Whether we’re aware of it or not, we are created and sustained by many processes that we have no control over. We sleep and wake in the midst of the colors, sounds and smells of the efforts of some labor and materials brought to us by the wonders of commerce. Take a good look at a piece of food you’ve just unwrapped, and you’re bound to consider the process of crispy wafers in a chocolate shell a mystical art. No less so the music player or oil for your car.
When we acquire things to suit our needs, brand has more or less importance depending on your idea of what the product is or does. All products have a brand, if only a “Made in” sticker or the product of labor. Brand is the only reason the product exists. What’s interesting is not that brands are ubiquitous, but rather that we make so many decisions based on them. We sift through a multitude of value judgements, consciously or unconsciously, to arrive at the decision to engage (purchase) a product.
Man vs. Machine
Can a product be stereotyped? Do we feel comfortable with a brand? Do brands have personality? Are we talking about brands or people?
Beyond our Facebook® LinkedIn® Lonsky™ brands, our personal brands are diffuse and malleable, much of them dependent on proximity. Our personal brands become less specific as we are defined by more people. We all have many different brands. Brands or positions become dominant in response to the observer. A parallel to the quantum law that observing a phenomenon changes it.
The key to maximizing effective communication of any brand is in the observer. Where are we being observed? This is the stuff of actuaries, demographers, marketers, statisticians, gossip — you are being studied in more ways than you know.
We can find some comfort in the fact that due to the extent of the number of transactions of any large organization (i.e. Google, Wal-mart, U.S. Government), there is a security inherent in relative anonymity in the broth. There are certain hooks in your behavior that are exploited to target you in general ways. If you remain inconsistent and wandering (i.e. curious) you are less easily classified. Think like a marketeer to protect your brand.
Billboard vs. Handshake brands
As we discover our personal brands, we discover ourselves. I’d like to offer a not-so-cynical view that the most important brand of exchange is YOU. Each person is a diverse collection of experience and understanding. What makes our brands relevant is that we are free to explore, choose and perform. And as we make mistakes, there’s no reason that Crate & Barrel is any better than Bed, Bath and Beyond. We only achieve course corrections with awareness of the course. To err. . .means debugging.
You choose your brand. With so many transactions required to sustain a busy life juggling modern work with modern leisure, everyone becomes a brand. To misquote Bob Dylan, “Everyone must get brand.” What we reflect of our personal brand may change in every encounter, but we still become imprinted as brands. “He wears sweaters and penny loafers.” “She pitches in and helps out.”
There are people who put face and likeness on billboards to promote a professional brand. A personal brand? Is it possible to maintain one realm independently of the other? We’re all billboards, active and relevant. But you can’t shake a hand from a billboard. Or build a relationship. Meaningful brands reinforce each other. Personal brands are scalable.
Take the hot air out of any balloon and it falls to earth. Or it lands with grace and panache. Are you in a balloon? Are you eating mustard from a jar? Are you growing your own food?
There is an aspect of maintenance to any structure, any facade you create. There is a tremendous amount of information management inherent in a social media, connected, wired lifestyle. We become slaves of the continual effort to choose and manage relationships with our brands (people, products and companies that sustain our lives). That’s life. C’est la vie. If I don’t post Happy Birthday on your FB page, please don’t take offense.
As individual brands become harder to distinguish and maintain, we all become truer to our natures, for better or worse. The only core brand, your TRUE brand, is that which you cannot shed or change. If it is with you every day and in every interaction, it’s called character. I’ve seen character described as the whole of this list: convictions, values, wisdom, morality, tastes, behavior. What I like about the list is that it’s an honest benchmark. I also like that I can overachieve in some aspects with the illusion it will compensate for deficits in others.
Rolling With It
We are each singular beings with the desire to truly, definitively control and merge our Billboard and Handshake brands. But not so fast. . . Even if you had a choice, the stable approach is to “flow” with it, aware and appropriately connected. Stay above the fray and pick a brand, any brand. The dealer will deal you a new hand and sell you a new brand. Is your core brand in question? Walk away from the table and discover it.
In design, my goal is to distill a multitude of thoughts, feelings and preferences into a concrete form. This blog is for those friends and acquaintances who have read this far. If you or someone you know could benefit from my services, I’d like to hear from you. References are appreciated. My portfolio is fab7.com/Portfolio
The future of sharing is in creating collaborative, mutually-beneficial relationships with everyone whom we exchange goods or services. I’ve begun development on a professional services task exchange and management platform. If you’re a source or client of freelance service providers, you may find collab.us interesting. Sign-up as a collab member. I’d like your comments.