Why A Strong Brand Isn’t a Luxury but a Necessity

Andrea Belk Olson
3 min readApr 8, 2024

Who invented the light bulb? Of course, you’d say Thomas Edison. But what you may not realize is that Edison did not invent the light bulb. It was actually invented by Joseph Wilson Swan and Henry Woodward. What Edison did really well was commercialize the invention. But why do we always think of Thomas Edison first? Of course, he was a prolific inventor, but more importantly, he built a recognizable and resonating brand.

Edison branded everything he did with his name, face, and signature. He built a massive publicity machine behind him. He forged close personal relationships with journalists who could be trusted to write adoring (but not always strictly accurate) copy. He was a relentless self-promoter. He used multiple public demonstrations to highlight and promote his technologies.

Edison didn’t just do a lot of marketing but rather build a brand he could leverage. For example, his main laboratory, Menlo Park, was famous for generating more than 400 patents in just six years. But Edison worked with a team of 14 or so engineers, machinists, and physicists who were rarely if not at all mentioned, building and amplifying the narrative of Edison as a “sole inventor”. Only those inventors who left the lab and branched out on their own (i.e., Nikola Tesla) had a chance to gain broader recognition. Edison, while positioning himself this way, spent over half his time dealing with clients and investors, and speaking to the press.

Edison also knew what stories and sound bites would resonate with the public. He’s well known for saying, “I have not failed 10,000 times — I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.” But actually, he failed 2,774 times according to his records. We all know the 10,000 times quote, and there’s no question it wouldn’t be the same if he had said 2,774.

The bottom line here is that while we want to believe that an amazing invention or innovative solution will sell itself, it’s far from the case. Building a brand and identity intentionally, and shaping a narrative provides you with the best opportunity to succeed. This doesn’t mean simply promoting your product or your company but creating a brand around it that’s engaging, unique, interesting, and different.

How crucial, after all, is the brand of Steve Jobs to the image of Apple? Or of Larry Page and Sergey Brin to our perception of Google? Even though many companies today are cutting back on branding and marketing investments, it’s funny how the companies we admire, were not built simply by new products but achieved their level of success through investing and architecting a great brand. Edison knew this — even 100 years ago.

About the Author

Andrea’s 25-year, field-tested background provides practical, behavioral science approaches to creating differentiated, human-focused organizations. A 4x ADDY award-winner, TEDx presenter, and 3x book author — she began her career at a tech start-up. She led the strategic sales, marketing, and customer engagement efforts at two global industrial manufacturers. She now leads a change agency dedicated to helping organizations differentiate their brands using behavioral science.

In addition to writing and consulting, Andrea speaks to leaders and industry organizations worldwide. Please contact Andrea to access information on her book, keynoting, research, or consulting. More information is also available at www.pragmadik.com or www.andreabelkolson.com.

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.



Andrea Belk Olson

Behavioral Scientist. Customer-Centricity Expert. Prolific Author. Compelling Speaker. More at www.andreabelkolson.com