Are you a courage brand?


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Our ongoing partnership with Taan Worldwide sees us link up with professionals based the world over to discuss some of consumerism's most pressing issues. Next up? Ryan Berman, CCO at i.d.e.a. He dives into the notion of courage, what it means for your brand, and  -- crucially -- how you can harness it.


In business, many of us want to be courageous, we just don't know how.

According to Aristotle, courage was considered the very first virtue because it made all other virtues possible. Currently in the spotlight, Peter Thiel has stated, “Brilliant thinking is rare, but courage is in even shorter supply than genius.”

Activating courage has helped transform a number of heritage brands that were stuck in the abyss of normalcy into a Courage Brand. Brands like Dominos, Always and Old Spice are just a few revived brands who unshackled themselves from their past lives and now have more purpose, meaning and financial success than ever before.

If they can do it, so can any brand open to being helped.

The topic of courage is something we take quite seriously at i.d.e.a.

We're wildly passionate about helping willing partners shrink their largest business fears, ultimately transforming them into Courage Brands. 

So what is a Courage Brand?

Before I answer that, let’s first go back to the beginning and audit the way society looks at the word “courage.”

If the existing definition of courage is to do something that frightens you, then I suppose I am setting out to do just that: giving it a friendlier, new and improved facelift so that more people will harness, recognize and actualize courage in their everyday work lives.

It’s time to repair a word.

There are three necessary components to the courage story: three constants you need to recognize courage in real time.

They are:

1) Knowledge

2) Faith, and

3) Action

Knowledge, faith and action are the matchstick, tinder and wood that work together to fuel courage. It’s the sum of these parts that combine to create a perfectly mixed cocktail that takes the ultimate form of courage.

To begin, courage always starts with knowledge. Since you’re never going to be able to gather all of the universe’s knowledge on a topic, at some point you will have to rely on inner belief, better conveyed as faith. When you build that faith, then, it’s time to do something about it. That’s turning it all into action.

It’s important to note that you need all three levers of knowledge, faith and action for it to be considered courage. Two of three in any combination is not courageous and how we ended up in this mess in the first place.

Gathering knowledge, building faith, then taking no action is paralysis. We’ve all been in situations where we knew what we needed to do, but for some unknown reason, didn’t pull the trigger. As motivational maverick Grant Cardone perfectly puts it, “Courage comes to those who act, not to those who think, wait, and wonder. The only way to hone this trait is by taking action.”

On the other hand, having faith then taking action without proper knowledge is reckless. It’s jumping out a plane without a parachute. Remember, courage always starts with obtaining wisdom. Maya Angelou reminds us that when we know better, we do better.

Finally, gathering knowledge then taking action without feeling inner faith is simply too safe. This is status quo. If you don’t feel either a little alive or a bit nervous on the inside, in a saturated world full of consumer choices, it just won’t be enough to make your brand rise above the fray.

Acquiring knowledge, building faith, then taking action is courage. The more you build up your knowledge, the more you build up your faith. The more you’re building up faith, the more courageous action you should take.

This shifts us from our definition of courage to our working definition of a Courage Brand:

A Courage Brand is a brand that willingly addresses its business fear(s) by:

1) Gathering knowledge,

2) Building faith, then

3) Taking action

There is a famous proverb that ‘fear and courage are brothers’. That you actually cannot get to courage without first smoking out, confronting then addressing (vs suppressing) your business fears head on.

To prove how calculated courageous decisions transform organizations to overcome these colossal business fears, I’ve taken the last 18 months to interview brave mavericks including an Astronaut, a Navy SEAL, a Tornado Chaser and a bank teller robbed at gunpoint. I’ve also met with bold industry leaders from Apple, Amazon, Dominos, Google, Method, Uber and Zappos. The result of this is a book about Courage Brands that will be released in 2017.

What I've learned from this journey is that a majority of companies 1) lack courage in business. Those who say they are risk adverse, unbeknownst to them, are courage adverse, and 2) lack the necessary training to make courageous decisions in business. We may know why we need to be courageous. We don't know how to be courageous.

What I know for certain now is that courage can be taught with practice, discipline and training. 


Ryan Berman is the chief creative officer of i.d.e.a. -- a fully integrated 50 person creative agency based in Southern California. After a decade working in New York, Ryan moved to San Diego to write screenplays. Instead, he has been living one. i.d.e.a. builds and leads Courage Brands. They have helped a diverse group of courageous brands including Eddie Bauer, Fender, Harrah’s, Hawkers, Major League Baseball, Mary Kay, New Era, Pentel, SUPRA, Qualcomm and the US Ski and Snowboard Association

Ryan appears through our partnership with Taan Worldwideone of the world’s largest and most successful networks of carefully selected independent communications agencies. Operating since 1936, TAAN exists to enhance the intelligence, expertise, reach and effectiveness of their members, through cooperative learning and shared capabilities.