Choosing a Brand, a Wife, and an Ear of Corn


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What does choosing a brand have to do with a wife and an ear of corn? I invite you to share your comments on this story.

As I have worked through important branding decisions with companies, it has often reminded me of a story a friend told me many years ago. My friend and I were single while most of our friends were married. We each had dated nice girls, but neither of us had made the big decision. As we pondered the reasons why, he told me an interesting story about a farmer, his son, an ear of corn, and making life decisions.

At the end of a day in the field, a farmer called to his son and said he had something important to discuss. The son was growing into a young man and soon he would be considering getting married and starting a family of his own. Naturally, the son thought his father would be offering some important advice about growing up.

The boy was a bit surprised when his father said, “Son, you mother wants to make the most special dish she has ever made tonight and she is really counting on you to pick the best possible ear of corn. Please don’t disappoint her.” Since they lived on a large farm with acres of corn, he was confident he could make his mother happy in short order.

The young man said, “Okay, Dad. No problem. I’ll be right back”. But the farmer told his son to hold on a minute because there were a couple simple rules the son needed to obey. “Son,” the farmer began, “Look out there and see all the corn we have grown. There are acres and acres as far as you can see. You can pick your special ear of corn from anywhere, but there are four simple rules you must follow:

  • First, you must be back home before the sun goes down so you mother has time to prepare the dish.
  • Second, while you may enter any row in the entire corn field, you may only choose one row. Once you have entered it, you may not go into another row.
  • Third, once you enter a row, you may pick any ear of corn in that row, but you may never go backwards in the row. You can only go forwards.”
  • And fourth, you may only pick one ear of corn. Once you pick it, that’s the one you will bring home to your mother.

The son said he understood the rules and turned and ran to the corn field. Even with the rules, he knew his job would be easy. There were hundreds of rows of corn filled with hundreds of tall corn plants, each carrying multiple ears of juicy, golden corn. And there was plenty of daylight left so he had more time than he needed.

He walked past row upon row of luscious corn plants before choosing to enter what looked like a particularly tall and green row of corn. Right off the bat the young man saw so many large, juicy ears he nearly picked one right away. But if he found these so quickly, there were bound to be bigger, better ones further down the row. And, being a very good son, he wanted to surprise his mother with the grandest ear of corn she had ever seen.

And, he was right! As he slowly worked his way down the row, he saw even more impressive ears of corn. He was amazed at his good fortune in choosing what seemed to be the perfect corn row for as far as he could see, the corn plants looked even more splendid. He walked further and further, passing ear upon ear of beautiful corn. He began picturing the look of delight his mother would wear when he presented her with his trophy ear of corn. He continued looking high and low for “The Perfect” ear of corn and time passed.

The corn was so tall that it blocked of much of the sunlight, but he began to sense that it was growing a bit darker outside. So, he pushed away some of the corn leaves to open a view of the sky. He noticed the sun was beginning to set. This meant he needed to pick his corn soon. Then, he looked ahead and saw that he had unexpectedly reached the end of his row. As he looked to each side, all that remained were a couple highly stressed corn plants and there he was empty handed. The boy was devastated that all he had to choose from now were small, shriveled up ears of corn. He picked an ear no bigger than the size of his hand and walked dejectedly back to the farm house.

He showed his mother and father the pitiful ear of corn and apologized. He explained how he had passed up countless beautiful ears of corn only to be left with such disappointment.

His father and mother said they hoped he would learn a lesson that life is full of opportunity and also full of important decisions. They wanted him to remember that in life, or in choosing a wife, it’s fine to want the best, but if you insist on perfection, or if you wait too long to make decisions, you may end up with little or nothing at all.

When it comes to your brand, set the bar high, but be careful not to let the “perils of perfectionism” bog you down. There is no such thing as a perfect brand, spouse, or ear of corn. There are some bad ones to be sure, but they can be weeded out. And there are mediocre ones you may rule out as well. But there are likely many fine candidates that could serve you well. If you work hard and choose wisely, you can be perfectly happy with a number of good options. Much of the future is about moving forward with confidence and making the best out of the choices you make. And for those who seek perfection, it is likely they will never be happy as they can find fault with anything.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Rick Thompson
Rick's passion for building brands and innovative marketing programs makes him an ideal partner for companies that want to build a strong brand that engages customers and drives revenue and profit. His experience in owning the P&L as a line manager help him appreciate that the goal of all branding and marketing is to drive the bottom line.


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