Archive for the ‘branding’ Tag

Business vs. brand

Al Ries at Advertising Age:

“Building a business or building a brand? That’s the most important question in marketing.”

I’m thinking this pithy statement sums up all the confusion in our economy today.  Through social media and the internet, because we’re truly now global citizens, we are transitioning to an economy that is based in brand rather than in business.  The vast majority, though, have no idea what this means.

If you spend all your time online, as I pretty much do, you can’t miss the emphasis on authenticity and brand building.  But in the brick-and-mortar world, huge gaps in understanding remain.  Most business owners and workers simply don’t have the time to research, so the important strides discussed on the web pass them by.

When I attend local networking meetings, I know my talk mystifies those present.  I tell them about virtual assistance and social media marketing, but they are skeptical.  Business, for them, is an exercise in self-defense; they are held in terror of not making quotas, not making budgets; the shame of failure threatens their well-being constantly.  Their souls are buried under mountains of  paranoia.

Did we boomers cause the present money problems?  Probably.  We discovered a new personal freedom through our hippie days of the 60s, but neglected to transfer its meaning to business.  While we became personally more open, very few applied the same thinking to business.  Until now.  Now, we find the intersection of commerce and personality to be the key to success, at least in terms of marketing.  Now, at last, we are becoming aware that branding and self-awareness are more valuable, richer, and much more durable than business.

But the average business person, however pervasive these ideas may be online, has not yet come to this understanding.  Part of the problem is that lifelong learning, an important aspect of brand awareness, is not part of the old business culture.  To many, the thought of having to learn an entirely new system is abhorent.  And of course, the concept that your life can be absolutely what you want it to be is still a suspicious one to these folk.

For me, the hard part is feeling the suffering.  If you don’t experiment with the processes of branding, if you stay stuck in the old business concepts, you’re likely to be suffering and afraid.  You have no idea how to progress in today’s economy.  You are still caught up in suspicion and competition, and most likely every day is a trial.

There’s a whole lot of gentle prodding to do.  Admittedly, this is a radical change for all of us.  And through hard times, perhaps it’s extremely challenging to keep believing in your brand.  But, as Ries points out, though it may at times test your loyalty, your brand will endure while your business will come and go.  

It’s a long row to hoe, but I see working with small businesses on establishing brand through social media as a way to relieve a whole lot of suffering in the world, to bolster belief in the self, and to free up business people from the oppression of the old style so that they may at last be able to offer their very best.

PLEASE NOTE:  This is the LAST POST of this blog on the WordPress site, and I’m off to live at my own URL from now on.  Please visit me there!

Brand as discovery

Here’s a lovely line from Julie Anixter on Tom Peters’ blog yesterday:

“… we are all, already, walking brands. We just have to polish them so that we can see them shine.”

This is what social media is about.  It helps us to polish our personal or business brand, to give it a shine that brings you the attention you need.

Note that brand is not a creation, but a discovery.  You can try to project an artificial brand, but it won’t work in the long run.  Brand is an articulation of who we naturally are, the best of our compassionate selves, and it reflects self-knowledge as opposed to cleverness or charisma. Your brand is your birthright, as much a part of you as your face.

In the past, personal brand didn’t matter: one succeeded by conforming personal brand to industrial ambitions.  Education and culture did not foster understanding of self on that level.  Our new global awareness,  however,  makes self understanding and articulation of individual thought the first step in becoming a healthy global citizen.  It has become necessary to devote time and focus to who we are at core levels.

I’ve said it often, I’ll say it again, along with Dane Rudhyar:  to be creative is only to discover what essentially is.   Don’t worry about having to make something new; focus on discovering and then articulating the mysteries that are already present.

Social media and branding

When I first heard the term, social media, I dismissed it as a trivial amusement for those who have lots of extra time. Heck, when I first encountered computers, I avoided them as representing a new challenge, and life was challenging enough, thank you very much. Certainly, when I heard about Twitter, I just couldn’t understand why I’d want to share the messy details of life with the world. I’ve never been one for chattering, and these tools all seemed to encourage a lot of hot air for no more than shallow entertainment.

Of course, I was completely wrong about all these. The computer is now my mainstay, Twitter is a depth less source of learning. And social media is emerging as not only a great way to communicate about business, but also as a major aid to the changes we must make as a society, or perish in the attempt.

Social media is about word of mouth. It’s also about establishing individual brand. While we used to present a resume and hope that communicates our essence, now we can present online all the various aspects of our brand. Knowledge and understanding of any one individual can now far surpass the colorless lists on pretty linen resume paper.

The reason why word of mouth is such a big deal is that it really works. No recommendation is stronger than the opinion of trusted friends. Under the old print paradigm, those opinions meant only a tiny slice of your market. But with the global power of the internet, word of mouth has become the arbiter of nearly everything.

The reason why all this fascinates and uplifts me is that I see it as a return to self knowledge and open awareness. As a baby boomer, I’ve always bemoaned the lack of deep self knowledge in the adult world, and worked to tickle the soft underbelly that Pema Chodron always talks about. With the internet and social media, we are forced to consider where exactly each of us fits in the humongous puzzle. Without the direction, confidence, and passion of a personal brand, internet ramblings can be fun but useless.

But with a thoughtfully prepared plan, a detailed idea of brand, and generosity, social media now symbolizes our new world, where authenticity and helpfulness reign, where exchange is possible with anyone anywhere, and where we can find the niche that perfectly suits and nurtures us.

Why brand?

What is this branding stuff all about?  The term’s a household one, but I bet few can give a quick and confident answer to the question.  Is your brand your logo, your colors, your slogan, your coolness factor, your success rate?  Is it your preferences, your dreams, your skills?  If it’s all these many things wrapped up together, how can it be accurately expressed?


Rather than trying to fathom an image of your brand in terms of all these different factors, maybe it’s easier to think of it as the hub of a wheel; a single thing, rather than many things. 


How can you arrive at this one thing?  What is the single image that comes to mind when you think of your business?  If you’re considering personal branding, what is the single thing that comes to mind when you think of work that is fun for you to do?


Hold on a minute, don’t answer those questions yet.  Let them settle in your subconscious for a while.  Give it some time, and work your way towards the most bare bones honesty you can possibly muster.  No one is listening, at this point, so go ahead and be painfully (or gleefully or piercingly or whatever) truthful.


The deeper you get to the heart of what your business means to you – or what you mean to business, in the case of personal branding – the more powerful your expression will be. 


The more powerful your expression, the more attention you attract, the easier it is to amass leads for your business or professional progress.


Example:  Linda is a fitness coach.  She could opt for a generic logo, seek business mostly through referrals, make sure her phone answering machine is turned on, and get by. 


Or she could invest some time considering how who she is interfaces with what she does and with the world at large.  And by putting in this time at the start, she could realize major growth in returns as her practice continues. 


Why?  Because she took the time to examine her work in context with everything, and then differentiate it from everything.   This allowed her to develop a brand that very specifically defined her services.  Her message is crystal clear, and those who are attracted to it come flocking. 


Attaining warm leads, in other words, has become a cinch, because her branding does the work for her.


So Linda spends a few days contemplating the question: what is the one image (or word, gesture, sound, concept, or impression) that says succinctly what I’m all about as a fitness coach.  Very specifically, what impression do I want my clients to take away with them?  What do I want my reputation to be?


As any speaker or teacher will avow, it’s all about the take-away.  As any manager will tell you, it’s all about setting up agreed-upon criteria for success.  By defining your brand, you make it easy for others to know what to expect from you, to instantly see precisely what they can gain by interacting with you.


Through a few days of processing, Linda comes up with the image of a rocket ship.  Don’t ask me how she got there, it doesn’t matter.  But by exploring all the possibilities and dimensions, and playing/working continuously with the rocket ship concept, Linda is able to convey to clients and potential clients an extremely personalized – yet accessible – brand.


Maybe your brand is not an image.  It could as well be a sound, a pattern, a gesture, a mission or method.  Whatever form it takes, it is your guiding light, your home base, your signature.  If you give it the time required for deeper discoveries, it will serve you in return many times over.


P.S.  I suppose this post is for the go-getters who are impatient with any introspection.  It may pertain less to those who get caught in second-guessing and ponder issues too much, never progressing to action.  I certainly am not advocating spending all your time thinking about things. 


When considering how to identify the hub of your brand’s wheel, reap the best returns of three days at the most.  If your ruminations take much longer than that, you’re likely brooding, and it’s time to move on.  If you’re capable of adult decision-making, you can trust three days’ consideration of almost any issue.


Web and wheels

It seems to be, in true Dickensian form, both the best of times and the worst of times.  Layoffs, bailouts … heck let’s be real and name it depression … dominate the news; but we are also on the brink of reforms through the Obama administration that seem likely to prepare for us a much more glorious future. 

And in the face of serious financial quandaries, as individuals we now have an exciting chance to become more truly ourselves.  Few of the middle class have escaped unscathed:  either your retirement, or your college education, or your job, or a combination of these now bears the consequences of  Wall Street’s disaster.  An innocence, a faith in American infrastructures has been destroyed.  And while that may be sad in a sentimental kind of way, it’s actually an unparalleled opportunity.

Jeremiah Owyang talks today about how employees are becoming more like migrants and gypsies.  As we evolve, the epithet of  ‘worker’ no longer pertains.  None of us is just a cog in the wheel; rather, we are realizing that to develop a personal brand is to live fully, and not to do so is to remain wallowing in ignorance and slavery.

What is your brand?  Can you articulate it in some way?  What are your keywords (for LIFE, not financial gain)?  What kind of circle is developing around you? 

We traditionally have sought to create one huge wheel of industry that spins our collective lives.  Now, we realize that each individual must create their own wheel.  The world is a fantasmagoric interworking of 6 billion wheels.  We can no longer control; we can only be aware and appreciative.

Our systems, especially in formal education, do not as yet support this understanding.  We do not teach our children about self-knowledge; we rarely teach them how to think (see this article about how universities in Great Britain are leading the charge to change this.)  Few active adults today have any notion about how to organize a personal brand – or more basically, where to start in identifying one for themselves.

Is your brand your responses to categories on your Facebook page?  Is it the colors you use in print?  Is it what others say about you, or is it more than that?  I’m curious about these and related questions.  Add a comment with your ideas, if you will.  I’ll incorporate your thoughts in follow-up posts here.

Drawing in meetings

David Armano talked on Logic + Emotion a couple days ago about brand as Facilitator, as opposed to brand as Broadcaster.  The implications of this distinction are manifold, and I can’t begin to dissect them here, so go to David’s blog if you want to explore.  For now, I want to point to this distinction as a reason to use visual expression in business.

By nature, some of us are broadcasters and others are facilitators.  Translated to a higher level, we are moving currently from an age of broadcasting to an age of facilitating.  This is not to say either can be dispensed with, but one or the other tends to hold sway in any given era.  If a nation is a world power and a champion broadcaster for a couple centuries, over the following few centuries it is likely to morph into a facilitator role as a different nation takes power. 

In the US of A, major change seems imminent, and we wonder what the role of facilitator involves.  So far it seems to manifest in such phenomena as higher fuel costs, an increase in political involvement, and the creeping “free” economy.  It seems we are being challenged to face the music: to account for our immense energy consumption, for our leaders and their mistakes, and for our commercial recklessness.  In business today, it’s necessary to give generously before you can get.

I’m abbreviating here, but it’s time to get to the point.  If facilitation is what’s required for our country and our businesses, consider how it translates to your daily work and communications.  Consider, for example, how to run your meetings as a facilitator rather than as a broadcaster.  If you have any faith in your staff, facilitating their interactions should bring nothing but satisfaction and success.

And if you’re unsure how to facilitate your facilitating, use drawing!  Keeping in mind that you’re using drawing for the benefits inherent in the activity, and not in order to produce a pretty picture, approach issue discussions in meetings by asking staff to draw, individually, in small groups, or as a whole group.  Practice using the language of drawing in place of the spoken word, at least for short periods of time.  Get a roll of newsprint and tape long pieces of it on the wall, and put a hefty supply of markers within reach. 

As manager or group leader, you’ll want to absorb and analyze the drawings that are produced, and as a group you will draw conclusions from the activity.  There’s no need, however, to save these creations.  Make a few mental or written notes, be sure the group senses they have made progress, and then move on.  After a month’s worth of meetings that include drawing, notice your group’s morale and energy levels as they enter the conference area.  Because you have opened for them the doors of perception through visual communications, it’s very likely that the pervading mood will elevate and a can-do attitude will prevail.

Silence and power

Quinn MacDonald, an exquisite blogging thinker, wrote recently about the noise with which we’re surrounded all the time.  Many have become so used to it that silence is downright frightening to them.  As MacDonald says so poignantly,

“We hate the sound of our own minds and hearts.”


It’s true, isn’t it?  Very few are comfortable with quiet introspection.  If no other distractions are available, we must blast the radio or television to keep the white noise at sufficient volume to keep inner thought from surfacing.


Problem is, the evolving world of commerce is dependent on your individual creativity.  Much more than your fabulous looks, your soaring intelligence, your knack for selling, or your workaholism, it’s the depths of your creative self that will lead you to success in business as the global economy develops.  Finding your true brand, the skillset you offer that is unique in the world, is how you’ll prosper in coming years.


And it is not possible to discover your uniqueness without intimate knowledge of your own mind and heart.  If we’re always layering on the noise and distractions, this static interference simply drowns out the soul’s whispers. 


Is all this anathema to you?  Can you abide the very thought of silence, or does it frighten you beyond contemplation?  If the latter is true, you’re likely to discount this post as all very well, but impossible, and immediately forget it.  But if you have the courage to try, go ahead and test the advice of so many leaders, consultants, writers and thinkers all over the ‘net, who say one of the keys to successful living is to spend at least 10 minutes in absolute, undisturbed silence every day.


Get to know your self, your simple existence as it expresses through your breathing.  Don’t expect instant miracles, but allow the slow and certain awareness of your utterly unique self to penetrate.  Silence, which may appear scary or boring or threatening, is in truth our most powerful connection to personal power.

Roots of passion

All this talk about passion, and fascination, and personal branding. The wonderful folks at Creative Something recently quoted Ze Frank as saying creativity is “…having the energy to stay interested and the energy to spark interest in things.” What energy? What interest? Where do these things come from if they don’t seem to be on hand? You understand the logic of all the talk about finding your passion, but there’s just one small problem: while you believe that energy, interest, passion, and creativity are all useful, you have no idea where to find those things.

It’s like when you’re feeling bad and someone says “Get over it.” That doesn’t help, because if you could get over it you wouldn’t be feeling bad. Somebody saying “Be creative,” or “Find your passion,” or “Articulate your brand” is just as unhelpful.

We’re simply out of practice. Most of us work, and then decompress with the tv, sleep, and then start all over again. On the weekends, we do chores or spectator sports. There’s no time for self-scrutiny.

Until recently, there were no obvious rewards in a personal vision quest: the industrial world needs workers, not seekers. But the complexities we currently face require a new kind of self-responsibility, since individuals can easily perceive their connections to all of humanity. If my world unfolds within the confines of the local geographic area only, I am aware of and bear responsibility towards far fewer people than if my consciousness ranges the entire globe.

This broadened awareness brings with it a new requirement for survival, and that is sustainability, in all its multiple levels and meanings. And, ladies and gentlemen, sustainability is not achieved without passion.

So we have to re-learn how to be interested, where to find fascination; we have to discover energy from somewhere, like magic; we have to allow the possibility of creativity, and send little love notes to our passion. It is there, waiting for us.

Playing by the rules

I’m working on a writing job currently that has lots of rules, including a long list of words one is forbidden to use. Why? It’s a rule, that’s all. Rules are rules. We stop there.

Rules seem to be necessary in society. Wherever three or more are gathered, there the rules shall be. It’s the basis of civilization, the only way we know to approach peaceable life together.

Rules are usually established by wise leaders, who set down these maxims for good reason. But the hoi polli who must live by them soon forget their reason for being, and simply accept them as rules and therefore indisputable. The human propensity for fear keeps us in the thrall of rules and dictums from on high. For the most part, we let these forces do our thinking for us.

At some point, though, you can step back from the rules. You can consider what your own judgment is, apart from givens you’ve been force fed. You can make the conscious decision to adopt or reject the rules. In a way, that’s what branding is all about: communicating to others your own well-considered set of rules and regs. It’s certainly at the core of innovation, where not being bound by rules is the first practice.

Branding and communication

Had an interesting comment on yesterday’s blog, which took exception to my suggestion that branding is a form of communication.  The commenter seemed to be saying that your brand is simply who you are, what impression your very appearance gives; and inferred that while you work on promoting your brand, you cannot modify it.

Of course, my rebuttal is about how recognizing and articulating – more than modifying – your own brand is the issue.  It takes a long time and serious focus to get a handle on how you are impacting others, and what your actual reputation is.  Like your rear end, you carry your brand everywhere with you, but seldom get a good peek at it yourself. 

By defining your personal brand, you become capable of consciously projecting it, and winning support and success through it.  How to clearly communicate your business brand is the number one issue for sales; projecting, enjoying, and cultivating your personal brand is the road to fulfillment in the individual’s life because it’s the full appreciation of natural gifts.

Once you become more aware regarding the brand you habitually manifest, you can emphasize its positive aspects, carefully study the negative sides, and intentionally project (i.e., communicate) this recognized strength of character.  Until you spend committed time and much thought on this aspect of your existence, you stay a slave to the brands of others.