You’ve Already Got a Brand

Stop overthinking it

Jeff Bezos once said, “your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

Conventional wisdom has it that branding is a complex process that lives in service of how others judge you. It’s no wonder then that the concept sends most people into a state of panic.

But what if we turned the idea on its head? What if instead of a complicated list of rules to please others, it was a single word to serve you and your team?

Take Broad City, the comedy series by Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer about two 20-something friends living their best life in NYC. In a recent behind-the-scenes extra, their costume designer remarks that all decisions come down to one metric: is it funny? While other shows have competing priorities, like making the stars look good, here funny always wins. On the episode in discussion, Ilana’s outfit includes pointy acrylic finger and toenails emblazoned with dollar signs and all four Obamas, unflattering lingerie worn as a bodysuit, and an ombre orange wig to top it off. Not sexy, but yasss funny.

But it’s not just entertainment. At a workplace I’ve seen, leadership uses a single word to assess new opportunities: transformation. They’re on a mission to change companies and the industries they operate in. If an incoming project doesn’t fit the bill, it’s likely not a fit.

Then there’s the corporate team that’s devoted to the customer experience. A writing coach who centers her business around the word daily: daily practice and daily publishing. And a festival that’s all about immersive stories.

What unites these examples is that they don’t need to invest precious resources on a brand guide, they need to act on who they are today.

So the next time a discussion of brand comes up, don’t sweat what you don’t have or how it all might be perceived. Think about what drives the work forward, and what makes you you. That’s your word.