Last year, I was talking to a man at a networking event. He asked what I did for work and I told him, "I work with rebels. Rebels are the startups challenging the status quo. I help them gain more confidence through branding and design."
He paused. "Ok, how would you help me?"
I told him that a brand is a person's gut feeling or perception of a business. The art of branding is using the business's personality, image, and beliefs to foster that gut feeling. This creates trust and an emotional attachment between the customer and the business.
He told me he had named his company Best ______. He said that his industry wasn't exciting, his business couldn't have a personality and that the only actionable "branding" route for him to take was calling himself "the best." His next sentence was what shocked me the most though:
"If I was to build a brand, I'd have to lie."
"You'd have to lie?" I questioned.
He believed that creating a brand would mean that he'd have to create a false personality for his company. I kept talking with him, asked him what he liked to do in his spare time, and what he valued.
Turns out, he builds full-scale medieval catapults in his spare time. He loved comedy. Diving deeper, his greatest desire was that his team would show up to after-work team-building events.
I looked at his logo, the name of his company, their colors, and the way they presented themselves online. Nothing about those elements aligned with who this man is. The brand was stoic, staid, and lacked any character.
What he had built was a brand that others would expect of him. He was putting on his business face, trying with everything that he could to be something he isn't.
If that's not a lie, I don't know what is.
Branding is not covering up who you are in the hopes of appealing to somebody. It's the direct opposite, it's showcasing who you really are and going all-in on it. That is what creates an emotional connection with someone else.
It's hard to understand how some fads become established. Across all levels of business, I've seen a formulaic headline being used in ads, on websites, and anywhere else copy is used.
It goes something along the lines of this:
"Our (insert service/product here), your (insert benefit here)."
Most recently, I saw it in a Hootsuite ad that stated "Our social media tool, your success," to provide a concrete example.
There is something about this that feels off. Partly because it feels like I'm being lead by a carrot on a stick. Use our tool and all of your dreams will come true, they say. The thing is that no one actually believes these kind of statements because they know the real meaning behind them is sales. No one likes to be sold to, it seems needy.
What makes this distaste for a "salesy" ad even greater is when it's used over and over again in the form of a cliché. Think about it, how many times have you seen an ad that touted a similar phrase?
"Our team, your peace of mind."
"Our social media tool, your success."
"Our burgers, your satisfaction."
The list goes on and on and on, and for what? In the hopes that someone is going to feel something from a plug-and-play slogan, they've heard four times in the same day?
This phrase is for companies that don't have anything better to say or the courage to be authentic. Don't let that be you.
The downside to being an advocate of change is that it is hard to see past the muck blocking you from the finish line. What's more, is that the muck might not even be your doing, it's just there.
Most would see the obstacles that lie before them as excuses to turn back and give up. But that is not the rebel way.
Rebels cannot let go of their vision, it is as much a part of them as their skin, hands, and feet.
No one said doing things differently would be easy, or that everything and everyone would be in your favor. Quite the opposite actually.
It may not be your fault where you are at and no one blames you for the external things that have blocked your path. But it is your responsibility to make the next steps. Will they be forward or backward?