My friend and personal marketing guru Jeff said something provocative over lunch to me the other day.

Size kills brands.  If you get too big, the brand starts to get diluted and after a while just loses its punch altogether.

It’s an intriguing and, at first, counterintuitive thought (especially coming from a marketer!).  Most organizations assume that bigger is better, that growth makes them stronger.  But what is it about that size that makes it dangerous?

Maybe people start to lose their sense of cohesion after the group is a certain size.  Maybe the company goes from streamlined and focused to big and bulky. Maybe we have so much going on that no one can get their arms around all of it anymore.

Here’s my hypothesis.  One big reason why brands might suffer with size is that ownership is really hard to scale.  I feel huge ownership for my single-family house.  I pick up trash left in the yard.  But put me in a high-rise condo with 200 other owners and I start to wonder why someone doesn’t clean up the common area.  Sure, it’s my common area as much as anyone else’s, but it feels different when I’m sharing it with others.

 

On the other hand, I could probably get my arms around owning my floor of the condo with my neighbors.  We’d know each other and could be about something together.  We could have pride in our little floor – even as it’s part of a larger building.  I might even become a ring leader of making something great happen on the floor.

Now if the people who run the condo could foster that floor-level ownership and have the ring leaders of each floor also share common purpose and passion for the whole building, you might just be able to get the best of both worlds. You just might be able to get ownership to scale.

PS Yes, those floor leaders are the key leverage points.  Keep them together and you scale.  Let them drift apart and you’ve got chaos.