The Fine Art of Branding to Build Your Success
I’m waiting on a package. I get a ton of them now since that’s how we all shop now.
So tell me—you saw the word “package” and your mind instantly said the word “Amazon,” didn’t it? So how did that brand end up as the first thought we have when we think of package delivery?
Think about it. When was the last pure “go to Amazon” ad you saw? Actually, have you ever seen one? Truthfully, I can’t think of one I’ve ever seen. It was just there, doing its thing, in the process totally shoving aside FedEx, UPS, and the US Postal Service as the uber (small “u”) brand of shipping.
So if the most top-of-mind company out there today didn’t become a success advertising itself, how did it become the recognizable brand that it is now?
There’s a simple explanation for that. They built their brand by offering a unique service for something that would make people’s lives better, and they did it at the right time.
Building your own brand can be just as simple.
It begins with self-awareness.
Do what you do, do it well, and your awareness will grow without the need to push people through your door. They’ll see your work and want in. People want to be associated with good things and won’t need to be reminded that you’re great. They’ll know.
Generating awareness is the critical component to building a solid brand. But that’s not the same as constantly selling your brand. Show, don’t tell. Otherwise, you’ll come across as one of those overeager local car dealerships who promise the world and sell you lemons. You might know their faces and remember their jingles, but never once give them your business.
So as you think of yourself as a brand, think of your value proposition. It doesn’t matter if you think of yourself as a product or a service, you have to first know how you fill a need that may not have been there before.
Creating a need doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes, you’re solving a problem that people didn’t know they had.
What you’re building:
Building your brand isn’t about closing a sale. It’s about having a sustained impact upon your company, your clients, and yourself. You need to ask yourself: How am I making someone’s life easier?
Success isn’t a one-off circumstance. It’s up to you to define who you’ll be for the long haul. And it begins with knowing what it is that you’re really offering.
Tips for building your sustained brand:
Know who you are
Whether you’re an accountant, an art director, a chemist, a paralegal, a rodeo clown, or anything else, know what makes you stand out among the crowd. What can you do that’s better than anybody else?
Your mission: Ask five people you work with what it is that you do best.
Know what you do
Your mission: Bookmark three things each day that will have an impact on how you do your job.
Stay current with your industry, competitors, marketplace, etc. If you do happen to be a rodeo clown, keeping up with fitness tips might be a good thing to think about, too.
Know where you do it
Are you specialized? Maybe a geological astrophysicist? Then you know pretty quickly. If you’re an accountant, it might take a little more defining. What’s important to a person who does the accounting for a tech company who trades in Bitcoin is likely to have a vastly different function than somebody who does the finances for a nonprofit homeless advocacy.
Your mission: Take stock of your differentiators. List 10 things that separate you from your own pack.
Know when you do it
A lot of success is in timing. It’s knowing when to put the pedal down and when to throttle back. Selling yourself as “the best Santa Claus impersonator you’ve ever seen” is pretty worthless on December 26th. Being a solution after the fact does no one any favors, and it certainly doesn’t help your brand.
Your mission: Get out your calendar and browse away at Google to find key dates that relate to your role and industry. Then set up alerts to give you time to execute anything promotional during that week.
Know why you do it
You’re filling a need and solving a problem. But let’s get a little more meta than that. What motivates you beyond the obvious? Are you a great lawyer because you love rules and the law or is it because you want to help people? Do you make those great widgets because you love widgets or because you like working with your hands? The more you know about what smashes the right buttons for you, the better equipped you’ll be to keep your eye on the big prize.
Your mission: Self-assessment tests are obvious but sometimes a necessary dipstick. Take one every day for a week. List the five things that are most relevant to you—or the most common themes among them. See how they correlate to the core elements of your brand.
The bottom line to all of this is that building a brand is a marathon, and not one that you start with a 50-yard dash at the finish line. Creating that elusive brand awareness first takes self-awareness. Along the way, if you do it right and have more than enough luck as a by-product, you’ll find that success you saw in your mind’s eye when you started.
Don Seaman spends his professional life trying to put the alphabet into the right order to construct coherent thoughts that people can read. Now he does that for Surprise. You can find out more about this failed musician and retired superhero on LinkedIn and Twitter.