Tim Ferriss’ 3 Rules of Branding

December 22, 2016, 11:30 AM UTC
Photograph by Drew Kelly

1. Instead of fixating on the often nebulous “brand,” think of how you can “own a category” in the minds of 1,000 die-hard fans who can then act as your strongest marketing force. If you can’t be No. 1 or No. 2 in a category (“Uber for X,” imported light beer, low-cost airline, whatever), find or create another category.

2. Don’t make a product for “everyone.” If everyone is your market, no one is your market. Particularly with the first versions of your product or service, it’s better to have 1,000 people who love you (and many who hate you) than 100,000 who think you’re kinda, sorta cool. “Great” to 1,000 edge-case nerds beats “good” to 100,000 of anything else, every time. In a social-sharing-driven world, cultivate the intense few instead of the lukewarm many.

3. Forget branding. Think about consistently over-delivering one or two benefits to your customers/users/fans. Branding is a side effect of consistent association. Don’t put the cart before the horse. Put good business first, and good “brand” will follow.

Tim Ferriss is an early-stage investor (Uber, Facebook, Twitter, Alibaba, etc.) and author of the No. 1 New York Times bestseller Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers. You can purchase the book here.

A version of this article appears as a sidebar to the Breakthrough Brands 2017 package in the January 1, 2017 issue of Fortune.

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