In our work as brand excavators and strategists, we are not working to shoehorn your brand or business into a pre-set market position that we’ve deemed advantageous. That’s Old World branding.
What we are ultimately working to do is to inspire you to overcome your fear.
Fear is the main dynamic that keeps you from truly becoming a brand.
The fears you have may feel monstrous and unsurmountable when they ping-pong across the delicate folds of your mind and heart. In truth, they are more like dandelion fuzz.
If you blow on them, they disappear.
Here’s what they are: you’re afraid of being different. You’re afraid of saying something that will be evocative, and you’re likely mislabeling the evoked emotional reaction of another as offending them. You’re afraid of standing out and standing out is the whole point of branding.
It’s humorous that today, everyone wants to be a brand, but very few people actually relish the idea of standing out.
Having fear is not the actual problem. Grasping ferociously on to the fear and letting it dictate (consciously or unconsciously) your behavior creates myriad problems with your brand.
Fear most often manifests in a brand in these areas:
- Over-explaining – Triggered by fear, insecurity takes hold and becomes multi-page brochures, long and boring web copy, 50-slide presentation decks. All are indicators of a deeper, more latent insecurity about who you are, how others see you and what to say. Over-explaining has the exact opposite effect of its intended outcome. It results in prospects looking past you or looking away from you because of the overwhelming amount of information you are drowning them in. They simply don’t have the time to figure you out.
- Hiding your true self – You work hard to create a brand that is a construct and a bulwark around the real you. You save your true self for the most intimate of moments, conversations and self-talk — usually in your personal life. What results is overly polished statements about your brand, cheesy or colloquial catchphrases or selling by talking endlessly about services and rarely talking about, or examining, why you do what you do. Pretending to be something you are not as a brand is exhausting and expensive. At best, it triggers disinterest in your audience. At worst, it evokes distrust.
- Sameness – Again, the entire point of branding is to stand out. But, oh, aren’t we seduced again and again by that delicious gravitational pull of being liked? Sameness makes the false promise of acceptance, whispering in your ear about having a logo that your best friend likes, a message that feels very easy to share with your colleagues. A sameness-centered approach produces cliches, platitudes, jargon in your brand language, all of which dilute and dull your brand. Once again, your audience reacts simply by moving on.
Underneath all this fear and its consequences is a disconnect from your inner essence, what we call your intrinsic brand. Your intrinsic brand is who you truly are. If the “you” is just you, then you have full control over that. When the “you” is a larger team or organization, one of your primary roles as a leader is to be Chief Spiritual Officer and nurture this inner essence.
The only way to overcome fear is action. When you take that leap to show the world your true brand, fortune indeed favors the bold. It also favors the original. And the consistent.
No longer squishy, unformed and stale, your brand becomes a rich garden of powerful language that provokes and stirs. When you fall in love with being different, your audience will fall in love with what makes you different. And when you show the world who truly are, they will respond.
Some will love you and some won’t. But no one will be bored.
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.