In 5 Steps

Today’s world has everyday people saying “it’s all about my brand” in everyday conversations.

This urgent topic persists amongst us in part because the internet superhighway has enabled any and everyone to compete in the global economy — thus exponentially increasing competition. And since competing around price is a slippery slope, companies with credibility a.k.a. positive brand equity, have a stronger change of capturing consumer mindshare and pocketshare. A lighter is a lighter is a lighter, but a Zippo lighter is very special.

For my non-marketing friends and family who ask, “What is a brand? How do you build a brand so that people believe what you want them to about your brand?” this branding girl and teacher offers this simple counsel.

A brand is an intangible perception of a person, thing, product or service that people choose to buy into based on what they are told or experience. A brand is a belief system.

You believe Tide is a superior detergent. You believe FedEx is THE most reliable delivery system to get your gift home for the Holidays. You believe the city of Ferguson, Missouri is pro-police and Hollywood is the land of dreams. You believe Tidal HiFi will deliver superior streaming service to Spotify, or you don’t. You believe, because you choose to. Beliefs are choices, and with the world we live in, choices abound, so beliefs about your brand can change at anytime. So you must try to control and direct them.

The beliefs we had in Enron, Bill Cosby, Jared The Subway Guy* were impacted by news shared about them, impacting our perception/belief in them. These entities still existed as brands, but what we believed them to be and represent changed.

Last year, a colleague on the verge of notoriety called to share her news and ask confidentially what she should do to become a brand. Below is what I advised then, and now:

  1. Identify within your truest self what makes YOU unique, and represent that, and ONLY that, to the world. As a uniquely made human being, you have specific things authentic to you that no one else can offer. Don’t waste time emulating others. Use your uniqueness to genuinely connect with others.
  2. Determine what the world needs that you have to offer, and make that your brand offering. Think about it this way. If you are a singer, but the world has enough singers, perhaps consider positioning yourself as a [CITY]-born singer who is also a ventriloquist who speaks Spanish and can sing the blues in Espanol with a beautiful puppet (that is cool and will create demand because of its innovativeness). Entertainer PINK is my inspiration for this example as she differentiated herself in a sea of girl singers with the Cirque du Soleil addition to her performances.

3. Consider the audience that will find what you are offering valuable. Find the most appropriate platform to present your brand offering to reach the audience you will serve. Is it TV, blog, office, a job, church, social media?

4. Be consistent. THIS IS PROBABLY THE MOST IMPORTANT component. The reason why we believed in Jared, Bill Cosby or Enron, is because for a significant period of time these entities told us who they were and they delivered, consistently. Time and time again, we were sold that Jared was that wholesome guy who lost weight by eating Subway, we were sold that Bill Cosby was a comedian and America’s Dad. We were sold these ideologies through repetition and consistency, and over time we believed them.

5. Invest in your brand. Whatever you must do to invest (time, money or sweat equity), to be the truth that you represent, you must do. If you represent that your brand is about having beautiful hair, you’re going to have to invest in delivering on that promise. You have control in what you represent, if you can’t make the efforts to deliver on your brand promise, then change what your brand offering is.

There is nothing wrong with believing. In fact, belief in the intangible is sometimes all we have when the tangible disappoints or eludes us.

Yet for your own brand, do the work of figuring out who you are and asking can you commit to that belief you want others to buy into before launching into it, and carry on brand builders.

And a final note on what a brand is NOT. A brand is not a logo. A logo is a visual representation of what your brand embodies, not the brand itself.


*The inclusion of the herein corporate and personal brands are examples only, and do not represent my positive or negative belief in allegations against these figures/brands.