Soph Reads Stuff – Founder Brand: Turn Your Story Into Your Competitive Advantage
Welcome to the second instalment of Soph Reads Stuff! This time we’re taking a deep dive into the marketing phenomenon that is Founder Brand.
If you’ve ever been on Entrepreneur TikTok or the marketing side of LinkedIn, you’ve probably heard of our author, who is none other than the incredibly successful Dave Gerhardt. According to his own profile (and the back of the book), he’s “One of the top marketing minds in the country” (if you’re in America). He’s also a serial podcaster and solopreneur, which is a fancy word for self-employed. Basically, he’s a pretty cool guy.
Founder Brand is Gerhardt’s blueprint for success. Released just over a year ago in February 2022, it was an instant best-seller on Amazon. The Kindle edition is currently ranking just below #600 in the Marketing & Sales category. But, is it any good?
The book starts by introducing Gerhardt’s background as the former Chief Brand Officer at Drift and previous Chief Marketing Officer at Privy. He tells readers how each of these experiences have played into the strategy that he lays out in Founder Brand, from building an audience to creating compelling narratives that sell your product or service on social media.
Much like Platform, Founder Brand is full of personal proof, which builds credibility for the author. The premise is also an interesting one; using your story to relate to potential customers and build a following for your brand. “Selling on social media” is presented as a conversation rather than the ecommerce platforms that most people would associate with the phrase. By using social content to convince your audience of the value in your product, you’re also creating conversations and communities for the people who buy into your brand. It really is a genius strategy.
From the very beginning, Founder Brand is very clearly aimed at founders, and goes as far as to address them directly throughout the entire book with the second person pronoun ‘you’. It does also acknowledge its potential usefulness to marketers who work with founders, which is why I gave it a go. The founder I work with is pretty cool (Hey, Haydn!), and it would be great to learn how to market our company off the back of his personal brand. However, there is something rather disconcerting about reading a book that is literally addressed to someone else.
If you can get past the unnerving feeling of being in the wrong book, Founder Brand is objectively well-written. Gerhardt uses clean, accessible language and includes plenty of illustrations to clarify his points. This breaks up the information-rich text well, and gives an insight into the kind of social media that Gerhardt himself enjoys. There’s clearly a lot of thought behind the content in the book, which reflects its message; ‘always offer value’.
The bulk of Founder Brand is broken up into three ‘Levels’:
- Become a storyteller,
- Become a publisher, and
- Become a master of the feedback loop.
Gerhardt uses this structure to talk you through the strategy of creating a founder-led brand. He also tells you how to replicate his success through handy how-tos and memorable methods, such as creating a ‘villain’ that you can save customers from. Gerhardt also makes great points about how your audience thinks and how marketing makes a difference to your whole company.
Hustle culture is rampant in our society, so it’s no surprise that this book is popular. Founder Brand tells you how to sell your product or service by positioning yourself as a successful and interesting entrepreneur. It also promotes starting your own podcast and talking about yourself or your work. What’s not to love?
It doesn’t pass the Bechdel test, but that would be a weird metric to subject this book to anyway, so I can’t really level it as a criticism. Fundamentally, my issue is that I just can’t relate to it. Perhaps because I’m not a founder, and therefore not its target audience, or perhaps because I don’t identify with the people who pop up in Gerhard’s anecdotes. They’re less relatable than the sparkling, chaotic merriment of Johnson’s personal branding extravaganza that I explored in Soph Reads Stuff #1. Add to that the feeling that I shouldn’t actually be reading it, and the book loses a great amount of charm.
I really WANT to like it, I do. Founder Brand is a well-written piece of prose, straight from the mind of a fascinating founder, marketer and creator. Despite that, I can’t personally recommend it for anyone other than founders. If you’re a founder though, this book is literally FOR you. It’s great for getting you into the right mindset when it comes to marketing, and it’s an enjoyable read from both a visual and literary standpoint.
Rating: 💜💜💜🤍🤍 (5 if you’re a founder)
Founder Brand is worth a read… IF you’re a founder. It’s technically a good book, but as a young femme employee, I didn’t resonate with it. It’s inaccessible to a wide audience, which isn’t necessarily a flaw given its target market, but it does make it hard for me to personally recommend to other marketers.
Want to chat about books? Find me on LinkedIn –> Sophie Colclough 🥰