Alright, let's make sure we're on the same page, as one of the biggest issues with being professional is lack of concrete definition. You probably think of professional as suit and tie, clean cut, and stoic. But that's bogus. And it is off-base for what the actual definition of professional would entail.
relating to or connected with a profession.
"young professional people"
engaged in a specified activity as one's main paid occupation rather than as a pastime.
"a professional boxer"
a person engaged or qualified in a profession.
"professionals such as lawyers and surveyors"
Nothing in those definitions implies that one has to give up their personality, character, or style to be a professional. It seems that the only defining characteristic would be the practice of a specific activity that one gets paid for. You could pop pimples for a living and you'd still be considered a professional, so long as you get paid for it. Do you hear that? So long as you do a job and get paid for it, you are a professional. You don't have to wear a suit, you don't have to refrain from saying what you think or using slang, you have to provide something deemed valuable to be a professional.
Why do I want you to stop being "professional?" Because you box yourself in with your definition (the clean cut, suit and tie version). It makes you boring and totally diminishes the elements of your personality that make you special. Granted, this doesn't mean you should stop taking care of yourself or give the impression that you aren't put together, but that's not a hard standard to meet. If you wear a nice, unwrinkled t-shirt with a good pair of jeans, and sneakers, no one is going to think you're a slob. If they do, screw 'em. They are clearly not supposed to do business with you, but instead with someone who takes pride in posturing themselves to look wealthy rather than doing good work.
Stop trying to be professional and instead double down on being yourself, whatever that means. If you like getting dressed up, go for it! But don't let those fancy clothes become a shock collar that stops you from being yourself, telling your jokes, and saying what you feel is right.
Since branding is an emotional subject, it gets hard to manage. Specifically, it gets hard to measure. Cue Marty Neumeier (again). In his book The Brand Flip he lays out a structure for measuring the effectiveness of building a brand in what has been called the Brand Ladder. The goal of the Brand Ladder is to see how well you are elevating a customer's experience with your company. If you score low, it means you're a commodity, easily capable of being replaced. If you score high, customers are likely to become repeat buyers, evangelists, and feel like they can't live without you.
Here is an outline of the scorecard (from your customer's point of view):
Satisfied Grade 1-5
__ The company/product has met my expectations.
__ The company charges a fair price for the product.
__ TOTAL (highest score of 10)
Delighted Grade 1-5 and multiply by 2
__ I've been pleasantly surprised by the company/product.
__ I would happily recommend it to others.
__ TOTAL x 2 (highest score of 20)
Engaged Grade 1-5 and multiply by 3
__ I identify well with the other customers of this company/product.
__ I would go out of my way for the company and its customers.
__ TOTAL x 3 (highest score of 30)
Empowered Grade 1-5 and multiply by 4
__ The company/product is essential to my life.
__ I would be very sorry if it went out of business.
__ TOTAL x 4 (highest score of 40)
__ Grand Total (Highest Score of 100)
But it doesn't end there. Like any other assessment, you have to dive deeper and unearth the reasons behind them. What is it about your company that affects these scores? Is it design? Is it your messaging? Is it the product? You can measure the effects of branding all day, but if you are not willing to check on the factors contributing to its success, you might as well not even bother. Sounds like something I should write about tomorrow...
Before you touch a new name, logo, or messaging, it is imperative to list out the values of your startup. I know what you're thinking, "values? We have those. Honesty, Courage, and Innovation."
Cool, but do you know what they mean? What they really mean? I think I know what they mean, but there are nuances about these virtues that unlock their importance.
Values are nothing without their definitions. Specifically, they are nothing without your definition of them.
Here's what I mean: I define honesty as telling the truth regardless of how it will make others feel or what it does to your image. Is that how you define honesty? Maybe, but you can't instill that into your startup and turn it into an actionable element unless you define it for yourself. Your definition will vary slightly and that's where the magic of your brand comes into play.
Give it a go, whatever your values are, define them in your own words.