It’s the 4th of July – aka Independence Day – here in the USA. We celebrate our independence as a nation with fireworks and picnics, families and friends.
Living in America means we have certain freedoms that cannot be denied, but how many of us really feel independent in our work? As entrepreneurs we are all about taking the reins on our own, and not working for “the man.” As the economy wavers, the job market shrinks, and the notion of a lifelong career dies, more and more of us are turning to ourselves and our true passion to make a living and create a new economy.
We are claiming our independence, but how do we stand out as our force of independent workers grows? And what is independence, really?
Branding is a buzz word that tends to make me flinch, but I am spending my summer doing for myself. This makes me question what is it about branding I don’t like and why do I need to do it anyhow?
Branding, in my head, implies big business, money hungry, passionless consumer culture, and I don’t like that. Branding also implies strategic pull-the-wool-over-your-eyes and make-you-want-it advertising, and I don’t like that. While these things may be true in the big biz, big box culture, they don’t have to apply to the independent worker.
So what does branding mean to me? I did a little exploring to see what others are saying.
My brand is my personality, my work’s personality, my way of being me. My work as an expression of me. Yes! This I can grasp. The article discusses the use of the words “branding,” “marketing,” and “advertising” interchangeably, and thus confusing the proper use of branding. Yes, this is exactly what I have done.
Also in this article:
The Promise You Make to the World
Steve Cecil, a copywriter and verbal-branding expert with Where Words in San Carlos, Calif., says a brand is a promise and branding is the act of devising the promise your company makes to the world. Marketing, he says, “is the strategy that differentiates your brand promise from all the other brand promises in that increasingly crowded house called “your category.”
While the above article does in fact refer to some big business models they are saying that making it personal is core of branding and I can wrap my brain around that. It is what I am trying to do. By creating a personality for our work we are saying this is who I am, if you like me you will like my work.
Catherine Caine, marketing and branding (she calls it naming) coach at Cash and Joy, wrote last week about quality and clarity and why they don’t sell.
Stop selling me on quality and clarity.
Or hand-made, limited-edition, professional, ground-breaking or unique. (Or ten thousand other shorthand terms.)
Tell me why those things matter. To me. Right now.
Don’t say, “It’s a high-quality print.” Tell me, “This will look as good at your newborn’s 21st birthday as it does now. And his retirement party.”
Don’t say, “Together we’ll uncover clarity about your relationship.” Tell me, “Stop teetering on the edge of getting fired because you’re so distracted by your boyfriend’s cheating.”
Of course, that’s what you’re trying to say. You’re the expert, to you it’s obvious why quality is better, what clarity can enable, or why the professional version is superior.
But to me, they aren’t the value. They’re the tool to get the thing I really want.
Respect that, and my wallet is yours.
I have to admit, while I don’t agree with everything she says in this article, I high tailed it over to my about the work page and changed up my “high quality print” description.
With a quite different point of view, alternative medicine man Michael Max says:
Enough with Branding Already
You are not a brand, nor do you have one; you have a reputation. Yes, a throw-back word from perhaps half a century ago; reputation. Everything that you hear about “branding” is nothing more than the common sense steps you would take to preserve and polish your reputation. Branding, it’s impersonal. Reputation and the responsibility that goes along with it; vital as the air you breath.
In a nutshell, it comes down to this; branding is what you say about you, while reputation is what others say about you. You can talk till you’re blue in the face, and leverage your online presence with toots from you own horn. But, none of it will be nearly as compelling the gossip about your business over dinner, or the way someone you have truly helped will relentless promote your services to those they care about.
We are intensely social animals, and reputation (along with it’s twin sister, trustworthiness) is the lifeblood of ongoing and sustainable business interactions.
Well, I have to agree with this, too. While he is really just mincing words and trading reputation for brand, he makes a good point and not really different from the previous. We are selling a personality and with that comes reputation and relationship.
And that brings me round to the independence part of this story. As entrepreneurs we usually start out alone, but if we are to succeed we must become extremely social. We may still do the bulk of our work in solitude, but building a successful business or “brand” means building relationships and communicating regularly with our customers. We may have logos, but they aren’t intended to grab attention from the aisles in the market. We are trying to stand out in a far different sea where we attract our audience with personality.
I am satisfied with this, but it does raise another question. I’ve heard it said that your ideal customer is not you. That may be so, but they do need to like what I stand for. Doesn’t that make them at least a little like me?