Here’s my book summary for Marc Eckō’s Unlabel: Selling You Without Selling Out.
Authenticity Formula says authenticity is equal to your unique voice, multiplied by truthfulness, plus your capacity for change, multiplied by range of emotional impact, raised to the power of imagination.
Unlabel means refuse to be labeled. Takes work. Challenge yourself to escape the herd, find your own unique voice, and create your personal authentic brand.
When you unlabel, you can sell without selling out. You’ll transcend gatekeepers (haters, critics) and go right to the goalkeepers (buyers) that actually matter.
No matter your product or service, what you’re really selling is you. Deal with it.
When you have a rock-solid sense of your own personal brand, everything else will flow externally from the inside out; from your guts to the skin; from your skin to the world.
Authentic brands have a unique voice, which is a function of three variables: action, fear, and self.
Visions should start small. Too big a vision can cripple you with pressure. Think about the next 10 hours; not the next 10 years.
Belief in your idea, your product – that’s where it all starts. But then you need to prove it, too. You need to show what you’ve done in the past that makes you capable of making this a success. Then show the history, the data. Grab a calculator.
When starting out or whenever money’s tight, look for the early adopters – sites and sources less established that offer more affordable advertising.
Great brands learn how to be self-referential without being predictable, overly indulgent, or creatively lazy. They always refer back to their core values and point-of-view. Rappers are the quintessential example.
Pursue technology to create more value, more efficiency, or any other unfair advantage.
The unsexy stuff – the nuts and bolts – matter. Things like operations, supply, inventory, technology.
Great brands are nothing more than streams of connected promises that always deliver. Usually, beyond expectations.
Buy time by any means. Marc would literally smudge checks so they couldn’t be machine scanned; and the bank would have to reprocess them manually. This bought him an extra 30 days to actually get the funds so the checks wouldn’t bounce. This, in addition to maxing out any credit cards they could get their desperate little hands on. Anything to keep the dream alive.
Don’t be too butt-hurt by copycats. If someone’s willing to put the time and energy into swiping or remaking your stuff? That’s some serious validation.
Get creative and be willing to go to extremes to problem solve. After some trademark trouble, Marc legally changed his last name and the spelling of “Echo” to “Eckō.”
The early days of big businesses don’t involve some slick CEO smoking a stogie, swirling Scotch, making some ballsy, game-changing decision that explodes sales. No, the truth is often ugly and exasperating. Stress, desperation, backstabbing, bad decisions, total sh*t storms that are somehow weathered.
Inauthenticity can cost you millions. When you’re not truthful about your brand or your business – for example, saying you can produce a certain number of shirts by a certain date, then not doing it – it comes back to bite ya.
Everyone talks a good game, but what do you do? Results matter. Artful execution matters.
Know your core. Core competency. Marc had his signature gray hoodie with the red rhino – the foundational piece that sold like mad, that the rest of the collection could build from.
Think of a brand as a triangle with three legs: (1) Governance: influence, control, order; (2) Brute Force: beastly force exerted without constraint; (3) Swagger: how you carry yourself to the world. All three are important. Slack on one and you’ll sh*t the bed.
Give the artist the wheel. Let him drive. Don’t shout directions from the backseat. By the way, as a leader, the artist is you.
It’s never about the Xs and Os, but the oohs and aahs.
If you’re never making ugly sh*t, you’re not taking chances, not pushing yourself to make the sublime.
Knowledge is one thing, but can you grasp it, internalize it, and learn from it? Never let hubris overpower humility.
It’s okay to have dreams, but how will you achieve them? How will you change? How will you embrace the humility to know what you don’t know?
You can’t capture cool any more than you can happiness. It’s elusive. You have to build your brand authentically and create evidence – through your actions – to earn the currency of cool.
Don’t compete on dollars; compete on ideas. That’s how you win the marketing war against enemies with deeper pockets.
More important than what you make is how you make people feel.
Publicists and PR agents are useful, but they can’t replace the need to be your own bullhorn. It has to start with you.
Taking stock of your emotions isn’t indulgent or weak, it’s critical. Are your days defined by things you love or hate? Write down how you’re feeling. Make sure you haven’t become the square peg in a round hole. Be honest about who you are and what you bring to the table. Talk to someone you can trust regularly. You need perspective. A feedback loop outside your own head.
It’s critical you have the mental space and sobriety to fully inhabit the now. Consciousness is underrated. Entrepreneurs are so distracted by the blinking lights of tomorrow, that they overlook the reality of today.
Yes, your company is precious, but it’s never too early to think about an exit strategy. You need a contingency plan because unforeseen circumstances will arise. Think 2008 credit crisis.
Unlike Felix Dennis – author of How to Get Rich – Marc says to give up equity if it’s best for business. If and when you get big enough, might be nice to have other experts’ skin in the game. Distribute your interests and risks. Don’t hoard.
You’re human. You’ll have emotional arguments with partners, employees, contractors. It happens. Try not to make it public or cross any lines you can’t recover from.
When you become successful, hooking up friends and family is fine, but be smart about it. Do it in a way that doesn’t handcuff you or them. For example, give gifts, not jobs. Firing your fam when things go south ain’t fun.
Refuse to be packaged in what “they” see and say. Push yourself hard. Set your bar high.
Five final prescriptions from Marc Eckō, the pharmacy school dropout turned fashion, and now media icon:
- Be a creator.
- Sell without selling out.
- Create wealth that matters.
- Be an un-label.
- Authenticity is a pursuit, not a destination.
That’s it. Another banger. The book was loaded with stories of ups, downs, celebrity encounters, embarrassing situations, and the very vulnerable realities of entrepreneurship.