Big Little Legends

Guest editorial
By Gair Maxwell, International Speaker & Author

This article was published in the January 2020 edition of NTEA News.

“Gair Maxwell — a highly anticipated Work Truck Show 2020 presenter — is a global authority on helping companies create iconic brands. He has worked with organizations such as The Apple Specialist Marketing Group, Caterpillar, NAPA and Virginia Tech. We’re pleased to share a preview of one of the topics he’ll be discussing in Indianapolis in March.”
 - David Ehrlich, NTEA Director of Education

How do you define a legend? What qualifies someone or something to be described as legendary? Are there specific qualities or attributes necessary that articulate how some person, place, event or object takes on a larger-than-life stature?

Legend is one of those fuzzy, intangible words in the English language that defies description. It’s as though everyone has their own interpretation or innate understanding of what the word really means and who or what we classify and designate as being worthy of legendary status.

The business world has witnessed its share of legends. Virtually every business best-seller has focused on the deeds of entrepreneurs and leaders who found a way to scale an operation to dizzying heights, go public and reach the pinnacle of what success is supposed to represent. The aftermath of this corporate literature includes numerous follow-up books, magazine cover stories and the requisite guiding principles and achievement models taught by business gurus and university professors all over the planet.   

But, for mere mortals, the height of accomplishments by legends in business or any chosen field may seem utterly unattainable. Which is why you might be curious about the impact, legacy and lessons from BIG LITTLE LEGENDS.

BIG LITTLE LEGENDS operate on slightly smaller scales — in other words, their accomplishments are well within the range of what’s possible. With achievements that are much easier to imagine for any dreamer with aspirations of starting something special from anywhere.

By definition, BIG LITTLE LEGENDS are companies, people and communities that

  1. Own a substantial or larger share of the market in their specific competitive space.
  2. Display qualities of enduring longevity.
  3. Make a positive, emotional difference to their communities.
  4. Enjoy a much-admired public reputation with a brand story that gets told and retold by people who are happy to do so.

BIG LITTLE LEGENDS have been around a long time, constructively impact the social-cultural order, are well-known beyond their local area codes, and are popular and highly prosperous. These are the real-life underdogs who punch above their weight class, create substantial economic or social impact and do more than just reflect our current culture; they establish and reveal it while pointing us in new directions.

BIG LITTLE LEGENDS are the ones who started from humble beginnings and remained relatively small and true to their roots. In many cases, they stayed privately- or community-owned, always guided by unshakeable vision and values. But along the way, these heavyweight contenders racked up the kind of financial results, staying power, social and cultural impact, and top-of-mind brand awareness that separated them from the many other pretenders in their respective categories.

BIG LITTLE LEGENDS were not always the biggest, best or first. They broke down barriers, blazed trails, ignited the torch of the human spirit and didn’t just grow their enterprise through pulling typical corporate levers such as a new clever way to sell average, homogenized products at scale to a large audience through traditional mass marketing. They didn’t rely on big data, IPOs or become the biggest kid on the playground through merger and acquisition. Every one of these legends experienced growth, sustainability and public recognition, and made a cultural footprint in a different, organic way.

They redefined the usual measures of success with unwavering support of legions of customers, genuinely touched by stories of these enterprises and the very real human values their brands have come to represent.

Astronomical levels of brand success are often associated with massive financial investments in marketing and advertising, backed by corporate muscle, expensive expert resources and more than enough hands-on-deck to handle the small moving parts. But there are millions of small-to-medium-sized companies and community leaders who lack those resources and appropriate role models to reveal what is truly possible.

Released in fall 2019, the book BIG LITTLE LEGENDS disrupts traditional business thinking and dispels certain myths about what it takes to build an irresistible and potentially legendary brand. Specifically, there are five myths we will highlight, illuminate and eradicate to help you become worthy of achieving legendary status within your category.

  • Myth #1 — You have to be a big, global company with massive amounts of cash.
  • Myth #2 — You need to be a Hollywood celebrity, social media influencer or newsmaker who is constantly in the public eye.
  • Myth #3 — You need fancy logos, cool graphics, clever marketing campaigns and advertising gimmicks.
  • Myth #4 — You need to be incredibly intellectually gifted and attractive with the artistic or athletic talents of a child prodigy.
  • Myth #5 — You have to be retired, dead or over 100 years old.

For some, the word legend equates to an artifact that collects dust in a museum or a statue placed on a pedestal after someone has retired. For modern-legacy builders, the past can be a great source of motivation and inspiration, but it’s not where you allow yourself to rest on the laurels of bygone glories. BIG LITTLE LEGENDS demonstrate that you can use the lessons of history to rewrite the future on a daily basis in our rapidly-changing world without needing to be a huge company with a colossal marketing budget to make a huge impact with your brand.

BIG LITTLE LEGENDS share four key characteristics

  1. Solid track record of longevity.
  2. Visible, positive emotional impact on society.
  3. Higher levels of public acclaim and notoriety.
  4. Greater profitability.

Think of BIG LITTLE LEGENDS as a philosophical and practical guide to build an irresistible brand that magnetically attracts people who yearn for something more meaningful than just another product, service or logo — an eternal spirit that connects us all.

Such is the power of legends.

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