« Back to Blog March 21, 2016 | Branding

You Are A Brand

The word brand used to make me sick.

It conjured up images of snobby marketers trying to convince business owners to do things that they weren’t comfortable with. It made me think of giant corporations that got away with whatever they wanted. It made me think of sleazy salesmen trying to get some more dollars out of my pocket.

It made me feel just plain dirty.

When people talked about their “personal brand” I gagged, dismissed them as a crazy marketer, and went along with my day. But I wasn’t considering the message behind the off-putting rhetoric.

But what is a brand?

A brand is defined as “a type of product manufactured by a particular company under a particular name” or “an identifying mark burned on livestock.” Both of these definitions

Everyone has an identifier. Something that they project into the world that other people see and come to associate with them.

I define a brand as anything that people associate with you or your business. It can be what you project yourself and want people to see, or it can be what others say about you. The association doesn’t have to be something purely unique to just you either.

Here’s an example.

Michael Jordan.

What first comes to mind when you hear his name?

Basketball? The NBA? The Chicago Bulls? The Dream Team? Shoes? Nike? Gatorade? Hanes? Space Jam?

Michael Jordan has his own brand, but he is also a part of other brands. He is something that people have an association with, but it is up to the individual person to know what that something is.

If you are sharing your artwork, people will think you are an artist. If you share photos of the meals you make, people will think you are a good cook. If you share what books you’ve read, people will think you’re well read.

If you share whatever comes to your mind, people won’t know what to think of you.

People need something to latch on to in order to form an opinion and remember you. That’s how you build a brand.

Your Own Brand

When you’re a business owner, freelancer, or whatever title you give yourself, it can feel weird to talk about your brand without feeling pretentious.

“Brands are for giant companies! I’m just one person.”

Whether we like it or not, everyone has a brand. We all have something that most people know us for or associate us with.

When I share things as Airship, it is only ever about design or branding. That’s what I want to be known for, so that’s what I share. I highly doubt anyone will look at my instagram and ask me to cook them a meal. I’ve built my brand around something specific.

Design and branding are not uncommon things to be known for either. I’m sure most people, even those not in the design industry, know at least a few different designers or programmers. There is a lot of competition out there.

But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t bother projecting those things. It means there’s a demand. That people value what I do and want to know more about it. To some people, maybe I’m the only designer they know. And that’s powerful. (and its even a bit scary!)

Use Your Brand For Good

A lot of the dirtiness people feel when they talk about brands comes from when someone tries to leverage their brand in a way that feels dirty.

Have you ever had an old acquaintance call you up out of the blue and try and sell you insurance? (Its not a very fun feeling.)

They are trying to sell because they want sales. Not because they care about you or want to help you. That’s where the dirtiness comes from.

You don’t have to be a self-proclaimed “thought leader trying to maximize the brand space” to have a brand. Don’t let gross jargon and obnoxious people get in the way of doing the thing you love to do.

You need to realize the value you provide and get over the weird associations we all have with this kind of thinking. If you are coming from a place of caring, you should never feel bad when you try to sell.

When I quote a project, there’s always some butterflies in my stomach, but I never feel bad about sending out a quote. I know that if I get the chance to work with someone, I’m going to the do my utmost to deliver something incredible that actually helps them.

If you deliver on the promises you make, you will never have to worry about being seen as sleazy. Your brand, and better yet, you will mean something to people. You can make change happen, the kind you want to see.

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