Lets start with a definition of the word “Intent”:
something that is intended; purpose; design; intention: The original intent of the committee was to raise funds. (This was in the actual definition – fantastic.)
the act or fact of intending, as to do something: criminal intent.
Law . the state of a person’s mind that directs his or her actions toward a specific object.
meaning or significance.
Let me digress a bit, but stay with me.
Becoming a brand is not an easy thing to achieve. It is not tied to a declaration, moment of time, or quantifiable accomplishment. The bestowment of the title “brand” is gradual in nature, driven by the level in which your message resonates with a given audience. It took Apple some time to get people to line up for 37 days to buy the newest iPhone.
First it starts off with a good product. Here where things get big. This doesn’t necessarily mean the product has to be of high quality. It simply means that the “intent” of what is being created or provided has to have staying power. If a given type of shoe is hastily built from recycled plastic, as statement on the world’s excess or the over commercialization of companies like Nike, there is the distinct chance that the story could resonate well enough to earn the title of “brand” – even if the shoes fall apart in a few months.
A hedge fund will never become a brand if it keeps talking about what it does versus why it exists. Saying that you are a long / short fund is vastly different than indicating that you invest for people that can’t invest themselves – and I just made that up. We don’t know why people can’t invest themselves, however, there are probably a bunch of people that can’t. More to the point, depending of course on the wider story and target audience, this is something you can envision people rallying around. They may line up in support of this.
Do you see the difference? If you remain descriptive in your messaging, you will never create a story that resonates with an audience. The intent of what you are trying to do for a given audience dictates whether you are a brand or not a brand. And the only way you can establish intent is to move from descriptive language to aspirational language.
A larger question, can asset manager have “intent” that is beyond performance? My personal opinion, if you don’t, you won’t be around in ten years.