Buyers hired a trail boss who then hired the folks who rode with him. The character of each man was critical to the whole group. Because they would face rustlers, Indians, and horrific weather extremes, as well as wild animals, stampedes and lightning strikes, the trail boss had to count on each man's loyalty at very crucial times. There couldn't be any quitters. Cowboys had to be willing to give their lives when working for their outfit. It was called "riding for the brand."
Nowadays a brand is a logo. It stands for something, and tells people what to expect. McDonald's is a good example. As we searched for the tiny village of Bzianka, Poland last fall we recognized some golden arches off the highway. We knew what we'd get when we ordered a Big Mac. The decor, cup colors and ketchup pumps were all exactly what we anticipated. We were not disappointed. I've wondered if my brand is that consistent.
Our company just finished writing a book called Riding for the Brand about a man who has dedicated his life to certain principles. His ethics have become his brand. In thinking about this I've wondered what my brand consists of.
Years ago we decided our family mascot would be a Hero. A hero is a person who shows courage in difficult circumstances, sets a good example, serves others willingly, and has every other noble quality. The noble qualities I'd like to become my brand are:
I need to get working on this.
I don't want to ride off into the sunset without creating a memorable brand!
Photo from Cowboy Values by James P. Owen
P.S. Although it's a good idea in theory, I've decided not to ask my posterity any embarrassing questions, in case they give me embarrassing answers. Since my values still show a touch of variation, some days I could be branded a fraud. I need more time to firmly establish myself as the brand they're sure of, with the quality they can trust.