people to like him. He also knew exactly how he was perceived, and was a master at controlling that perception. How is your brand perceived? What are you doing to control that perception?

#2 Franklin was always printing.

Franklin got into the printing industry at the age of 12 when he became an apprentice to his brother James. Three years later, Ben Franklin founded The New-England Courant. From that time on, up until his death at 84, he was never without a printing press.

Franklin was constantly producing and distributing work, for himself and for others. You could say that he’s the closest thing the 18th century ever had to a blogger. If it could be done over 200 years ago, why isn’t your brand implementing a content strategy?

#3 Franklin created terminology as the need arose.

According to my trusty bank of Ben Franklin facts, Franklin created at least 25 terms/definitions related to electricity as he went through the scientific process of discovering it. Those early terms, which are still used in discussing electricity today, include battery, charged, positively, and negatively.

Your brand could be doing things that no one has ever done before. Why limit yourself to the pre-existing terminology? If new terms are needed to tell your brand’s story, create them. If you want to build a brand, you might have to create the building blocks first.

#4 Franklin was a chronic inventor and “value-adder.”

If you read a lot about branding and content marketing (which I assume you do), then you, no doubt, come across this phrase a lot: add value to your brand by ______. “Adding value” is something we all talk about, but the conversation usually lacks clear terms. Well, look at it through the lens of Franklin…

Franklin invented a number of devices that are still in use today, including the rocking chair and a mechanical arm for reaching books on high shelves (which many grocery stores use). Plus, and perhaps even more importantly, Franklin constantly added value to his community with his inventions and ideas.

For example: he organized the first fire insurance company and the first volunteer fire company. He also founded the first hospital in America; its unique design emphasized the importance of ventilation, thereby reducing the risk of disease spreading.

What does your brand do to add value to the community? Are you producing content just for the sake of content, or do you produce content that results in real change?

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Ben Richardson is a writer based in Nashville, TN. While he loves writing on a variety of subjects, he's our go-to on all things related to branding and the creative aspects of content marketing. Follow him on Twitter!

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