Six actions that will help you to develop a ‘brand mindset’
A brand is a unique construct. In addition to the generic reference that we use to describe the various products and services that we use, the term ‘brand’ can equally be applied to who we are as individuals and how we are perceived by those with whom we regularly interact. In simple terms, everyone has a brand and is a brand. Whilst that brand will not necessarily describe everything that a person is known for, it will describe their defining characteristics or the things they are best known for.
Whether you like it or not, or know it or not, your brand will likely play an influential role in your future. Particularly, the type of opportunity you have access to, the doors that open before you get there and the ones that close before you arrive. All these things and more will likely be defined and determined by your brand. Brands speak to your credibility, build confidence and win trust. With all this in mind, how can you develop a ‘brand mindset’? Well set out below, are the six critical steps.
1. Introduce yourself to yourself
If you were asked to identify the three defining characteristics of your personal brand which ones would you choose? Would you go for the more commercial traits like ‘driven’, ‘hardworking’ and ‘outcome-orientated’ or something more person-centred like ‘compassionate’, ‘thoughtful’ and ‘caring’? Alternatively, would you choose more personable and outgoing characteristics like ‘influential’, ‘charming’ and ‘witty’? Whatever adjectives we use to describe ourselves, I wonder if those descriptors truly capture the essence of who we are, as opposed to how we like to see ourselves and how we would like others to see us. The key learning point here is that, however you choose to define your brand, if you do not know what it is, then you do not know who you are!
2. Ask others to tell you who you are
At some point, every brand will face two critical challenges, which will determine its survivability. The first of these challenges, is the courage to ask others for their honest and unvarnished opinion. Meanwhile the second, is the humility to own and act upon the things that others have to say. Without the opportunity to absorb learning borne of our own reflection and that of others, we are left bereft of the brutal honesty that is often needed to shake us out of our complacency. In the absence of honesty, we enter into the ‘comfort-zone’ of self-deception, which is probably the most damaging thing for any brand. Not least because a person who deceives themselves is just as likely to delude themselves. More likely than not, such a person may also end up perpetually frustrated as to why others do not see them, in the deluded way that they see themselves.
3. Care enough to want to do something about it
It is often said that change starts with knowledge. However, by itself knowledge will not effect anything without understanding and understanding will produce nothing without realisation. Applying this simple logic to a ‘brand’ implies that once a person realises the harm they might be doing to themselves or others, that alone should be enough to trigger a course correction. But what if it isn’t? Assumptions of how people might behave, based on common logic, ignore the fact that logic is not as common as one might like to believe. Individuals have agency and are therefore able to think and act independently. The point being made here is that one has to care enough about the situation that they find themselves in, to want to do something about it.
4. Understand that your ‘affect’ and your ‘image’ are not the same as your ‘brand’
Most of us consciously project an image, but few consciously think of themselves as a brand. Everyday we trade on what appears to be our brand, but what in reality is the projection of an image. Take recruitment interviews as a case in point. In such situations we take active steps to project a certain persona to would-be employers. We present as credible, competent, reliable, trustworthy and employable! For the most part, I am sure that these traits accurately describe who we really are. However, I am equally mindful that in some instances they may not. We do exactly the same thing in social settings, when we meet new friends or when we seek out romantic relationships. Projecting an image is part and parcel of how we communicate with each other — but your image is not your brand. The distinction between the two is simple, whilst your brand is who they say you are, your image is who you are trying to be.
5. Always have a strong sense of your positioning
In the context of developing a ‘brand mindset’, being constantly aware of your positioning and your bearings, will help you to anticipate and perceive risk. As a case in point, think about how ‘spatially aware’ high-profile businesses are about the positioning of their brands. They almost seem to have a ‘sixth sense’ when it comes to anything that could be commercially damaging to them and waste no time in distancing themselves from whatever might be bad for their brand. Exactly the same principle of ‘spatial awareness’ applies to a personal brand. You have to be constantly mindful of where you are as well as the impact not just of your actions, but also those of whom you closely associate.
6. Understand how your brand behaves
If anything you are doing is making a difference, then you need to be curious enough to find out how, where are why. The impact of a brand is not happenstance. Someone who is credible will be trusted, someone who is trusted will have influence and someone who has influence will have access to opportunity. Equally, someone who is diligent shows that they are responsible, someone who is responsible shows that they are capable and someone who is capable shows that they are dependable. The dynamics of how a brand works are not random, but they are not rocket science either.
In conclusion, a ‘brand mindset’ starts with being consciously aware of the things that we unconsciously do. Being consciously aware means that we are able to make better informed decisions that hopefully produce more desirable outcomes. In a nutshell, it is better to put the hard miles into building a good brand, which is an investment, than to waste time developing a bad one, which is a cost.