People often look at me with this confused look on their face (you know the one, where they look like a curious puppy tilting its head to the side) when I say that I develop and polish people’s personal brands. I know they are dying to ask “What’s a personal brand?” More often than not, they don’t. But when they do, I in turn ask them, do you know who you are, do you know how people perceive you and are you representing the true YOU to the world? That inherently leads to more confusion, which of course I love because it gives me an opportunity to work with them.
There are many ways to look at a brand. We can look at the basic definition, we can look at popular media and we can look at you. According to dictionary.com, there are several definitions. These are my favorites: 1. “Kind, grade, or make, as indicated by a stamp, trademark, or the like: the best brand of coffee.” 2. “A kind or variety of something distinguished by some distinctive characteristic.”, and my favorite, “Any mark of disgrace; stigma.” I’m guessing the folks at major branding firms are going to avoid the third definition, or at least try to. Pretty simple, right? It’s something or things that distinguish an object.
It’s even easier to see in popular media. Who can name the product that the drumming pink bunny represents, how about the Spanish-speaking Chihuahua, and the soft drink with the two swirly, red and white-hyphenated words?
Most of us don’t relate to having a personal brand unless we are a professional speaker or an entertainer, but the reality is that every single person has one. For instance, think of when people say “That is so you.” People in fashion know that bright red lacquered nails will elicit an image of Diana Vreeland, the revolutionary fashion editor. Modern-art lovers can recognize the erratic paint splashes that represent Jackson Pollack’s works. And when people laughingly drawl the word “Nucleeuur”, you know which world leader they are referencing.
My theory is that your brand begins to develop as early as your first memories. Some people compare my energy to that of the Looney Tunes Tasmanian Devil (careful what you represent with your brand, lucky for me, I like the little fella), and that particular aspect of my brand, has been present since I could walk (my poor Mother). And my brand as well as yours, continued to develop as a teenager, in college and into our adult lives. We even pass our brand onto our children as they grow into their own extraordinary beings.
Your brand is all the unique elements that make up the Being that is YOU. And you are living it 24-7. It’s the fact that you can’t sleep with your feet under the covers; it’s how you can watch TV, IM and read a book at the same (almost the same time); and it’s how you instinctively know the perfect moment to ask for the business when you are making a pitch. Something as difficult to embody in an object, such as your character, is part of your brand. When you are a person of your word, then you are known to be honorable, when you aren’t, you’ll probably be known as a flake. No good or bad, or right or wrong, but these traits all come together to represent your brand.
Next time you make a presentation, next time you negotiate for your promotion (or with your toddler)…next time you want to make an impression, take some time to recognize the brand you are presenting to the world. What’s your body language saying, what are you wearing, what’s your tonality, are you being genuine, do you keep your commitments? Could you be sending out conflicting messages? Worse yet, are you hiding your true self?
Tip Of The Week
This may not seem relevant to branding but it SO is! I want to share my new favorite coffee spot, Funnel Mill. I for one am tired of the major coffee brands making me feel like I’m at the fast-food-of-coffee when I just want to enjoy my latte. When the Italians popularized the “café” concept, I’m guessing that they didn’t want you to chug over-roasted coffee, be funneled through a line like cattle and be treated like a moron for not remembering the brand-name for “small, medium or large”. Seriously…THIS is branding gone wrong. IT ‘S JUST A SMALL COFFEE…why are you trying to create a new language people? Anyhow, try out Funnel Mill at 930 Broadway in Santa Monica. It’s relaxed, you can sit on comfortable leather chairs and not be glared at by “I-can’t-find-an-acting-gig” grumpy baristas, they have free Wi-Fi and the yummiest soy latte in town. Say hi to the owner, JC, when you go in.