Most understand the value of branding, but to engage in building your brand can elicit anxiety from even the most stalwart individuals. Branding can quickly summon images of Coca-Cola polar bears, “Just Do It” slogans, and pink Hello Kitty bows. When considered on such a global scale, most people shut down and assume, “Branding just isn’t for me.” Big or small, new or established, individual or corporation, branding is for everyone.
Why? Branding is the way you differentiate yourself in a crowded marketplace. Whether you are trying to build your brand as an individual, or representing the brand of a company, most decisions should be motivated by brand. A great place to start is to create a value proposition, and gain clarity about what consumer pain points your brand solves. Without this, individual or company, it becomes nearly impossible to state your value and purpose to your audience. Brand definition is the core from which all other marketing functions flow: content generation, visual presentation, slogans, and standing out from the crowd. Without knowing who you are, and representing that to your customers, you are essentially relying on luck and goodwill to get your message to your audience.
Standing out from the crowd is perhaps the most essential element to building a successful brand. What does this mean? It means continually re-establishing your promise to your clients, customers, and followers: what makes you different, why you matter, and why someone should think of you when they need your unique talents.
So if you own the strategy for a company you work for, or are trying to upgrade your own personal brand, here are seven tips for standing out from the crowd and building a better brand:
Authenticity. Yes, we’ve all heard this word so often that, at times, it feels inauthentic. Authenticity, especially when it comes to building your brand, means walking the fine line between realness and professionalism. When you are representing your individual brand, it is easy to be burdened with performance pressure. You want to be yourself, but you also want to cultivate an aura of confidence. To stay authentic, don’t sell yourself. This is especially true if you are building a company’s brand, but equally true when cultivating an individual brand. Employ the classic writing rule of “show, not tell,” and if you feel you are straying too far into inauthentic territory, employ the conversational lense. Read what you have written about yourself, and ask if it sounds like a conversation: light, casual, and approachable. If not, take another pass at it.
What Matters To You, Matters To Others. We live in an information-saturated culture, so, it’s easy to ride the coattails of existing conversations, instead of starting your own. You should comment on what is going on in your industry, but don’t let that be the only conversation. Dare to ask yourself: what do you want to say? What matters to you? What is your unique view? If you are representing a company’s brand, ask these questions of a wide cross-section of stakeholders within your team. This is a way to keep your voice authentic, and have more of a ring of truth than others. Ultimately, if you honestly engage in what matters to you with your brand’s audience, then it will matter to others. In doing so, your brand will organically grow a loyal following.
Public Persona. Think about how you want the world to see you. What comes to mind? How do others think about you? What words would they use to describe you? Good or bad, be honest; as these are the first steps to establishing your public persona. If cultivating a company’s brand, treat the company like a person, and invent it’s character so the persona is more easily understood. How others see us is often very different from how we see ourselves. Media upstart RuPaul has stated, “Know who you are and deliver it at all times.” If you don’t know your unique value, and fail to deliver it, then you are failing yourself and the cultivation of your brand. Wherever you land on as a persona, make sure your character matches the audience and platforms you want to engage. If you are a writer, for instance, Twitter might not be a great platform given the character limitation. Chances are you will have a better chance with Medium. If words are daunting to you, and your business is more visual; like event planning or interior design; use a visual platform like Pinterest. Make sure you are consistent, but don’t make your persona conform to a platform that doesn’t fit your brand.
Throw Out The Typical. Again, don’t worry about what other people are doing. Don’t like Twitter as a platform? Then don’t use it. Don’t trust yourself to write? Then make videos instead. In building a brand, there aren’t rules. What matters most is you, and every you out there is a unique individual. Throwing out the typical is important because if you wear the clothes of the typical, then you won’t stand out, and nobody will actually see you. If gray is the hot topic, and everyone is wearing gray, then everyone basically is projecting the same brand. Think how neon would stand out in such a crowd!
Where Your Heart Beats Faster. We all have passions. Most of the time, we are afraid to go after what we really want. But wherever we find ourselves, in whatever industry, there is something going on that gets our heart beating faster, meaning, something we are truly passionate about. A great way to find out is expose yourself to the conversations happening in alternative media outlets like Quartz, Good.is, or Vice. You can even try something interactive like Good.co to unlock your inner drive. Make time for those things that make your heart beat faster, and don’t make excuses that they don’t connect directly to your job or role. If representing a company’s brand, engage with leadership on how the company can give back to the community. This usually unlocks ways to do good, while also building a brand with integrity.
Make The Effort. In building a brand, you have to make the effort. Whether you go to events, or write, or post to Instagram, or tweet, or make videos, or anything else, it won’t happen unless you put in the effort. Making the effort connects to authenticity; you want to be sharing content regularly in order to build your brand. If you don’t engage regularly, then your individual or company’s brand presence dims in the minds of your audience. You want to keep yourself in their mind, just a little bit, as often as possible. This should be in the form of sharing unique content, or sharing material you connect with personally, and help represent your brand. We live in an always-on culture, so, wherever your audience exists in the digital sphere, make sure you are staking your claim and making your brand known there.
Build A Network. Building a brand doesn’t happen on it’s own, or overnight. Your brand matters because of the audience that is engaging with that brand. But in between your brand and your audience is your network. Follow those people that share similar interests. Read their content. Re-tweet them. Find the leaders that guide the conversation in your industry, and make sure to follow them and engage with their content.The more that you build a network, the more you will engage in a mutually beneficial exchange of brand cultivation and support with others.
While there aren’t rules for building your brand, the best guidance is to stay true to you. Whether you is the values of a company, or you is your own personal brand, knowing what defines the you and representing it to the world is the key.