I have never been an out-going, party-loving person. I’m basically an introvert who enjoys working alone and wants to do what is ethical and right regardless of the consequences. You may think that is not a good personality for building a business or creating a brand for your business.
But my mother told me something many, many years ago whenever I hit a bump in life where I had to make a choice between what is ethical and right and what would make me popular. She said, “To your self, be true. Just be yourself and you’ll always be able to live with yourself.”
I’ve found that to be true. It was demonstrated one day when, as an adult, I overheard someone say, “Joyce doesn’t talk very much. But when she does, we listen.”
I’ve carried my mom’s motto forward as an entrepreneur creating a series of businesses during the past 30+ years and always found it to be true.
There are hundreds of books out there on branding your business and creating an image for the business. And most of them miss the one thing that I’ve learned through the years.
I AM MY BUSINESS. YOU ARE YOUR BUSINESS.
So how does this relate to branding?
A good example is Apple. The company has a new CEO, Tim Cook, but he did not create the brand as we know it. Steve Jobs did that, not with a design by committee branding team that made the decision that we want the public to think of our company as this or that.
Steve Jobs created the company, and the image of that company, through the force of his personality.
In other words, Steve Jobs was the brand for Apple. Everything that we think about Apple today is a direct result of who Steve Jobs was. He was innovative. Driven. Aspirational. These adjectives apply equally to Jobs and the company we know as Apple.
Now he, and a design team, could have decided that they wanted Apple to be known as “warm and cuddly.”
But he didn’t because he knew that isn’t who he was. He was a good enough marketeer that he could have convinced the world that Apple was warm and cuddly — for awhile. But it would have been phony branding and the real personality of Steve Jobs would have come out occasionally and conflicted with the “cuddly” brand. As a result, he would have lost trust.
Some people say that Apple is a perfect example of successful branding that can never be replicated. But, that’s not true. What Jobs did with Apple is the most traditional branding model in the world. He didn’t sell anything or produce products that he didn’t believe in and couldn’t stand behind 100%. He didn’t need to worry about whether he was being true to the brand with what he or the company did because everything he did was genuine. He didn’t need a script when he talked about a new product or the company because what he said was true.
I think about what my mom told he frequently. What it means to be myself and how I am my business. I know what I am — introverted, shy, but honest and ethical even when making hard decisions. I know that I will make the decision about my business that is right for me because I know that my business is me. I am the brand for my business and my loyal customers have discovered this.
I could simply tell them everyone I meet and communicate with that this is who I am, tell them I do these things but I could also tell them that I am the embodiment of Sarah Palin or Hillary Clinton. But that doesn’t make it real.
One of the first things I learned as a fiction writer was “Show, don’t Tell!”
This applies equally to creating a brand for your business. You have to live who you are, not just talk about it. I feel that this is the most important thing to keep in mind about branding. Substance is what matters. A person, an organization, a business should be the image they hope to project.
The only branding tip you really need to know is “Live the Brand.” And that should be easy because you are the brand. You are your business.