Words & Sports

What Can the “Bad Boys” Teach You About Creating a Brand Identity?

The Detroit Pistons of the 1980’s and 1990’s were known as the “Bad Boys.”

That brand identity led to back-to-back NBA Championships and many successful seasons during a time when the NBA was ultra-competitive. Having a distinct and genuine identity led to success for the Detroit Pistons and it can do the same for you and your business.

Many teams, companies and individuals manufacture an identity, but the “Bad Boys” evolved into their style naturally over time. It was a culture that started with Isiah Thomas and their coach, Chuck Daly, and the Bad Boys reveled in it. Everything they did and said reflected their style. The way they played let people know the Bad Boys were for real.

Of course, a team with that much talent would have had some success no matter what their image was. Talent matters (see Talent Does Matters article). But talent alone would not have given them anything like the success they realized with the “Bad Boys” brand.

Brand identity is your promise—to yourself, to your business, and to the market. It’s one of your most important assets. Once people are aware of your brand identity, that’s what they will use to make a determination about you—to work with you, to associate with you, and to follow you. Or not. Some people may not like your brand, but remember, you cannot and will not please everyone. And the way to build brand identity is by consistent repetition. It’s in your message, the way you work, and the work you do. It becomes so obvious that when you show up, people will expect it.

During their hay-day, the “Bad Boys” were hated. They would go into opposing teams’ arenas and get booed before, during, and after the game. But most of the time, they won. They used their identity to their advantage. They could have run from it or defended their style. No one would have blamed them if they had toned it down. But they realized that embracing their reputation, their image, was the way they would achieve great success.

Today, many look back on the Detroit Pistons of the 80’s and 90’s with great respect. Sure, not everyone does. Hey, I’m not exactly a fan of that team, either, but I can respect the way they did things—and even better, I can learn from it.

Success is often ignored at first and then eventually hated—realize this early. This is not to say you should strive to be hated, like the Pistons did. That was their identity, not yours. Your identity could be incredible kindness, great customer service, or fast response times, but if you have success, there will be people ignoring you and maybe naysaying you. Instead of focusing on that negativity, focus on what your brand identity is and will be. Make it yours. Stand out from the crowd. People may not understand it and they don’t have to like it. That’s their problem. Just like the “Bad Boys” were a problem for many teams in the NBA in the 80’s and 90’s.


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3 Key Points:

1) Having a distinct and genuine brand identity can lead to success.

2) Brand identity is your promise and is one of your most important assets!

3) Your success may be ignored or hated. Don’t focus on this negativity, instead focus on creating your brand identity.


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  • ConvertKit: Email marketing to help get your message out there

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