Last year, while launching a branding course when my son was just a few months old, it dawned on me that there were several parallels between branding principles and infant development. Upon further reflection, I realised that there are indeed several parallels between branding and life!
Today, I’d like to share branding lessons that I’ve learned, in my 10+ years of professional advertising and graphic design practice, and my 30+ years of life.
1. Take time to get to know yourself
It took me a while to truly appreciate the importance of making this kind of time and space. Time to figure out what makes my heart sing and time made sacred for these activities. Time to really think about what I stand for and time to articulate these values to myself. Acceptance of myself, with all my quirks, and appreciation of who my kind of people are.
Figuring out who I am and what I want from life, has been transformative. This kind of clarity – in the context of your business – is the foundation to an authentic brand that will resonate with those you want to serve.
Ask yourself: as a brand, who am I? What am I all about? What is my purpose? What do I want to be known for?
Sometimes we obsess over how to separate ourselves from our business. So much so that we end up procrastinating on figuring out these most fundamental of things. Missing the fact that, nowadays more than ever, people connect with the people behind the brand. I recommend starting by removing that often-forced separation between the personal and the professional. This is about exploration and discovery so, be free! Later on, you can review what you’ve come up with and decide what aspects you’d prefer to hold back.
2. Practice congruent character
I came across the term, ‘congruent character’, from a book I read while in university (The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari). In summary, it’s about acting in a manner that is consistent with your values. This involves aligning your thoughts, actions and habits – which then lead to your destiny!
Consistency is key. In this, as well as when it comes to how you present your business to the world (i.e. your branding). Do all the different elements that make up your branding, align with your values? Do all your communications materials – in terms of content, as well as in terms of presentation – align with who you say you are and what you want people to remember you for?
The clarity you achieve in lesson number one, will give you a framework to practice congruent character when it comes to your branding. Think of it as a kind of checklist you can use to review your materials.
3. You can’t please all the people all the time
You probably can’t even please them half of the time!
I have been known to say “yes” far too often. I admit it – I’m a recovering people-pleaser! Some painful lessons have taught me that I simply can’t be all all things to all people so, why even try?!
The same applies in business. Attempting to serve everybody leaves us stretched too thin and, as a result, we end up not properly serving anybody.
We need focus, faith and confidence. Focus on a very specific type of person, whose needs we can deeply investigate and then address. Faith that enough of those people exist. Confidence that we can reach, engage and satisfy them.
If we stay true to this one type of person, they will stay true to us!
Dive into the discovery of who this type of person is, when it comes to your business. Have fun creating the persona. Give her/him a name, create moodboard of her/his life and put it up in your workspace, for a daily reminder of who you’re speaking to. Add to it as you get to know her/him better.
4. You actually have no enemies
Most of the time, when we really investigate the matter, the only enemy is within.
We can choose to let people get us all worked up but, when we push our egos aside, we realise that their outbursts really have nothing to do with us.
This reflects how I feel about the idea of competition – a distraction from outside that has no real bearing on who we are. When we are true to ourselves, we realise that nobody can imitate us. Nobody can do what we do, the way that we do it.
I encourage people to transcend this competitor mentality and instead, identify their peers. A simple replacement of a word can totally change how you approach the market you operate in, and turn a negative into a positive. See how you can collaborate with your peers. You might find that you can even serve them (hello additional income stream)!
Be proactive about engaging your peers and building relationships with them, based on genuine respect and appreciation. You may be surprised about the connections and opportunities that result.
5. Surround yourself with like-minded people
Nothing is more affirming than discovering people who share your values, speak your language and dream similar dreams.
These people provide inspiration, guidance, support and motivation – enabling you to achieve so much more than you would in isolation.
This is true in life and when it comes to your business. For the latter, association can add credibility to your brand. Your audience is influenced by who you follow, collaborate with, endorse etc. So reach out to and engage with like-minded individuals and brands that you like, including those you look up to.
Be strategic about who you follow on your preferred social media platform. Here’s where you definitely want to separate your personal and professional accounts (this doesn’t mean you can’t get personal on your professional accounts but, have a purpose for doing so when you do). Follow your collaborators, your suppliers, your best ambassadors, your mentors and authorities in your field.
6. It takes a village
I didn’t spontaneously become the person that I am. I’m the result of so many influences and teachers. They have each shaped different parts of me that together, shape your experience of who I am.
Similarly, your brand is comprised of several different elements. Done properly, it’s a kit with several tools, designed to work together to create your brand story.
Don’t expect one thing to be your everything. Always think about the context in which you’re presenting your brand. You will often need to combine different tools from your kit, to present yourself effectively. For example, an imagery-based logo will almost always need the name of your business beside it. At least until you’re a household name like Nike :).
7. Embrace storytelling
Storytelling is a release for me.
When having a difficult conversation with somebody, I find it helps to tell a story. Whether it’s sharing an anecdote to contextualise the situation, or finding an analogy for it. The story helps to reduce any potential tension and to deliver the message more clearly.
In my journaling practice, I effectively tell stories to myself. Through this, I can find solutions, in one sitting, to issues that have been troubling me for weeks!
Think of your communications as storytelling for your brand.
I’ve seen people struggle with creating content, because of overthinking. They try to be clever when they could just be real.
Remember, your audience can see right through content that is working too hard!
Picture your target audience – the persona you came up with in lesson number three. When creating your content, imagine you’ve gotten to know them very well and you’re having a friendly, informal chat.
8. When in doubt, be yourself
It’s easy. It’s authentic. It’s sustainable.
And there is no competition.
Same applies for life and branding.
If a particular branding or communications task is proving to be very difficult, it’s probably because you’re not being yourself. Check yourself and adjust accordingly.
9. Learn when to say goodbye
You are dynamic and so is your brand. Don’t be afraid to evolve.
If we’re mindful, we realise that we’re learning everyday. About ourselves and how we want to serve and add value. About what works and what doesn’t.
Your branding tools and activities should reflect this change and growth. While it’s important to always keep your audience in mind, this should not restrict you from presenting the reality of your evolution. You may find that your audience also shifts!
Make some time, regularly, to review your brand. You might begin with once a quarter if you’re just starting out, or with once or twice a year if you’re more established. The Soulful Branding course gives you tools for how to do this, and plenty of inspiration on to how to make it a welcome and enjoyable activity.
I truly believe that working on your branding should be personal and fun.
The next Soulful Branding Challenge begins on October 1st – sign up here.
Free printable poster
A few readers mentioned wanting to print this post, to put up on their wall as a reminder. I decided to create a poster version that you can download when you join our Soulful Branding community.