If you follow football, you’ve probably heard that Brett Favre is coming out of retirement (again) to play for the Minnesota Vikings this season. Because of his play on the field, Favre will surely be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame when he finally decides to hang up the cleats. But because of his repeated offseason indecision, he’ll also likely be remembered as one of the “worst flip-floppers in sports history.”

During his press conference yesterday, Favre talked about his legacy, specifically stating that his legacy wouldn’t be defined by this year: [Bold added for emphasis.]

First of all, when people start talking about my legacy, it’s mine. It’s what I think of it. I know the way I played the game, the way I’ve handled myself as a teammate, a leader, within the public. Yeah, I’ve made mistakes along the way — we all have — but if I had it to do over again I’d do it the same way … I don’t think anybody has played the game with as much passion, or loved their teammates as much as me.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Brett doesn’t get to decide his legacy … everybody else does.

Let’s try a couple more. What comes to mind when I mention Bill Buckner? Pete Rose? Michael Vick? George W. Bush? You instantly get a picture in your head of your version of each person’s legacy — I’m guessing it goes something like this: flubbed a ground ball, gambled on baseball, led a dogfighting ring and, well … I won’t take a guess at how view that last name.

You don’t get the final say

The point is, none of these people got to tell us what their legacy would be; we’ve collectively made that decision for them.

The same goes for Brett Favre, and the same goes for your brand. You don’t get to tell people what to think. Instead, your customers and their friends formulate their view of you based on how they perceive you, your product and your service through their personal interactions. No one press conference or press release will change that, either.

So give your customers something to talk about. Give them ways to remember you. Create a remarkable experience. Find ways for them to share your products or stories about your fanatical customer service. And remember, this isn’t a one-time deal — in today’s world, it’s all about “What have you done for me lately?”

Put your brand in your customers’ hands, let them create that legacy for you, then keep innovating based on that feedback. It probably won’t get you in the Hall of Fame, but you’ll be well on your way to becoming legendary in your town or industry.

As for me, Favre can play for as long as he wants … I’m a college football guy. Bring on Fowler, Herbie, Desmond and Corso!

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