What’s the difference between your business and a group of vile teenagers?

And now, your regularly scheduled branding lesson brought to you by the days of my life:

When I was 14, I started high school in a foreign country at a private, international high school.

It sucked.

I was a teenager and — like everyone who has ever been a teenager — I wanted desperately to fit in. But I was so American. My clothes were American. My accent was American. My haircut, my eyeliner, my taste in music and even my school supplies were American.

I didn’t come to this conclusion on my own.

My peers made me acutely aware of it. Every 15 minutes whenever someone wanted to copy my notes — or my test answers — and they’d whisper, “hey, Americana.”

I went to that school for two years before anyone ever called me by my first name.

If my experience at high school number one wasn’t enough to convince me that teenagers are vile, high school number two solidified it.

We were writing poetry in Mrs. Ferraro’s 12th grade English class. We made a list of things that ring like bells. My contribution was telephone.

Poetic, I know.

I will never forget the 17-year-old boy who stood up on his chair and said, “yeah, maybe a Spanish phone.”

I crawled under my desk that day and stayed there until graduation.

It may surprise you to know that some of the most amazing friendships I have are from this traumatizing era of my life.

There were individuals who wanted to be my friends. They invited me to go to the gym with them. They invited me to join the school chorus. They even invited me on their family vacations.

It was really conflicting for me.

They were part of the collective, yet the collective was not at all reflective of the admirable — redeeming — qualities these individual people possessed.

Business can sometimes work this way too.

If branding and marketing and business acumen make up a community and marketing and business acumen are great, but branding is shady AF, the collective can still be perceived as a group of vile teenagers.

We must have goals and objectives for how we want the collective of our businesses to be perceived and brand is the foundation for that.

Your brand is a promise to your customers — a promise about how you are going to show up for them, a promise about the experience you create for them and a promise about the quality of your product or service.

If your brand is only reflected in your marketing and not in your customer service or in the delivery of your services, the collective fails.

In order to assess if all the moving parts and pieces of your business are supporting your brand, you have to define your brand.

Want to do that?

Start with answering these questions:

What do you do?

WHY do you do it?

Who do you do it for?

What do you want them to think of you?

How do you want them to feel?

Laura Diaz is the CEO and Senior Strategist at Kiss Me Creative where they make client love all day long. Her super powers are efficiency, follow through and creativity based on sound logic. She enjoys long sips of coffee and short lines at Starbucks.

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