Where is Your Brand?
There are so many great components to this question. “Where” can be location or viewed as status. “Your” can be a personal brand, corporate brand, location-based brand (I’m a Californian, straight up!), etc. “Brand” is loaded with all kinds of misunderstood ideas of what it means to be a brand. For anyone who thinks they don’t have a brand or that it doesn’t need building, well … think again.
Let’s start with “where.” If you ask most people about their brand, they will give you vague, effusive answers usually associated with their title or some short descriptor like they are talking about a boy band “Oh, I’m the ‘shy’ one,” “I am seen as the ‘bad boy,’” or “I am the ‘nice’ one.” But your brand exists in both the digital and the physical world. Plenty has been written on managing your digital brand, but do the two halves of your brand match up? Does the person who sees you at school, church, neighborhood coffee bar, next-door neighbor, etc. see you in the same way of your carefully curated digital presence?
There has been a shift of late that has moved focus of your brand to the digital realm. Managing that aspect of yourself if key, no doubt. But, have we lost sight of the brand that we embody everyday? Noted psychologist J.P. Forgas’s study on mood and social interaction is over 30 years old now, but still holds true today: your mood influences how you remember and perceive your social interactions. He followed it up with his 1991 book Emotion and Social Judgments, which further showcased that mood and social interactions not only go hand-in-hand, but also play off each other. We are a product of our mood and our mood reinforces how we perceive our daily interactions.
Your brand is not just what is seen in social media or online. Your brand is the spring (or lack of) in your step, the smile on your face, the “how’s your day?” to your barista. Your daily social interactions influence your brand; your daily interactions ARE your brand. Don’t just focus on your online persona as your actual daily interactions may have more influence on your overall brand than you think.
“Your” brand is a multi-dimensional answer, but most of us see ourselves through only one or two lenses. Many don’t have the cognitive awareness to see themselves as they really are or as other perceive them. So our idea of our brand is usually work related and some personal related aspect (family, community, etc.). For instance, I am a “dad” and a “marketer.” But our brands are deeper and more complex than that. Are you focused on just one or two lenses of your brand?
It is easy to believe we are the best version of ourselves. If that version is work, you see yourself as your “work brand.” If that version is personal, you see yourself as that “personal brand.” But are you cultivating only your best brand, but ignoring the fuller version of your brand? Put another way, do you see your brand through rose-colored glasses?
Should you do a little Brand Spring Cleaning? Most of us spend time once or twice a year taking inventory of our physical environment and cleaning out our closets, our desks, and our homes. Do you do the same of your brand? Do you spend some time taking inventory of your brand — both good and bad — and either shedding or improving upon those bad traits? It is easy to think we are better than we are, but the world sees us as we are, even when we try to hide it. See your brand as others do and make smart choices as to how to handle it.
In many ways, it would have been easier and more logical to start with the idea of “brand,” as we look at how to shape it. However, branding is built on our attitude and on where we reveal our brand (“where” and “your”). Many people think that branding is like “networking” — it is only necessary when you are looking for your next thing, your next job. Your brand is present whether you want to acknowledge it or not — whether you are happy where you are or are looking for that next thing — your brand is there.
It may be a morbid thought, but your brand is your tombstone, your obituary. Are you happy with what it will say?
If we view (company) brands by 5 dimensions — Excitement, Sincerity, Competence, Sophistication, and Ruggedness — are we as people viewed any differently. Are you a Ford or a Tesla? Are you Stoli or SKYY Vodka? Hershey or Lindt chocolate bars?
Think of yourself across those 5 brand categories. What do I exhibit to those around me across those dimensions? Am I happy with that and — if not — what do I change?
You may have a great Facebook page with lots of great selfies of you at fabulous places, doing fabulous things. But how you treat your waiter at your next dinner out may play a greater role on your brand going forward than that great pic of you. Are you paying attention to your whole brand? Because your brand is continuously being developed, even if it is on autopilot.