Scribbles + Spade

Reality Check No. 4: You Are Not Your Brand

overview of a desk with paper goods and coffee

This one’s a long time coming, folks. This is the topic that’s been aging like good cheese, fine wine. Or perhaps that infestation of rats and snakes and other undesirables under your backyard shed. Basically, this “your brand” discussion has been fermenting for quite a while. For better or worse.

First, let’s start with the fact that Scribbles + Spade, as real-life people, are Millennials. And let’s acknowledge the fact that the Millennial Generation has a certain “rep” for being highly “individualistic” or whatever and being especially interested in their “brand” in various shapes and forms, and, perhaps, for silly reasons.

Us people born between the early-80s and the mid-90s are assumed to be “self-centered.” Other Millennials have written scores of books on this, we’re sure.

We Millennials, however, will humbly present a blog article.

This blog article. About how – NO MATTER TO WHICHEVER GENERATION YOU WERE BORN INTO – you cannot be a brand in-and-of-yourself. Yes, you are special. But that’s not what brands are about.

Deal with it. You are YOU. The brand you’re promoting is just a STORY.

Maybe you’re imaginative or analytical. (Or both, like our resident Scribbler.) Or perhaps you’re a Coordinator of Awesome Talents, or otherwise a DIY-er because no one else is up to snuff. (Or the two, simultaneously, see: The Spade.) This rarely gets captured in the general public’s understanding of your “brand.”

Brands are static. Humanity is on a spectrum. Ahem! Our skills and interests are on a spectrum. We should all agree on that. Person-A is objectively better at X and Person-B is ridiculously better at Y, and we all grow and evolve and the world is hopefully better for that progress and those differentiators. This is nuanced stuff. Additionally, and more importantly – our “individuality” fluctuates quite frequently.

Like, can any of us honestly say that we are the same today as we were 10 years ago? Let alone 10 days? But, ah! Ah-ha! Therein lies the rub with too-closely identifying with your brand. Repeat: You Are Not Your Brand.

Perhaps this message, in particular, applies to those Solo-preneurs or Freelancers or What Have You’s.

And yeah, to the “Millennial” demographic. But this isn’t only about the “individuality” trend. This expands to any so-called “workaholics.” Of every age group. To the ones who shout: “I love my job!” and then take it step further. To our dear friends and colleagues who might suffer from a mix-up between the outer-life and the inner.

To clarify, it is all well and good to find your niche. We are firm believers in the do-good-work and do-what-you’re-good-at type of life philosophies. But please, please, please. Don’t mistake the money for your life.

Your livelihood might very well be built on a ravid customer / fan / client base, but that is not the ONLY thing going in your overall LIFE. Therefore, it is not how you should be promoting your brand or your organization / company.

Maybe we should back-track back to the “your brand” story side of things.

Effective stories are concise. Successful brands are equally “snappy.” Think of how we can quickly recap the favorite movies and great novels of our youth into a couple sentences. If you don’t get too nerdy, you could summarize those best-told stories in a minute or three to any seven-year-old.

See, any good brand is a brand that’s semi-superficial.

Stay with us! The very reason that we can catch-phrase stuff should give us pause. These three- to ten-word marketing phrases are terrific, don’t get us wrong. Yet – do we seriously agree with the notion that they sum up our life’s meaning? Of course not!

It’s just like a cool magnet on the fridge. A picture you took in Disney Land / World. A little spice to your life. Not the main ingredient.

Let’s call out a mega-mega-brand. Take Nike, AKA “Just Do It.” Such a brilliant phrase! Totally compelling. Inspiring. Yes, I gotta get my feet in those shoes!

But you know – you KNOW – that this is a stereotype.

Just like the Millennials. Just like all the stereo-typical “Boomers” who may or who may not have stopped reading this article in paragraph numero dos.

Mission statements. Company philosophies. Razzle-dazzle taglines. That’s all marketing mumbo-jumbo. We KNOW this. And this doesn’t make it immediately bad. We just need to accept the fact that it’s sometimes easier to keep things short-and-sweet. Therefore, it’s not you.

Think of it this way: You brand, when effective and consistent, is like a steady, shining light.

Your brand may be mauve or glittery gold. A deep navy blue or plummy-purple. It is constant. You are not. The brand stands the test of time – because it is a STORY, with some sort of underlying statement. It is printed and published and you’re not really supposed to make any sort of edits. And you? You are a malleable, standalone person. That’s lovely.

A lot of so-called business and marketing professionals these days devote oodles of words in an attempt to define a company’s “culture.” And – big surprise – this is essentially the same as “brand.”

Our take? Alright. It helps to have a rally cry.

Especially if you’re working within a group. Team spirit is powerful! AND ALSO – take it with a chunk of salt. No one is their brand. No one should be the living, breathing embodiment of any sort of company or fictitious story.

The point of most stories is that they are parables. Talking points. Call them masks, even. You might personally identify more with Pepsi vs Coke, but that doesn’t mean that’s the only component of your personhood.

You are your work, in a sense. But don’t forget that your life has other facets.

Therefore, if you’re promoting your company or brand as “100% authentic,” you’re a LIAR.

Fine. Duh. Absolutely stick to your morales and “tell it like it is” in your own language. That’s always compelling. But also, give yourself some distance.

Sure, people want to gift their dollars to causes and brands – otherwise known as people – with which / whom they legitimately want to support. But we all ought to play it cool. These are transactions. (Recall: Likes Don’t Equal Love.) When your marketing efforts are working to convert prospects into customers and clients – that’s obviously a win.

You’ve succeeded at planting the seeds for a distinct community of like-minded people. That means you’re tapping into some deep and personal stuff!

We’ve been told talk is cheap. But money is also talk.

So when people decide to put their money where their mouth is with their purchasing-support, that’s got some mad power behind it!

It’s not your worth, though. People “buy” into brands because that brand is telling a good story. That doesn’t mean they’re all onboard – or against – you, as a delightful and sentient being.

Put another way: It’s all business, baby. Don’t take it personally if your strategy is flopping. Likewise, don’t get a big head if you’ve been getting lots of praise.

Definitely, though: Huzzah to you if that’s the case! Apparently those people have been appreciating your brand’s message. But that doesn’t automatically translate to YOU. We, as people, individual, are not any boxed-in brand.

This is our formal Call-to-Action: Brainstorm with us. It will be chill and loads of fun. Pinky-promise!

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