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By Emily Soccorsy + Justin Foster

Stop waiting for the world to tell you what your brand is.

It’s never going to happen. Not really.

We are so reactionary and definitive today. He is this, she is that. Fill in the blanks. Put a label on it and be done with it. (That’s what marketing is, right? Wrong.) Blah, blah, blah. We are obsessed with mass appeal. We are way too eager to have other people define our value. Which leads to squishy messages, dilution of value and worst of all — sameness.

Sameness sucks.

Sameness will kill you, and your spirit, and your brand. We’re all swirling around and drowning in the sea of sameness.

You know what’s always more interesting than sameness? Being human. Diverse, real, raw, messy, winning, failing, learning, growing.

But most leaders are afraid to be human.

At the root of this reactionary, be-what-you-need-to-be, polished-and-coiffed mindset is insecurity — a prevailing mindset that you have to appear a certain way to support your business model. This robs you of your identity and self-worth as a leader — and it attracts people who will exploit this artificiality. This also produces more insecurity because it causes paranoia and it repeatedly incites leaders to cast about for the “right” slogan, buzzwords, or pitch.

Another root cause of this mindset is fear.

Fear creates the mental framework that being your true self will somehow harm your business model. That you might offend someone. Or leave someone out. None of that really matters because it’s all a smoke-and-mirrors trick of the ego – causing you to stay in a scarcity and reactive mode.

Your brand is NOT a reaction to your business model, your employees or your competitors.

But it will be until you dig in and make it something different, something more real. Something based on what you actually believe instead of what you think the market wants to hear.

Your brand is how others experience what you believe in.

This is why in our Root Sessions we guide our clients to go inward. To shift from reaction to introspection. Why does my brand exist in the world? What are we offering that’s truly different? How can we create amazing experiences?

We’re not going to sugarcoat this: This is hard work. It makes our clients uncomfortable at first. It’s scary. It makes you confront calcified fears. It causes you to challenge systemic beliefs.

But what are you doing as an entrepreneur if you are not being brave? Come on, now.

The payoff is worth it. The payoff is a brand for a lifetime.

Instead of chasing one-liners and talking points, you get to focus on sharing your passion and purpose with the world via a clear, heart-based message.

Instead of expensive campaigns and ad buys, you will have a consistent digital presence with compelling, story-based content. Instead of manipulation, persuasion and discounts, you will create products and experiences that people love.

We urge you to move forward bravely with this promise: large tribes of people who think like you are waiting for you. They are waiting to embrace your message, to work for you, to buy your products and services.

But you will never find them by pretending to be something you are not.

Beginning to show the world your true self is the beginning of becoming a brand.

Emily Soccorsy + Justin Foster are cofounders of the intrinsic branding practice known as Root + River. Together with their defiantly different clients, they uncover then articulate the foundational elements of the brand. Then, they provide brand strategy and brand coaching as the brand is rolled out internally and externally. Obsessive about language and differentiation, Emily + Justin are also authors and speakers. Follow @rootandriver @fosterthinking and @emilyatlarge.

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