Three Branding Lessons that Serve as Three Life Lessons, As Well
At the end of C.S. Lewis’s epic story, The Lion, The Witch and the The Wardrobe, the children go to see the Professor; they confess that his fur coats are missing from the wardrobe; then, they tell him where they’ve been. They gush over their wanderings and then ask him how to get back there – how to get back to Narnia. The Professor, who doesn’t seem surprised at all by anything they’re saying, cooly and calmly replies, “…don’t go trying to use the same route twice. Indeed, don’t try to get there at all. It’ll happen when you’re not looking for it.”
He’s not talking about being indifferent or inattentive – that it’s not something worth seeking; he’s actually talking about the exact opposite – pay attention, live your life, go about your day because the magic finds you.
Creating your brand is very similar. The magic finds you.
When it comes to branding, I see a lot of people trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. They’re forcing something that’s just not there. They’re impressing people that don’t matter; they’re building an image that just isn’t true. In doing so, they lose themselves and their brands in this idea of what it all should be or – worse – what they think they themselves should be.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – branding is consistency and confidence. The magic is that both of those things – which feels like an ill-equipped word to describe consistency and confidence – have to come from you first.
Here’s what that looks like:
Figure out what’s you – and what’s not you. This is a life lesson, I know, and sometimes it takes a lifetime to learn. And that’s okay. (That’s the point.) But there are some moments and again – things – you can identify as yours. Is it a bold color vs. a muted color? Is it a sharp, crisp sentence vs. a William Faulkner run-on? Is it showing up when everyone else has bailed? They don’t have to be big throwing-the-ring-into-the-fires-of-Mount-Doom choices – they can be daily choices that you make – that are yours. Make a list of five choices you made this morning – how do those speak to your brand? Or – better yet – did you make a couple of decisions that you knew in your gut were wrong?
Stay in your own lane. This is hard. Lord, this is hard. And social media makes it harder because we see what everyone else is up to. That can be great if it inspires a new idea, but it can be not-so-great if we start copying others in order to compete or get noticed. At that point, it’s about attention – and, quite frankly, insecurity. To be blunt: you’re copying them because you are not confident. Stop. Draw yourself a lane – seriously – on a piece of paper – and stick it somewhere you’ll see it. That’s your lane. Stay in it.
Slow your roll. A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that when I ran hard and fast on a Monday morning, I was literally over working out completely by Wednesday, and then I wouldn’t work out the rest of the week. It was absolutely a pacing thing. I need to slow my roll to be able to work out over several days. It’s the same with branding. When you sprint to stand something up, you’re damn exhausted. And then, you can’t sell what you just sprinted to create. Pace yourself. My friend, Merle Fisher, said it well in this IG post – if you can’t afford to stand up a full brand, start with one piece that’ll take care of a lot very easily. Then, build around that. Slow your roll; pace yourself. Yes, it’s a race – it’s a long race – it’s a marathon; stop acting like it’s a 5k. If you’re creating a brand right now, stand up one piece by Friday.
Ironically, these are business lessons, yes, but they’re also lessons in how to live your life. So, do I live by them? Most of the time; I do sometimes get caught in a vicious cycle of comparing myself to others or I rush something to market because I’m competitive and I hate to lose. Does it work out in either situation? Not always; in fact, most of the time – no, it doesn’t. Because in both situations I’m looking too hard for it – IT, i-t, it. I’m trying too hard.
And that’s when I need to remember – it’ll happen when you’re not looking for it.