Is Your Brand a Legacy in the Making or a Flash in the Pan?


Miller and Conley touch the right mix of inspiration and problem-solving insights with Legacy In The Making.

If Your Brand a Legacy In the Making or a Flash in the Pan?

If you buy something through our links, we may earn money from our affiliate partners. Learn more.

We read and hear about how fast-moving society has become, thank due in part to people having online access and generating an always-on awareness. That awareness sometimes celebrates overnight success, instant gratification, and unfortunately hyperactive short-term thinking. With that environment in mind how can marketers craft messages and ideas that stick with people enough to attract a customer? Even deeper, how does a business establish the right operations for long-term….to even build a legacy?

One answer comes in the book Legacy In The Making: Building a Long-Term Brand to Stand Out In a Short-Term World by Mark Miller and Lucas Conley. The authors offer ideas and solutions for how business leaders take the right operational risks to establish their companies for the long haul. Miller and Conley offer ideas based on in-depth research and insights from leaders at venerable brands like Patagonia, Lexus, and the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

Miller is the founder of the Legacy lab and the chief strategy officer at Team One. Conley is author of obsessive branding disorder and co-author of the method method. There is also a forward by Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia.

What Is Legacy in the Making About?

Legacy in the Making offers profile of leaders from the brands examining their decisions.   The authors advocate that business legacies develop from companies that really don’t stand still in their markets, offering the same approach to services or products. The current time has evolved the properties of legacy to require more dynamic thinking.

“We are all familiar with the traditional meaning of a legacy … We see it in every leader who seeks to “cement” his or her legacy as if it were something set in stone and left behind on museum pedestal to gather dust … In contrast our lives or anything but static they evolved fluidly on a continuum.”  

Each profile shares a scenario and lessons, noting how the modern age is revising long held views.  Examining the visions of the leaders is a similar format to another book I reviewed, Jewels, which examined the leadership of African-American women.

The book include one page framework at the end of the segment to provide readers a means for discovering and managing innovation. The frameworks complement  the thoughts shared by the leaders.  The companies examined run the gamut such as Grey Goose, Taylor Guitars, The Honest Company and even the San Diego Zoo.  It’s a thoughtful mix of brands that grew from innovative practices and well established companies that have consistently sought innovation to stay ahead.

Designed with a coffee-table-book format, Legacy in the Making presents its content with a focus on color,  headline-grabbing text, and medium font that also similar to a technical book I reviewed, JavaScript and JQuery by Jon Duckett. The format lends itself to emphasizing key concepts, making it memorable for the reader.

What I Liked About Legacy in the Making

In addition to the layout, I liked the choices of including nonprofits as well as businesses with social missions within the book. I think this is important given that the widespread effusion of software and Technology have changed how businesses operate. And you can see the suggestions of what brings up Echoes made of things I’ve read and seen and in digital marketing. Take this comment about legacies and inviting outsiders to comment.

“Nearsighted brand leaders, accustomed to being in command, have been understandably hesitant to embrace the modern Legacy Builders collaborative approach to Growing spheres of influence. Inviting outsiders in –  rather than pushing influence out – represents an unprecedented shift in the ways in which brands engage their customers.”

I like the inclusion of women and leadership in some of the examples such as Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code and refounder Deb Duggan, CEO of RED. Here’s a note from Saujani’s reflection on the state of women in computer programming.

“By 2020 there will be 1.4 million jobs available in computing related fields. US graduates, however, are on track to fill only 29% of those jobs. Worse, unless something changes, only 3% of those jobs will go to women.”

The authors go on throughout the book to note how values and actions must align to solve large-picture problems and personal ambitions.

“A brand’s culture is a vehicle for its values, though it won’t drive itself. Nevertheless too many Brands treat their culture as if it were on autopilot. Although they sit out with a virtuous pledge or set of values, this rarely amounts to more than lip service.”

What Could Have Worked Differently?

At first blush the examples can seem a little too out-of-scope for some small business owners. Small business owners may not imagine how enterprises can teach a lesson fit for their business model, but they can take inspiration in how such leaders make tough decisions that make be bad for a given moment but better strategically in the long run – a situation every business owner faces.

Take this example for the Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brendon Shanahan, who fired nearly 30 people – including the head coach, various assistant coaches, team scouts and key assistants – in an effort to reorganize the sports franchise. He even admitted that the rebuilding would “suck” for a while before it would get better.

“Championship teams aren’t built in one season. They take years of planning, cooperation and diligence. It was freeing for me to say that this is what we are, this is what we are not, this is what we want to be, and this is what we’re going to try to do, he recalls of the initial press conference after the firings. And we’re not going to stop until we get there.

As he surveyed the room with the media in front of him the team on his back and fans everywhere watching one question lingered in his mind: Who has the stomach to stick with it?”

Why Read Legacy in the Making?

Many times business owners are given soft, lighthearted quotes that are meant to inspire, but offer no framework for developing a strategy around the products or idea. Miller and Conley touch the right mix of inspiration and problem-solving insights with Legacy In The MakingRead the book to see how your vision for building your company compares.

Get discounts and special offers on new and classic business books with an Audible Premium Plus membership. Learn more and sign up for an account today.


Pierre DeBois Pierre Debois is Associate Book Editor for Small Business Trends. He is the Founder of Zimana, a consultancy providing strategic analysis to small and medium sized businesses that rely on web analytics data. A Gary, Indiana native, Pierre is currently based in Brooklyn. He blogs about marketing, finance, social media, and analytics at Zimana blog.

2 Reactions
  1. You need to stand out for more than just selling products or services. You need to evoke a certain emotion or support a particular culture.

  2. More than leaving a legacy, you should focus more on how you can help other people. Focus on that and you’ll have a viable business.