My friend “shopped” my brand.

The dumbest brand strategy exercise ever.

Source: Pixabay.

When I was obsessed with building my dark-as-fuck personal brand, I was dead focused on figuring out how I came across to people.

It was definitely tied to a deeper insecurity. Was I coming off as cool as I hoped I was?

In other words, was I fooling people?

I’m definitely a horror fan, as my website puts forth. But I didn’t realize at the time that I’m more spooky than dark.

I had no idea (partly because I hadn’t quit caffeine yet) that true crime made me unhappy when I consumed it in vast quantities, or that I used horror largely as catharsis around dark topics.

I didn’t understand my relationship to my own image.

But I could tell there was a gap, and it was making me unhappy. So I gave my awesome writer friend Sonia $90 and asked her to purchase me some shirts based on my online brand.

I was incredibly surprised, but I probably gained more insight than I ever would have with a survey.

More than that, it started setting me on the path toward truthful branding.

Shirt #1: The humorous philosopher.

My eternal fear online is that I will look like a complete wanker.

I know I drink the business-speak Flavoraid sometimes, and I’ll wax poetic about things that don’t really matter a lot. I’m not perfect. But I will never ever put “philosopher” in my Twitter bio unless I’m being paid to teach the subject to people. Loving the Philosophy Bites podcast doesn’t count.

But this shirt includes a life philosophy I can get behind: Spend your days doing strange things with weird people.

It’s not pretentious. It’s not suggesting that the wearer is weird themselves, which I appreciate after thrown “strange and unusual” lines over and over again. (Please stop hitting on vaguely goth women with this.)

If I’m not coming off as wanky on the Internet, excellent. If I’m coming off as someone who says neat things in an unpretentious way, all the better.

Shirt #2: The basic bitch.

This shit is a basic cotton number, different only because it includes a black bow (the name of my company).

I was a little thrown by the fact that Sonia didn’t pick a shirt with actual bows. Realistically, she probably couldn’t find a good one. Bows have been out for a little while.

But if I’m business-writer-wanky about it, I could read into this that maybe I come off as a distinct brand that can still get things done. Like yes, I wear a bow. But I’m still basic cotton and you can count on me.

I don’t know. But I like it.

Shirt #3: The surprising trendsetter.

I never in my wildest dreams thought a crop top would make this list.

I will never have the abs to pull off a crop top in the way they’re “supposed” to be worn, i.e. with shorts and drawing attention to multiple areas of the body at once. But I love that something in my online presence called out to this of-the-moment trend.

To look young or twenty-something online isn’t always desirable. People want to know that you’re able to take on hard things and deliver.

But personally? I’m not sure I mind as much as I once thought I did. I’ve written six books, a few dump trucks worth of content, infinite social media posts, and I’ve probably saved enough Pinterest accounts to keep the network afloat a little longer than it otherwise would have. I can afford to say I’m 28.

Shirt #4: The wistful dark romantic.

(I’m honor bound to say that the original t-shirt I received was all black with tan buttons.)

This was a majorly positive surprise. This is the kind of shirt that I’d expect Lana Del Ray to be rocking in one of her more modern style music videos.

I love the tie fronts, of course. But this shirt hearkens back to pinup and hyper feminine looks. I wear this shirt with high rise shorts and cat-eye glasses.

This shirt is Hollywood romance, Elvira style. And this gives me hope, because it screams that no matter how edgy or dark my online persona may look to me, there’s still a softness and gentility shining through.

This exercise helped me to shift my online persona closer to who I actually was, because I honestly say that I had no other choice. My real self was coming out whether I liked it or not.

It doesn’t affect my content and management capabilities to be more or less horror-centric online. But people deserve to know who they’re working with when they search for me. And if someone doesn’t like the fact that I consider Texas Chainsaw Massacre a classic film, maybe we’re better off not working together.

But that doesn’t mean that I should pretend to be more of a character than I actually am.

Who I am is good enough. The only difference is that online, I have a crow mascot named Halsey.