Obsessed: Building a Brand People Love from Day One by Emily Heyward

Obsessed: Building a Brand People Love from Day One cover
  • Author: Emily Heyward
  • Get the book: Amazon
  • Rating: 8/10.

High-level summary

How do you compete when all the products in your category are fundamentally the same or when it seems impossible to innovate the product? The answer is branding.

New startups are being created every day, and it’s becoming harder and harder for businesses to stand out on social media. Especially in SaaS, the moment something works everyone else copies it and all software tools start to look the same. There has never been a time where creating a strong brand was this crucial.

But how do you go about it? For a long time, branding has been this vague thing where you mess with logos and colors. In this book, Emily Heyward goes over the fundamental principles needed to build a strong brand. From making sure your brand solves one of your customer’s core needs, to the best ways you can make it stand out.

Highly recommended if you’re a founder or you do marketing at a startup.


  • The same cultural forces and gaps in the market that lead one founder to launch a direct-to-consumer contact lens business are leading someone else to do the same.

Note: There are so many new businesses being created that do the exact same thing. 5 people can spot the same gap in the market and start a business. Creating a strong brand is crucial for being able to compete.

  • Leading brands are able to form deep emotional connections because they stand for something that people care about. When I talk about brand, what I’m actually talking about is what a business stands for, at its very core.

  • It’s not that people don’t know what they want. The reason they would ask for a faster horse or a faster typewriter is because they have better things to do than sit around imagining far-flung inventions that will solve their problems, or wait for you to appear and solve it for them.

  • The problem you’re solving is the foundation for your brand strategy, so you want to make sure you’re setting yourself up to build a brand that taps into people’s deepest motivations, dreams, and desires.

  • When you launch an idea into the world, brand is the driving force that helps people understand how this new business fits into their lives, and why they should care.

  • When you ground yourself in your consumers and why you exist for them, branding becomes an act of generosity instead of an act of self-congratulation. It’s not about “look at me, listen to me, this is why I’m wonderful, pay attention.” Instead, it’s “here’s what I understand about your needs, and here’s how I’m here to help.”

  • Remember: Once you think you’ve identified the absolute deepest consumer problem that your business is solving, go a level deeper! Work to identify the need behind the need.

  • With very few exceptions, the product needs to have meaningful differentiation in order to build a brand that people love.

  • Great branding needs to start from the inside and work its way out. You need to understand what’s special about the business and then figure out how to take what’s special and elevate it to a story with emotional resonance.

  • Start with your functional benefits, the full set of them, and then figure out how they can all build to an overarching emotional territory, in other words, how the brand will make people feel. These days, the most successful brands do not simply invent an emotional idea that has no basis in their product benefits.

  • Remember: Consider each of your functional benefits, and how they can credibly ladder up to a unified emotional story. Identify all the things you will do to improve people’s lives, and then figure out how people will feel as a result.

  • The most successful brands of today recognize that in order to create meaningful and lasting relationships, they need to find new and positive ways to tap into people’s sense of self. They need to create brand identities that people want to identify with, from the beginning.

  • Remember: It’s not just about how you want your brand to be seen. It’s about connecting your brand to how people see themselves.

  • The most successful communities develop organically when a brand adheres to a clear set of values, and a natural connection forms among those who are not only buying the products, but believing in the ethos of the brand.

  • Communities form not around a logo, or a clever social media strategy, but a shared set of passions or ideals.

  • While it may seem like giving people as many options as possible is the generous thing to do, it nearly always benefits the brand more than it does the consumer. It’s actually more work up front for the brand to zero in on a vision from day one, forcing a hierarchy of benefits instead of trying to say everything at once.

  • Remember: Figure out where and how you’re going to break the rules, not just to make noise, but in service of your consumers. What can you do better for them that they’ve never experienced before?”

  • Remember: You should stand for one idea, but you can and must express that idea in many different ways. With all the places a brand needs to appear today, you have to bend and flex to keep things interesting.”

  • Remember: If brand needs to start from within, it begins with the founding team. Even if you don’t exactly mirror your target audience, you need to embody the values and the spirit of the brand you seek to create.”
  • Brand is a living, breathing thing. It’s the culture you continue to build among your internal team as you scale, it’s all the ways you appear and behave, and it’s how you evolve your story and offering as the world changes around you.
  • Consumers fall in love with brands because of the ongoing, positive role these brands play in their lives.