Simon Wardley’s brand colosseum

A brand colosseum offers a better method for doing something important and sells support for those seeking to use that method.

Simon Wardley is an inspiration, and has built a brand colosseum that I find fascinating and unique because of its distributed ownership.

At the center of Simon’s brand colosseum is a value chain mapping method. The idea is that this method will bring clarity to strategy decisions, partially through the resulting value chain map and partially through the discussion the mapping process forces.

Simon “owns” the eponymous Wardley Mapping idea, not because he insists upon or even wants legal ownership of it or control over it. He owns it because he’s its most motivated and benevolent guardian.

He owns it through the combination of not needing the money (he has a dayjob) and caring more about spreading it than anybody else and consistently allocating bandwidth to spreading the idea (countless talks, zillions of tweets).

Where this brand colosseum gets interesting is the ring of commerce. I’m sure at points past, Simon has gotten paid to speak or consult about his method. These days, he seems to be out of that game, and happy for other people to build out the ring of commerce. I’m certainly missing a few of the ring’s kiosks, but there’s a workbook, course, and consulting from various providers.

You see this sometimes with open source software. The open source software — supported perhaps by a foundation — is free, and others who are not associated directly with the foundation set up value-added businesses based on the open source software. WordPress is an example.

You see another interesting variation of this with the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), except in that case the second phase of the typical platform lifecycle took on a somewhat sinister shape as the platform owners changed from a “suuuure, use the EOS idea — the more the merrier in this big tent” to a “actually, you’ll need to enter a franchise agreement with us or we’ll sue your ass” posture.

There are, I think, numerous other examples of this kind of “distributed brand colosseum”. I find this pattern fascinating because of the range of entrepreneurial options it creates.


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