Rule #1: Don't Make The Customer Think

Apple. Microsoft. Coca-Cola. IBM. Google.

As of October 2012, these were the world's 5 most most powerful brands, according to Forbes, drawing on research by Landor and Penn Schoen Berland.

You can get a glimpse of the methodology by which they made that call (they won't tell you everything of course) but at the end of the day it's not hard to see why you'd choose these.

They're very simple to choose.

All of them are almost a default when you're making a buying decision. As in, "Of course!"

There is a saying: "Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM."

In Brand Simple (2006), Landor's Allen Adamson says:

"A brand should not be complex, confusing, or mysterious in any way.....A brand should be simple. People use brands as a shortcut to make business decisions."

Consider also that customers don't judge a brand by its own performance. Rather, "customer expectations are set by the best customer experiences." (This according to the ForeSee "e-Retail" customer satisfaction survey released in December of 2012.)

The principles of branding apply equally to organizations as seen by the customer, and individuals as seen by those they serve - or who depend on them.

So it does not matter if you're "doing your best." It does not matter if "our mission is complicated" or "there are politics to consider" or "we have many stakeholders."

Your best is only as good as your competitors' best. And with the Internet and widely available information about best practice, your competitors are EVERYONE.

You may say you're not a marketer. But every aspect of a business exists only "to create a customer," as Peter Drucker put it in The Practice of Management.

So many people do not get the very simple concept that they are the CEOs of their own lives. They are business leaders - and their customers are their bosses, their colleagues, and yes - their spouses, their children, their friends. 

And even - themselves. Ourselves. We are accountable to take care of our own health and happiness and meaning in life, are we not?

Yet people persist in making things complicated for those who deal with them. They have many "requirements" that go along with simple requests. Rather than making interactions easy, some people just make everything that much more difficult. 

And they have every excuse in the book for self-destructing, too - bad eating, toxic relationships, miserable job, the works. Whatever the problem is, they absolutely refuse to help themselves because a million criteria have to be met before they will take any action.

In his landmark article "The Brand Called You," (Fast Company, 1997), Tom Peters put it this way:

"Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in...our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You."

You may work for the government. You are a business. You are a stay-at-home parent? You're a business, too. You're unemployed - so what?

At the end of the day there is only one difference between people who succeed and who fail in life.

Winners take a good honest look at their lives, and take charge, and they make things as simple as possible. So they can function effectively and so that it's a pleasure to deal with them.

People who fail tend to throw up obstacles. Everything's an issue, everything's difficult. So that you think to yourself, if I have a choice, I will definitely avoid that person. So that they persistently find themselves in the same bad place, and no amount of money, advice or time can seem to "rescue them."

The thing about marketing, and branding is that its lessons are very applicable to life. Given how lazy and self-destructive many people are, it's not hard to succeed at all.

All you have to do is be simple. And be your own customer.

Set up your life and your business in a thoughtful way.

And then, don't make the customer think.