When I was younger, I used to work at an outdoor summer camp. While I was there, I worked with some incredible fellow counselors. These counselors were the kinds of people who could, in the span of a week, change a kid’s life forever. They were smart, caring, attentive, and they knew how and when to be professional (at least, as professional as you can be working at an outdoor summer camp) and when to let loose and have fun to get the kids excited. Then there were the counselors on the other end of the spectrum — to put it simply, the job just wasn’t for them, and it’s one of these counselors who gave me one of my favorite stories to tell about camp.
One night, after the kids had all gone to bed, the male counselors were all sitting in hammocks around a few small candles relaxing and enjoying each other’s company. I don’t remember exactly how we got there, but eventually, we started talking about the summer Olympics. In the middle of the conversation, one of my fellow counselors, let’s call him Lenny, decided to strike up an argument with another counselor about how he was the camp’s biggest fan of the summer Olympics. Naturally (in jest, of course), the other counselor fought back about how, in fact, he was the camp’s biggest fan of the summer Olympics. This went on for a few minutes before Lenny got up and stormed off, ranting about how he would show all of us just how dedicated he was to these games.
We thought nothing of it until a few minutes later when we began to hear some muffled yelps of pain coming from the counselor’s bathhouse a few yards away. We all went quiet and, after taking a quick glance around to make sure that we weren’t just hearing things, decided that a few of us should go and check out what was happening. So two of the other counselors and I walked quietly over to the bathhouse, peeked our heads inside the door and saw a sight that I won’t ever forget.
We swung open the door and marched inside, seeing Lenny on the ground with a bent paperclip in his hand and a small lighter on the ground next to him. He stood up, marched over to us, still yelling about how he was the biggest fan of the summer Olympics, but this time, he was gesturing wildly at his upper arm. Once we got him calmed down, we saw it — Lenny had decided that the only way to prove once and for all that he was the biggest fan of the summer Olympics was to take a paperclip and a spare lighter he had brought with him and brand the Olympic rings into his arm. Needless to say, his arm looked terrible, the air smelled like singed hair, and none of us ever questioned his devotion to the Olympics again (although we did seek medical attention very shortly afterward).
What’s your brand say about you?
All this is to say that the effect that a brand can have on people is enormous. Companies and individuals that have a strong brand presence stick out in a person’s mind, sometimes even coming up subconsciously. How many times has a random jingle or tagline popped into your head? For me, it’s almost daily.
A brand is like a window into the heart and soul of a company or individual — think about the brand of your favorite store, clothing line, or company. Doesn’t it seem to convey the company’s message, ideals, or priorities? Some of the biggest and best companies in the world spend painstaking amounts of time perfecting their logo, color scheme, typography, etc. so that when a person looks at their branding, that person sees right into the company.
“A brand is like a window into the heart and soul of a company or individual…”
If good branding is so important to the most successful companies in the world, what’s stopping us from trying this on for size ourselves? A few weeks ago, I shared on my social media accounts that I was in the process of creating my own personal brand, starting with a logo and web portfolio. In response, I got a lot of questions about why it’s important to have a personal brand and about what I intended to do with it. Needless to say, I think that having a personal brand, especially if you are in (or want to be in) a technology- or creative-based profession, is more than just important, I think it’s a necessity.
The importance of a personal brand
As a developer, designer, and speaker, it’s really important that I have good branding for a few reasons:
First and foremost, it allows me to unite all of my ideas, all of my creations, and all of my work under one umbrella that people can recognize. Everything, from my web portfolio to my invoices, will have the same branding, which ties together the whole operation.
Second, having good branding also gives me the opportunity to stand out from the crowd and show potential clients, partners, and peers who I am and what I like. Having a personal brand implies that you’ve taken the extra time to focus on building yourself up professionally and creatively, and to employers and potential colleagues, that really stands out.
Finally, having good branding gives me an excuse to flex my creativity and think about myself as a whole. It’s not very often I get to work on projects like logo design or website development on my own terms, so having an excuse helps keep me sharp by honing the skills that I want to work on, using whatever tools I decide are right for the job.
“Having a personal brand implies that you’ve taken the extra time to focus on building yourself up professionally and creatively, and to employers and potential colleagues, that really stands out.”
If you have a personal brand, great! Keep using it to your advantage, but don’t forget to adapt and change as the world around you changes too. There’s nothing worse for your brand than to look around in a few years and realize that you’re seemingly lightyears behind your peers because you haven’t taken the time to update your brand with the times. If you don’t already have a personal brand, take some time to create one.
The purpose of this article is to get you thinking. Creating a brand can be fun to do and it can really pay off in the long-run. It doesn’t matter how creative and artsy you are, all it takes is a little time to really get to know yourself and you’ll be up and running in no time. So what do you say? What kind of brand do you want to be known for?