07 January 2013

Becoming a Name Brand

Branding Irons by pestpruf CC-BY-NC-ND
Last spring, I wrote about riding for the brand. Some people assume that brand refers to an object in this turn-of-phrase. And this is partially correct. Putting your mark on some cattle (or other product) is one way to create a brand.

But there is more to it...something more important. The brand is also the intangible represented by the mark. It says something about the integrity of the individual(s) it represents. The stamp might help others identify what belongs to you, but your personal brand gives meaning. It says something---good or bad---about who you are.

I am circling back to this idea this year because the word "brand" is being bandied about rather heavily at the moment. And I keep having a very Inigo Montoya moment when I hear it: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Most of the time, the term is being used in reference to stuff---things like documents and slide decks---when, in fact, that has very little to do with actual branding. I ran across this quote from an interview with Edward Tufte...and it made me think about the current discussions of "brand" (emphasis mine):
PowerPoint benefits the bottom 10% of presenters by forcing them to have points, some points ... any points at all. And the best 10% of presenters have such good content, style and self-awareness that PowerPoint does little damage. PowerPoint should be used solely as a projector operating system to show 100% content, without the bullet grunts, logos and the formatting nonsense from the Strategic Communications Department, and the $20 million Pentagram corporate format guidelines. Such formats are about their precious turf-possessed selves and are the enemy of information and often truth. (Source)
Here, he makes a statement about PowerPoint, but you could sub in just about any communication and read the same thing. If you think a brand is about making your documents look alike, then you're not focused on the content they represent. All you've done is build a shiny fa├žade, and pretend you have a brand. But what it represents is pretentious, at best, and damaging to your name, at worst. I have no respect---or patience---for such endeavors.

The real work is in building yourself as a person and as a professional. Make your mark in a way that allows others to create and build, too...rather than fit them to your template. Be known for the quality of your work and the integrity of your words. Be a brand others will want to ride for.

1 comment:

Hugh O'Donnell said...

Well said, SG!