As the glue-sticks, scissors, and magazine cut-outs were thrown about, my friend Hayley called my name.
"Zach, I found your word."
She held up a magazine page to show me the word REBEL in all caps and in black and white nonetheless.
Now, here is what's flattering: that is my word, and I've been using it since I started working for myself in late 2017. It's a small thing, but that fact that I did not have to claim that as my word and instead had someone else claim it for me means that I've become synonymous with it.
Why does this matter?
Building a brand is about making people feel a certain way about your business. If you're lucky, you can get the same emotional response from different people that interact with your company. So when someone says the exact word I want them to feel about me, it shows that I'm on the right track.
If I had tried owning all the words, there's no way Hayley would've made that comment yesterday. But because I've invested and gone all in on the word REBEL, she made the connection instantly.
Find your word.
When we think of the most confident people we know, be it a politician, an entrepreneur, a mentor, thought leader, or a friend we admire, I'm willing to bet they never claim to be the best at what they do. If they did, it would be hard to respect them as much because it feels like they have to puff up their chest to make an impression. What's strange is that most business owners take this approach in branding their company. They plaster words like "best," "quality," "choice," "preferred," and a gaggle of other superlatives that hold no ground. Why?
I believe that asserting claims like this is done to veil the flaws of these organizations. They can claim to be the best all they want, but it doesn't take away from the fact that they cannot be everything to everyone. Or that new companies with new ideas come up everyday that can beat them in price, speed, and accuracy. Their claim of being the best loses its validity the minute they stop thinking of themselves. As for consumers, the claim loses its potency once they see 30 other competitors that claim the same thing on Google.
Claiming you are the best is a feeble means at persuading someone to do business with you. Is that really the extent of your personality? Do you lack so much confidence in your brand that you have to cover it in a lie? Nothing connotes a greater lack of maturity and competence than such action.
Confidence is not saying "we are the best." Confidence is saying "we know we can't do everything and we can't help everyone, but this is who we are. Whether you like it or not is cool with us."
So, are you going to be the best or be yourself?
It's been a couple days since the riots in Minnesota erupted over the wrongful death of George Floyd at the hands of police. It's all that's been talked about on the one social platform I use, LinkedIn.
Something that has been said repeatedly is this: if you don't say anything, you're siding with the racist status quo. But it seems to mean "if you don't say anything on social media then you are siding with the racist status quo."
I have said things. I have spoken to people. I do have strong feelings about the wrongful death of George Floyd. I do have strong feelings about protesting. I do have strong feelings about seeing other people get hurt from rioting/looting. I do have ideas on how to move forward.
But sharing them on social media is not going to help me make a change. Limiting the extent of my involvement to posting a picture of a black square, sharing a hashtag, or espousing my non-expert opinions about sociology, law enforcement, and politics as an irrefutable truth would be haphazard, noisy, and unhelpful. In fact, I can't think of a more blatant abuse of privilege.
What am I going to do? Be someone who listens. Have meaningful, real discussions with real people. And, of course, do my job educating people, ALL PEOPLE, on how to better brand their business. That's what I'm good at. That's the truth I can tell.
If you want to join me in having a real discussion use this link. It'd be great to talk with you.