Anthony Haynes writes: We can think of a brand as a communication tool. People encounter a brand in some way and, when they do so, associate it with a limited number of values or qualities.
Take, for example, the Dyson brand. ‘Dyson’ makes me think:
- rethinking of products
- resource efficiency
- economic design
Note that though some people use ‘brand’ in a very limited sense — as a synonym for the visual elements of a branding style, especially the logo — I’m using it here in a broader sense, meaning something like an organisation’s products and the experience of using them.
As with organisations, so with individuals. Your personal brand provides a means for focusing people’s attention on a few of the values or qualities that you would like them to associate with you.
I should acknowledge at this point that not everybody is happy with the term ‘personal brand’ — to some the term has a corporate ring that sounds dehumanising. If that’s how you feel, I suggest substituting some other term (‘identity’, for example). My focus here is on the phenomenon, rather than the label.
How to distil your personal brand
Make a long list of the words or phrases — the positive ones! — that people associate with you or that you wish them to associate with you. Include various parts of speech — especially nouns, verbs, and adjectives.
From your long list of words or phrases, select three. Consider each term in isolation. Ask: how accurate is it as an evocation of what you offer? how central? and how distinctive?
Then consider the words in combination. How well do they fit together? How well do they convey something of the range of your offer? And, most important of all, how well can you use them as building blocks for telling your story?
Note that in everyday life we tend by default to identify our brand using nouns or nouns phrases. For example, ‘I’m an environmental engineer’. That’s fine, but if you use nouns only, it’s hard to sound distinctive or even interesting.
For that, you probably need a verb — ‘I conserve energy’ or ‘I recycle waste’, for example.
To distil my own brand, I created a long list in the form of a word cloud. This helped me to look at the list afresh, rather than stick with preconceived notions of which words were most pertinent.
From this, I selected the three words, which I felt got close to the core of my work and were distinctive:
I was tempted to include ‘simplify’ and ‘demystifying’ — but limiting the selection to just three words forces one to make decisions.
Putting the brand to the test
If I’ve selected the best words, they should help me to decide on my offer and on how to promote my services. And, in turn, my stakeholders’ experience of my work should re-enforce the brand, so that practice and brand align.