Jonathan Stark’s brand colosseum

A brand colosseum offers a desirable, palpable vision of a transformed self and sells support for those seeking that transformation.

Jonathan Stark is a friend, and has built a business I admire.

At the center of his brand colosseum is the idea that you can learn how to create economic value and significantly improve your business by orienting it around value creation rather than billing for time.

I often reference Jonathan’s book Hourly Billing is Nuts. It’s a textbook example of a well-constructed point of view, and the headline is especially perfect. In 4 words, it expresses an opinion that Jonathan can support with both experience and data. Those 4 words are distinctive and memorable and fun to say out loud. And they are provocative in a way that can lead to a productive exchange of ideas.

Once this exchange of ideas is underway, Jonathan has a range of ways he can argue for his idea. He can argue from his conversation partner’s self-interest: value pricing will make your business more profitable, allowing you to earn the same and work less, work the same and earn more, or possibly both. Jonathan can argue from an ethical perspective: hourly billing can incentivize you to be less effective, which is a sort of theft from your client and your own free time.

It’s worth noticing how much more wordy and how much less elegant my description of what’s at the center of Jonathan’s brand colosseum is than a headline like Hourly Billing is Nuts is. Creating distinctive and memorable (and possibly fun) packaging is part of the work of marketing ideas, and it’s worth investing it. In CPG, the shape of the product’s container can make it distinctive and memorable. In thought leadership, the words that serve as the headline version of the idea can make it distinctive and memorable (though there are other ways to make an idea memorable).

Jonathan’s ring of commerce is summarized in this 1 page on his website: It’s a range of products and services — from $29 to $25,000 — that offer support to those seeking to transform their ability to create and monetize value. Some of these offers focus on different stages of the transformation (optimizing systems might be a more early-stage activity for some), and others are different ways of packaging and delivering the same content ($49 book vs. $745 workshop vs. $25,000 1:1 coaching).

It’s easy for Jonathan to promote his business because all he really has to do is talk about something he genuinely cares about: a world where more people are creating more value and running more profitable businesses as a result. It’s both a deep truth and a mild oversimplification to say: the rest takes care of itself.


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