Branding Lessons from the World’s Only Consulting Detective, Sherlock Holmes
I could read by the time I was 3 and entered Kindergarten reading at a 3rd grade level.
My parents read mysteries so that’s what they bought me, starting with Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective.
I soon progressed to Nancy Drew and read every story more than once.
By the summer I turned 9 I had read every book that was even remotely appropriate. So when my mother came home from work one rainy summer day and found me reading one of her police procedurals, she knew she had to do something.
She took it away from me, handed me another book, and said “Here. This should keep you busy.”
To say I loved it would be a gross understatement.
I read that book over and over and over.
And soon I discovered the rest of the Canon: 56 short stories and 4 novels.
I was in heaven.
I found them in the library and soon started receiving books as gifts, including my prized possession – the two-volume set of The Annotated Sherlock Holmes by William S. Baring-Gould.
In Sherlock, I didn’t just find entertainment through good stories with quirky characters, I found a mentor. A hero.
And a bit of myself.
Sherlock taught me how to observe, how to think, and how to make deductions — sometimes leaps — based on those observations.
Of course I also learned that at home. When you grow up in an abusive environment you tend to develop those skills as you try to avoid triggering the abuse. So reading people and situations quickly and well becomes an important skill.
Sherlock has enjoyed a renaissance in the last few years, especially with the BBC’s modern version starring Benedict Cumberbatch.
I love Sherlock. More now than ever.
And I promise you it has nothing to do with Mr. Cumberbatch and his singular characterization of the Great Detective.
Sherlock was a hit from the start. And when his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle decided he’d had enough of the character he’d created, he knew he needed to get rid of him once and for all. So he crafted a story that had Sherlock plunge to his death in a fight with his arch-enemy, “the Napoleon of Crime”, Professor Moriarty.
The outcry was deafening.
Fashionable men of the day wore black arm bands over their suit coats in mourning.
He is truly an iconic character. So much so that Time magazine featured him in one of their special editions: “The 100 Most Influential People Who Never Lived.”
His image or quotes from the stories (including the misquoted, “elementary, my dear Watson”) have been used to sell all sorts of products and services, much to the chagrin of the Doyle estate I’m sure.
And we know of Sherlock’s impact on forensic science.
But Sherlock even has lessons for us as entrepreneurs. He was self-employed after all.
So since January 6th was his unofficial birthday I wanted to share some branding lessons we can learn from The Great Detective.
Branding Lessons from Sherlock Holmes
Have a clear point of view and don’t be afraid to share it. Whether in modern times or his original, Victorian time period, Sherlock was always direct to say the least.
Be a thought leader. Holmes regularly talked about the “monographs” he published including one on cigar ash. His reputation went far and wide so heads of state and the local police force sought out his advice.
Work on projects that entertain and challenge you. Sherlock didn’t work with everyone and neither should you.
Stay in your genius zone. When Holmes was really focused on thinking he’d even have Watson read things to him.
Give yourself a great — but clear — title so people get what you do. Sherlock is a “consulting detective” and he made the title up.
If you hate marketing yourself, get help. We all know Watson was Holmes’ chronicler. Or in the BBC version, his blogger.
Have a consistent look that presents you well and communicates you’re an expert. Holmes’ deerstalker hat, Inverness cape, and curvy pipe are even more iconic than Benedict Cumberbtach’s coat and scarf.
Keep a close circle of experts you trust who help you and who you involve in your projects. We all need a Mrs. Hudson and a whole group of “Irregulars” to call on when we need help. And it goes without saying that we’d all love to have as loyal a friend as Dr. Watson to work with.
Above all, be you. Because you’re the only one too.
Happy birthday Mr. Holmes.