SFR 188: Branding Comes Second – Stephen Larsen

SFR 188: Branding Comes Second

Nov 2nd, 2018 anchorwave

This is WHY I focus so little on brand for such a long time…

I’m gonna ruffle some feathers here… I’m not trying to offend anyone, but I feel so strongly about this – that if you get offended, then “Hmm… Okay!”

danger larsen rant warning


A personal branding expert reached out to me and said, “You know, Stephen, you could do a lot better if your branding was better.” I was like, “Cool. I REALLY don’t care!” Not wanting to give up they sent me another message saying, “That’s crazy. Your brand is what represents you.” So I told them…

“No! Personal branding doesn’t mean a thing to me at this stage in my business. My products represent me. My stories represent me. My podcast represents me. My branding does not.”

Branding comes second to real value.

Remember those 17 failed attempts before I finally managed to get a business to succeed? Well, before I knew what I was doing, I’d spend 2 or 3 days looking at logos trying to figure out which best represented the company when I should have been freakin’ focusing on, “How do I sell the thing?”

There was always a moment in creating business plans where it was like “Crap! What represents my idea? We need a logo. What’s our slogan? What’s our mission statement?” And we would spend so much time on those things that it actually ended up being a distraction.

brand marketing

I guess I had to learn that lesson the hard way.

If you look at the Top 100 best converting ClickFunnels, for the most part, they’re butt-ugly. Design wise, 95% of those funnels should put a bucket over their heads – they’re absolutely NOT design pretty… BUT that’s not stopping them from racking in the dough.

The importance of branding and brand marketing is often overrated

People act like branding’s the lock-gate to making money. It’s not! And it’s not the reason people aren’t buying from you either.


There have been multiple times where I’ve seen people who have these beautiful personal brands… And I can’t figure out “what the heck they sell?”

When you start diving deeply, often you find out they don’t even have a product yet, but they’ve spent five thousand dollars hiring a great designer to make them look awesome.

Brand marketing is often a lot of smoke and mirrors.

brand value

The reason I wage a war against branding is because it doesn’t matter for a long time. It really doesn’t.

There are only 3 or 4 logos that I’ve ever had professionally created. But I don’t even think about that stuff until there’s cash raining.

Does branding matter? Yes. But not for a long time.

My podcast has been running for over 2 years, and I only recently got the branded backdrops to make it look swish. I’ve just added the sweet intros and outros, and my website has recently had a makeover – none of this has stopped me growing an audience and making an impact.

So when someone says, “Oh, man, you could design that page better.” I’m like, “You know what? This page gets 65% opt-in rate. I don’t really care to touch it.” I know that it’s NOT because of how it looks that it’s converting.

This is not a personal attack, but marketing is NOT branding.

Marketing is the act of changing beliefs with the intent of causing a purchase to happen.

You’re changing someone’s beliefs with the intent for them to make a purchase. Branding is NOT marketing. Facebook ads are NOT marketing. They can both be part of marketing, but they’re NOT marketing.

When I’m building a page, I make the layout, so it’s easy to read the text – so you can consume the sales message – BUT it doesn’t have anything much to do with colors and branding.

importance of branding

When I take my eye off this definition of marketing, and I start looking at things like branding – that’s when my money usually starts to decrease.


It’s interesting how many times the issue of branding comes up on Shark Tank. I love watching Shark Tank.

I remember there was a lady who had a product with a beautiful display and a slogan all worked out. It looked fantastic. But when they ask the dreaded question, “Now, tell us what your numbers are?” Her face dropped, and she said, “Well, we just started this 3 months ago.” You see the sharks face’s change, and it’s like, “Oh, crap!”

but I had such a good logo

I’m sure they add those people just for the drama. They never invest in them – and why should they? Because their products not worth anything yet.

Often you’ll hear brand new entrepreneurs defend their products, and it often comes back to things like, “Well, we’ve got a great logo. We got a great color scheme…


I’ve been geeking out on an author called Christopher Lochhead, who says’ “Quite bluntly, branding in the absence of category creation is bs.”

Branding comes after category creation.

Categories make brands.

If you don’t have a freaking business, why would you spend money on creating a brand?

you need to create a niche

In the book Expert Secrets, it says that the idea is not to choose a niche, but to create a niche. Another word for a niche is “market” or “category.”

Go create a market that doesn’t exist. Go create a category that’s never existed before. Come up with a category that truly is unique. Then the way you move people from the Red Ocean to that new category is by creating what I’ve called the purple offer.

Don’t become a brand, become a category.

purple ocean

You take proven elements from the Red Ocean so there’s a sense of security for them (and you), but then you lace in the ideas from the category that’s never existed before.

It’s foolish to compete in your market merely with a lower price or your brand.

Next, you focus on the sales message and the offer creation:

  • Do you have a sales message that’s compelling?
  • Do you have an offer that over-delivers both to the customer and your wallet?

When you have a good offer, you don’t have to compete on price.

When the sales message and the offer are confirmed by the fact that you have cash is coming in, then you can do all the funnel tweaks and make sure you have sustainable traffic.

After this, then it’s time to think about a little rebrand or branding itself.

Let’s go back to Shark Tank for a moment…

shark tank

On one episode, there were these mechanical engineers or something like that. They were extremely smart. I think they had their Masters or Ph.D.

Anyway, they’d found a way to use machine lasering to create these breathtaking 3D pop-up cards. People were like, “Why did you get that much education to create a card company?” ?

The cards were incredibly intricate and needed a lot of math to create them.

I think the company’s called Pop Cards. I got one for my wife for her birthday – they’re super cool.

The reason they’re so popular and such a big deal is because they’ve created a category of cards that’s never existed before. They’re the owners of that category. Now, they can focus on the branding.


brand marketing orange

The category comes first and then the branding.

Here’s the order I like to approach branding in:

  1. Red Ocean niche = Greeting cards.
  2. Purple Ocean = Intricate laser cut greetings cards.
  3. Work out how to get people to pay for your product = Offer Creation + Sales Message.
  4. Get money coming in consistently
  5. Brand.

When you have hot traffic and follow-up sales, then branding can start to matter more. Absolutely. People want that kind of professional feel. They want to know that the product was created with intent – that it’s not haphazard.

But when it comes down to a lot of your front-end stuff, it really doesn’t matter.

That’s why I didn’t upgrade my podcast – because it didn’t matter for a long time.


  • Categories make brands.
  • Branding in the absence of category creation and in the absence of niche or market creation is bs.
  • Branding is NOT the reason why products convert.

That’s the reason why when somebody asks, “What should my logo be?” I’m like, “I don’t freakin’ care.”

I’m not trying to throw rocks, but I don’t really care if some people take offense at this because this topic means a lot to me.

Until Next Time – Keep Creating That Category!

Hey, many of you don’t actually know that I made my first money online as an affiliate marketer. If you want to know how I funded my entire company without using any of my own money EVER, you can learn to do the same for FREE at

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