Anonymous Distributor

Have you ever written an obituary for your company or brand? I didn’t think so. Continue reading to learn the business reasons Denise Lee Yohn thinks you should.

In her recent Harvard Business Review ( blog, Yohn asked if your company or brand ceased to exist, would anyone care? She went on to ask, “Would journalists write headlines heralding your past achievements, or would their stories simply add you to a list of bygones? Would analysts express disappointment, or would they point to indicators that made your death predictable? Would employees wonder how it could have ended, or would they have known it was inevitable? Would customers mourn your passing, or would the demise of your brand go unnoticed?”

Yohn suggests an exercise for you to do that will help bring clarity to what people perceive is the “essence of your brand or business.” She says, “Think of your brand as though it were a person — the type of person the brand would be if it came to life today and was executing all that the brand entails with consistent excellence.” Then, “pretend you are a reporter for a local newspaper who must write an obituary for this person, your brand, who just passed away today.”

Here are some questions she says you must answer in this obituary: “What was the person’s (brand’s) biggest accomplishment in life? What will it be remembered for? Who did the brand leave behind? What did the brand leave unaccomplished? Who will mourn or miss the brand, and why? What lessons can be learned from the brand’s life? What can be learned in the wake of its death? Now that the brand is gone, what will take its place?”

“Once you’ve completed the column,” says Yohn, “write a headline to capture the essence of the obituary — that headline, in turn, often captures the essence of your brand.”

“How do you build the kind of brand that would be missed? How do you carve out such a distinctive position and create such a powerful emotional connection (with your customers)?” adds Yohn. “You drill down to the core of your existence to identify the essential enduring value of your brand — and then you design and run your business to execute relentlessly on that core brand essence. When what you stand for is clearly expressed and delivered in everything you do, every day, you (will) make an indelible mark on people’s hearts and minds.”

Knowing what you, your business and your brand stand for and delivering that essence of excellence every day will touch your customers in a way that will bring them back to your business, time and time again.


Shane Parrish, in his excellent Farnam Street blog (, tells a story about “The Man Who Never Quit.” You may have heard it in the past, but it’s worth hearing again. It is an amazing story and true.

When he was 7 years old, this young boy’s family was forced out of their home and off their farm. Like other boys his age, he was expected to work to help support the family.

When he was 9, his mother died.

At the age of 22, the company he worked for went bankrupt, and he lost his job.

At 23, he ran for state legislature in a field of 13 candidates. He came in eighth.

At 24, he borrowed money to start a business with a friend. By the end of the year, the business failed. The local sheriff seized his possessions to pay off his debt. His partner soon died, penniless, and he assumed his partner’s share of debt as well. He spent the next several years of his life paying it off.

At 25, he ran for state legislature again. This time, he won.

At 26, he was engaged to be married. But his fiancée died before the wedding. The next year, he plunged into a depression and suffered a nervous breakdown.

At 29, he sought to become the speaker of the state legislature. He was defeated.

At 34, he campaigned for a U.S. congressional seat, representing his district. He lost.

At 35, he ran for Congress again. This time, he won. He went to Washington and did a good job.

At 39, when his term ended, he was out of a job again. There was a one-term-limit rule in his party.

At 40, he tried to get a job as commissioner of the General Land Office. He was rejected.

At 45, he campaigned for the U.S. Senate, representing his state. He lost by six electoral votes.

At 47, he was one of the contenders for the vice-presidential nomination at his party’s national convention. He lost.

At 49, he ran for the same U.S. Senate seat a second time. And for the second time, he lost.

Two years later, at the age of 51, after a lifetime of failure, disappointment and loss (and still relatively unknown outside of his home state of Illinois), Abraham Lincoln was elected the 16th president of the United States.

The next time you consider giving up when faced with setback, consider this story. Imagine how the world would be different today if Lincoln gave up after his first setback…or his second…or his 10th?


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