Or at least, acknowledge the areas you can’t control.
Branding reminds me a lot of Stephen Covey — the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People guy. He talks a lot about knowing what you can control and separating that from what you can’t. Really good advice.
So one of the first steps in branding is figuring that out. You may own (be able to control) what you say and do, but everyone else owns what they say and do. And they don’t always say and do what you want.
But before you despair over your lack of control, consider this: being able to control what your company says and does can be a pretty powerful thing. Especially if you have a genuine and generous culture. Because when your competition is trying to use advertising buys (read: lots of cash) to get customers, you’re activating the word-of-mouth network of customers who’ve seen you be yourself. And they know you. And they’ll stand up for you. And nobody will believe the other guy. No matter how big his media buy.