When you look in the mirror, do you see what they see?
Businesses big and small expend huge resources (proportionally) to build a brand they’re proud of and can live up to.
Remember, our definition of a brand is a promise you make that differentiates and creates an image in my mind in terms of what it will be like to work with you/your product or service.
We help clients create/discover their brand and then weave them into the culture of their organizations so that everyone knows and is keeping the promise. But what happens once you release the brand out into the wild?
It quickly gets out of control — that’s what happens. At least it is now out of YOUR control. (For this discussion — your brand could mean your personal brand, a corporate brand or even a specific product’s brand.)
How you want people to interpret your efforts and how it actually plays out are two different things. Sometimes they’re in alignment but maybe the words are different and sometimes they’re light years apart. How does that happen?
People. Pesky human beings. Who all have their own way of looking at things.
What got me thinking about this today was a blog post by Liz Strauss from yesterday. She asked...what soundbyte do people use to describe you? It’s a brand question.
What Liz is getting at is — you either consciously or unconsciously go to a lot of effort to build a brand. But then I get to observe, interact and ultimately decide what all of that means to me. In most cases, it is not WHAT you do, it’s HOW you do it. That’s how I describe what you’re all about.
Let me give you an example. In 2008, I was humbled to be named one of the bronze level winners of the Personal Brand Awards (started by Personal Branding guru Dan Schawbel) — an honor that recognizes people who have created remarkable personal brands. In the descriptions of the winners, here’s how I was described:
Why he won: Drew is most notably the nicest guy on the internet. Aside from being one of the most recognized and respected authorities on marketing and branding online, he is a savvy networker. Since personal branding is all about giving before receiving and not putting yourself first, Drew has become known as a connector and friend to all. For all of this, we would like to present him a bronze personal brand award!
Read that first sentence again. The nicest guy on the internet. First…a very flattering description. But in relation to this blog post — I would have never described myself or expected to be described that way. Smart marketing & branding guy — sure. That’s what I do day in and day out — write about marketing and branding. I am a c0-creator of the Age of Conversation books (with Gavin Heaton) and Bloggers Social (with CK Kerley and Lori Magno) so maybe a community guy or a collaborator. But the panel of judges examined the sum total of my brand… and they decided (because that’s how brands work) that I’m a giver/nice guy.
I’m not telling you all of this to toot my own horn. After all, you too get to examine the sum total of my brand and decide what it means to YOU. I am using myself as the example because as a branding guy…. I preach this stuff every day. And yet how my own brand was perceived still surprised me a little. I’m proud to be considered a nice guy but even I got caught up in the what (co-creator, marketing and branding) and didn’t remember that it’s the how/why that sticks with people.
When you read Liz’s post, she gives some examples of the soundbytes she’s talking about. I think you’ll see that it’s not the what (marketing/branding) but the how or why (nice guy) that gets noticed.
So….your brand is out of your control. It’s in the hands, minds and hearts of your consumers. What would your soundbyte be? (And how close it is to what you’d want it to be?)