Online Marketing

Be a Business Gandhi: How a Civil Rights Activist Can Improve Your Branding

You’ve probably heard of a guy called Mahatma Gandhi. This Indian activist rose to fame in the 1940s for popularizing civil disobedience. But he didn’t fight for his cause with guns or steel. He chose the opposite action. Gandhi simply sat, refused to move or refused to eat.

At the time, his actions were revolutionary. He helped to drive out colonialism in India, for Pete’s sake! Gandhi asserted his beliefs and followed through with action tied to those beliefs.

Gandhi was actually kind of a badass who showed us the meaning of disruption.

Entrepreneurs also have to embrace the art of disruption. We’re trying to affect big change in the world. And like Gandhi, we can’t use force, either. The best thing you can do as a business owner is embrace what makes your brand so unique: you.

So what can we learn about branding from good old Gandhi?

The power of branding

What do you think of when you see a guy like Gandhi? Words like “peace” or “change” might pop into your head. Those words come to mind for a reason. Gandhi didn’t intend to build a brand, but he ended up creating a lasting legacy. Over time, he built a loyal following of millions across the world.

Why? Because branding is powerful.

You have the opportunity to become your tribe’s superhero. Strong branding tied with a strong message will elevate your message.

Branding matters. Your potential clients will forget you in a second if you aren’t branded from top to bottom. But you don’t have to be a huge brand to get noticed. You can be small and intimate and still deliver a great experience. No matter your size, you can’t skip out on branding.

The future of all business is branding. And clients have so many options to choose from these days. Anyone can start a business and compete with you!

Strong branding helps you stay relevant, both now and in the future. You have to build a brand to pass the gut test. In other words: do clients trust you enough to join your tribe? Branding helps you pass the test.

Service-based businesses lose 80 percent of potential customers in the sales phase. Reverse this trend by taking a page out of Gandhi’s book. Create disruptive messaging that cuts through the clutter and builds trust.

Create disruptive messaging

Disruption isn’t about being loud or obnoxious. Disruption requires you to build a mission to change the world while being true to who you are as an entrepreneur.

Your business can’t just be a vehicle for money. Use the business as a platform to affect real change. In the process, you’ll build a strong brand and a loyal following of satisfied customers.

There are three ways you can use disruptive branding to transform your business.

1. Big picture, little details

By the early 1900s, Indians were fed up with British colonialism. Years of riots and violence tore the country apart. Gandhi recognized his movement had to be different. He couldn’t settle for rehashing what everyone else did and said.

And this was the key to his genius branding strategy.

In today’s 24/7 world, you can’t skate by just with awesome content … although you do need awesome content! You also have to embrace the details, both big and small.

Brands must create great meaning. How? By going beyond the transactional nature of your business and forging a real connection in your niche.

The little details can make or break your branding, too. Gandhi never wavered in his commitment to civil disobedience. In the same way, you can’t waver in your brand story. Consistency’s the name of the game. Your materials should have consistent branding, content and storytelling, no matter where your audience finds you.

Little details help you build a deeper connection with your tribe. More often than not, these details take little time but grow intimacy quickly. So reply to emails promptly, start conversations in your private Facebook group or get face time with your followers.

In the Age of Intimacy, you’ll build genuine, heart-to-heart relationships by embracing the little details.

2. Relinquish control

There’s one thing I really admire about Gandhi. No matter how violent or hateful others were toward him, he stayed cool. He was a master at relinquishing control.

Entrepreneurs also have to be willing to relinquish control over their brands. I don’t mean letting your business run wild, of course. I’m talking about our controlling, obsessive need to manage our brand image.

I once had my brand image in a stronghold. I was super careful about what I shared and said online. Self-editing is absolutely important, but I soon discovered my audience couldn’t connect with me.

I tried to look perfect. But perfection prevented others from connecting with my story. I couldn’t be my tribe’s hero because I wasn’t being real. So ease up on the reins. Demonstrate who you are as a person to attract tribe members with similar beliefs.

Naysayers just aren’t worth your time. Be like Gandhi, and let them go in peace. You’ve got better things to do.

3. Beliefs above all

Why is Gandhi so famous? I mean, he passed away over 70 years ago.

Gandhi’s legacy lives on because of his beliefs. His actions were divisive and revolutionary for their time. But he stood up for what was right despite difficulties, pain and even death.

I’m not saying your business mission is a hill to die on. But your branding should absolutely tie into a larger vision.

Don’t go where others have gone before. You won’t get anywhere walking down a path blazed by someone else. But I can’t tell you what your beliefs are. You’ve got to identify your convictions and tie them into your business’s mission.

Consider the essence of who you are. Your personality, values and qualities play into your beliefs and identity. Create your brand by believing in something bigger than you or your company. You’ll attract a tribe of dedicated followers who share your beliefs.

Don’t focus on the transactional nature of your business. Create a mission for real change.

Looking forward

Your business might have little in common with a twentieth-century political activist. But you can still glean important insights from revolutionary ideas of the past.

Take a page out of Gandhi’s book, and build a brand to stand the test of time.

About the Author


Marisa Murgatroyd is the founder of Live Your Message, where she turns entrepreneurs into Online Superheroes. Marisa helps entrepreneurs create a business that is authentic and aligned with who they are, to empower them to turn up the dial on their “inner superhero”, so they can be the superhero to their tribe, as well as in their own lives.

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