Working in the Brand and Content Strategy space, I know the real prize is being able to help an organisation build a clear identity for their brand. I believe that once they get that right, the team that works on the brand, directly or indirectly, will be clear about what the organisation stands for. Most importantly there will be clarity around what the brand doesn’t associate with – it helps set your boundaries.
Identifying Personality Traits
There’s an exercise that I like to carry out when trying to “land the brand” for an organisation. The first part of the exercise calls for everyone in the room to imagine the brand as a person and in doing so, try to articulate the brand’s “personality”. Is Brand X funny or serious? Is it traditional or unconventional? Is it informative or exploratory? Is it innovative (creating change) or agile (adapting to change)? Is the brand accessible (mass product) or is it a luxury brand?
The next part of the exercise is about coming together and giving the team room to discuss why they think the brand is all the things that they have mentioned. And, once they can all agree on three to five top themes or “personality traits” then we go into, who does this brand speak to and what does it stand for?
All these steps are necessary not only for us to be able to develop a language around how the team talks about the brand but how they then use this to establish or manage the brand’s image. It usually boils down to, “how do others perceive the brand and does it match up with what we say we do/stand for?”
As I think about this process, it’s occurred to me many times that we liken brands to people by giving them “identity and personality”. And, usually by doing this, we hold them to particular standards because of this. It made me question, “what standards am I being held to and what has ‘persuaded’ them?”
Your Brand, Your Identity
As someone who works on brand and content strategy, I usually wonder about my own personal brand. Not sure if others think about it as intently as I do but what I know for sure is that every decision we make contributes to “building our brands” and it unconsciously informs how others perceive us. While the words “personal brand” can sound quite commercial and potentially like something only those in the limelight should worry about, I believe when simplified, it really comes down to the concept of “identity”.
Here are 8 questions that I had to ask myself (and continuously ask myself every year):
- Who are you really? Can you clearly articulate your identity?
- What are your top 5 personality traits?
- How would you describe your brand image or how you present yourself? What does it say about you?
- How do you think you are perceived by others?
- Who is watching you and who is interested in what you have to offer? There’s a difference between the two.
- What won’t you associate with?
- What do you stand for?
Perception vs Authenticity
Initially, when I first did this exercise I was afraid of losing my “authenticity” but then I realised, building my brand wasn’t only about choosing how to show up but it also challenged me to work on becoming the person that I choose to show up as.
Bringing awareness to how I may be perceived gave me permission to interrogate whether the things I identified with were really who I was or if there were dysfunctional traits that I had adopted as a consequence of circumstances and later began to identify myself with?
Thinking about it like this has made me more aware of the things that I should say yes to and those that I need to say no to. Becoming grounded in my identity has pushed me to identify and set boundaries and it has challenged me to enforce them. Not every opportunity is my opportunity. I don’t have to appeal to everyone. I don’t have to be everywhere. Not every conversation is mine to engage in. I can’t solve every problem.
Being intentional about my brand (or identity) has also helped with aligning my focus with the intended outcome. It’s helped me prioritise how I spend my time. Most importantly, it’s allowed me to identify the things that have the potential to distract me from realising the goal. As Sarah Jakes Roberts put it, “Your weaknesses can sabotage your areas of strength. Therefore, don’t start flirting with the behaviour patterns that you’re trying to kill.”
Identity has been a big theme for me over the past couple of years. Mostly because I’ve faced circumstances where the things I founded my identity on perished. It’s been an important journey for me. I needed to know who I was so that I was clear about who I wasn’t.