How To Create An Ethics Driven Brand (ie. Don’t Be A Douche)

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*This is a guest post by the amazingly talented and always the real-deal Illana of Makeness Media

About a year into my business, I got talked into taking an online course on how to create online courses. I have no idea how I got roped in [I’m not much of a joiner]. Actually, that’s not true. I do know. A friend of mine who I respected a lot thought the woman who taught the course was some kind of magical money-making, unicorn-riding rainmaker. And since, a year in, my little business wasn’t raking in the bucks, I dropped my standard indignant, “I don’t need that, I have an MBA,” attitude and signed up. I couldn’t afford it. Like, at all. But I stretched, because I didn’t want to miss the boat. I wanted to be part of the little universe she had created.

Before the course, I was plugging away. Learning, growing, reading, creating. Things weren’t moving fast, but they were moving forward. I was working on a cool product line, and my audience was growing.

But I got impatient, so I signed up for an over-priced course that taught mostly stuff I already knew or could have easily found with some creative Googling.

A year later, the same teacher had roped a bunch of people who were/are very smart, and who I deeply respected, into course after course, a mastermind, and a mentorship program.

She took a lot of money from a lot of people who deeply trusted her with both their pocketbooks and their dreams.

And then she vanished.


Over the eighteen months she was in business, she sold A LOT. Her buyers became dependant on her. They craved her approval – which she dangled just out of reach.

Did she set out to rip people off? I doubt it. I think she actually meant well. I think she actually thought that she had something to offer. And she probably did – but whatever it was got so watered down by being packaged and repackaged and repackaged that she lost sight of it altogether. Competitiveness and greed got the better of her. She wanted to compete at the top more than she wanted to serve.

As a result, she went so far astray, that she shook the confidence of people trying to do good work in the world – the opposite of what she set out to do.

I’m sure that when she started out, she started just like you – full of good intentions, but inundated with marketing advice. Messages telling you what to do, how to be, how to look, and what to say. Everyone has a system. Everyone has a plan. Everyone has a way of spinning their thing to sound like heaven’s honest gospel. And some of it actually is. But some of it isn’t. Some of it will teach you all the wrong things. Some of it will twist your magical little business into something you barely recognize – something that takes your attention away from what you actually set out to do.

So how do you tell the difference? How do you insulate yourself?


How do you make sure that you neither fall for the bullshit nor accidentally become the bullshit? How do you maintain your integrity to create an ethics-driven brand?


In the simplest terms, you develop your own code of ethics.

The following are the six questions I ask myself every time I come across a new opportunity. They are my compass. My North Star. The center-point of how I drive an ethics-driven business.


Before I make any decisions, I ask myself:

1.   Is it good for me? And by me, I actually mean: my health, my family, my lifestyle, AND my pocketbook.

2.   Is it good for my people? And by people, I mean YOU.

3.   Does it put people before profit? Money is important. People are more important.

4.   Does it put something unique and high-quality out into the world? Does it serve my higher purpose of leaving the world a better place than I found it?

5.   Does it provide an opportunity for greatness and/or growth?

6.   Does it pass the gut test? The best decisions come easily and without the knot in your stomach that comes with doubt.

But here’s the most important part: Don’t take my word for it. Come up with your own set of ethics. Only you know what’s most important to you, and only you can hold the line of what you and your business stands for.

What questions are part of your moral compass? Add to the list in the comments below.


BW photoIllana Burk is the brains behind Makeness Media and is an expert in integrating design, copy, and user-experience to develop revolutionary brand stories. She specializes in clearing away the bullshit that’s getting in the way of your business connecting with the right people. Her signature service, Brand [R]Evolution, re-visions your brand to convey the clearest, most resonant version of your highest-value message. You can read her insights at and can reach her on Twitter @illanaburk.



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