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Authenticity. Vulnerability. Transparency. Being more human. These are the standards of a modern brand. 

Branding is still a performance, and a powerful one. But it’s not a performance built on pretense, on flimsy supposition or shallow projection. It’s a performance that rises from truth, integrity, and genuine emotion. 

It’s a performance because you, as a brand, always have an audience. You are on stage. And you have a story to tell. You’re there to inspire your audience, to bring them along for the journey, to reveal something of yourself in the process. 

While all brands are performative, many are still putting in manipulative performances. They choose titillation over tension. They choose gratuitousness over depth. They choose shock or cheap laughs over art.

Most of this kind of branding is about a desired outcome. About getting butts in seats. About being this summer’s blockbuster. Under all that pressure, many brands go the Michael Bay route. Lots of noise and explosions and cheesy dialog. 

If you do this kind of branding, you might stop reading at this point. You might even be poised to send us a strongly worded email justifying it because it generates revenue.

But the truth is: if you’re doing this kind of branding or marketing right now, you’re doing the wrong thing. It won’t be effective, and it’s not respectful to intelligent people who are bombarded with enough daily drama without you adding to their lot.  

If you instinctively know that branding can be both artful and profitable, please read on.

As mentioned, the performative aspect of branding has three key elements: the audience, the stage and the story. When woven together with mindfulness, soul, creativity and skill, your brand becomes legendary. 

The audience: This is not a demographic profile. It’s not about a group or a label or an avatar. This is about who your audience is as individual humans. What do they believe in? What is their unspoken need? What are their souls craving? Why have they entrusted you with their attention? Your audience is not just a passive recipient of your brand — a source of ticket revenue. They are part of your brand, part of your story. When they don’t feel seen or heard or acknowledged, they stop paying attention. 

The stage: Where you tell your story to your audience greatly influences how the story will be received and perceived. The metaphor of stage here is twofold. The first refers to the platforms you use to speak to your audience, be they public speaking appearances, social media posts, letters to shareholders. The second metaphor refers to the structure of your business: how well you treat the people backstage, the safety of the environment, who you have contributing and where. To stand firmly on your stage, tend to both. Be careful selecting your platform stages, and instead of feeling obligated (and thus overwhelmed) to do it all, gravitate toward the platform you prefer, that gives you the most energy. Be sure you have created a healthy, communicative environment with regular outlets for people to share feedback with you and express how they perceive your performance. The people backstage are your first audience and have a lot of wisdom to share. 

The story: This is where tension comes in. And character development. And a story arc. And villains. You can’t follow Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey model without these elements, and they are at the heart of every well-told story. Developing the story is hard work. It takes time and focus and creativity – all of which are in short supply in most corporate brands. So how do you get your story right? The only way to determine that is to set aside time and space with your trusted guides and determine what the story you are trying to tell is. What is the central theme of your performance? What one main idea are you trying to convey to your audience through your performance? What point of view are you taking? Why should the audience care about that? And most importantly: what are the repeatable words you will use to convey this story? When you get your story right, you are enabling others to tell it for you. The story is the word-of-mouth engine. The story is the experience. 

Whether on the theater stage, in the boardroom or in a live media interview, great performances don’t blindside people. They don’t manipulate them. They don’t shame them. 

Great performances inspire people. They carry on despite missed cues or dropped lines. They find something real within the scripted. 

Great performances expand the imagination. 



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