You are not in control of your brand. You never were and you never will be. You may own your brand, but, its identity is defined by your audience: your prospects, peers, and customers. You can make suggestions, of course. You can make your own statement about what you stand for. You can create logos and taglines, vision statements and mission statements, unique selling propositions and value propositions. These are all valuable brand assets, but they are not your brand.
Your brand isn’t what you say. It’s what “they” say. And what they say is based on what you do.
I believe in the importance of strong, “spot on” branding. In fact, I’m currently teaching a closed, beta class on the topic to a fabulous group of solo entrepreneurs. The conversations around what brand is and what it isn’t have been lively and enlightening. Though some folks were initially surprised that their brand was not contained within their logo design and elevator pitch, everyone immediately aligned with the idea that your brand is a “living” part of your business. It’s something that is constantly evolving based on your interactions with your audience.
It’s not enough to say that you’re responsive, innovative, and connected. You actually have to be responsive, innovative, and connected. You have to walk the walk, or the talk falls flat. If you aren’t being your brand in every interaction, people will see that your brand is nothing but a cardboard cutout – a pale facsimile of the real thing. They will feel they’ve been duped. They will get angry. They will definitely call you out.
Creating your brand is an important part of building your business. There is no substitute for doing the work around knowing – really knowing – your business, your motivations, your audience, your market, and your messaging; but … once you’ve laid that foundation you need to remember that “creating” your brand is just the beginning. The end result of all that research and soul searching is a clear and rich picture of the brand you want to be. Now comes the hard part – living up to those expectations.
The only way to bring your brand to life, is to bring its essence into everything you do. A picture might be worth a thousand words, but – when it comes to your brand – a single action is worth all the words in the world. Don’t tell your customers who you are, show them. Live up to the expectations of your brand. If you can do that, what “they” say will match what you say, and your brand will take on a life of its own.
How do you define branding? Do you agree that a brand is a living asset? How do you walk your brand’s walk?