On Your Mark…

Recently my friend’s son, aged five, said to me, “Your car’s an Audi, right?”

“Yes. How did you know?”

“From the rings on the front.”

Mercy. Stop the madness.

I’m guessing many of you have similar stories of your own, have heard similar stories on the news, or have read books proclaiming how all-pervasive branding is and how consequently critical that we all brand our products and ourselves.

I’m here to point out the flaw in this process—and how to address it.

Branding, by definition, happens from the outside in. From its inception as a method for marking ownership on the skin of an animal, to its more widely held definition of marking a product to let us know who the creator is, it is about an exterior overlay.

But while many companies go through a branding process during which core values are painstakingly articulated, how many of them are apparent to you as you use them?  As you pick up our dishwashing detergent, pop open your designer iced tea, or throw away your microwaveable dinner, do the core values of the attached company jump out at you?

Of course, we can all name a few. To me, Apple tangibly demonstrates their core values in every product and every customer service interaction they provide. Patagonia does an excellent job of putting their money where their mouth is. And I’m crazy about AAA— both their service and their customer service are outstanding.

How – and why– does this apply to you?

As I noted in both The Wow Factor and How to Wow the demarcation between our office and our home persona is increasingly illusory. In the time since their publications, this has become still more clear: employees have lost jobs due to inappropriate Facebook posts, politicians have lost office due to inappropriate photos, celebrities have lost their endorsements due to ill-considered tweets.

What does this mean for you?

  • You need to recognize that the brand known as “you” is never off duty
  • Since the most successful brands emulate their core values in all they do, you need to decide on what those values are, and
  • you need to ensure they are present in all that you do.
  • In short, you need to begin working from the inside out, not the outside in.

    The trouble I’ve bumped into with this theorem is that very few of us know what our core values are. We know the values we were told about as kids: do unto others as you would have them do to you, money doesn’t grow on trees, etc. But how many of us have given real thought to what we hold as non-negotiable? And are these values apparent in every email we write, every photo we’re tagged in and every tweet we post?

    So here’s what I’d like you to do. Sit down. Get quiet. Decide by yourself—and for yourself– what you stand for and how you want to show up in the world. Consider the people and companies you admire—who are your heroes? Then ask yourself why—what’s the through line?

    I guarantee that once you do, you’ll have a through line of your own, ensuring that instead of the world making its mark on you, you are now making your mark on the world.