Crafting Your Identity Part I: what is a personal brand?
The creative agency that I work at recently completed a brand makeover for a popular, local barbecue joint. One of the pieces of the project was a brand book that outlined the company's position, visual identity, and voice. It's a striking piece of print work that's addicting to flip through. This book covered everything from what style of imagery to use in promotions to what color combinations are acceptable in advertising. Everything you needed to know about this restaurant was encapsulated in this brand book allowing advertisers, designers, photographers, merchandisers and anyone else who might work with the company in the future, to walk in and, within moments, feel the heartbeat of this brand.
It wasn't built to make tasks more difficult but engineered to make sure the brand was consistent across any platform, in any context at any time. For example, the brand book gave specifications on how much space should surround the logo at all times. Whether the logo was being used on a T-shirt or a billboard, it is accompanied by the appropriate spacing so that it maintains the integrity of the restaurant's identity. This little book held all of the cheat codes for this brand! It's brilliant.
What if we had a brand book for our lives? A list of cheat codes that told us exactly what to do in every situation, every time. Whether we were in a meeting with our boss, on a date with our spouse or sky diving with our buddies, what if we had a set of guidelines to help us fairly represent our identity across the board? Well, you're in luck.
The comprehensive brand book
There happens to be a brand book for those who follow Christ that is cross-cultural, timeless and comprehensive - the Bible. What makes it so spectacular as a brand book for our lives is that its lessons transcend circumstance allowing you apply its principles in every aspect of your life. This book gives us insight into relationships, finances, purpose, work ethic, health and so much more. In it, we are given the keys to representing Christ so that He is not misinterpreted, added to, subtracted from, adapted, discolored, warped or in any way altered. We are taught how to live Christ-like. A brief glance at the world we live in will show you that we have a hard time living up to such guidelines but the fact remains that they exist. The brand book that shows us how to present ourselves through any medium, at any time, anywhere isn't a fictional gift from a fairygodmother. It's sitting on our nightstand.
I've noticed that so many Christians who are younger in their faith, though they believe the Bible to be true, view it as a historical storybook, giving us some neat insight into the Bible times but is otherwise limited in its capacity to change and direct our lives. Quite the opposite is true but it requires a thorough and ongoing study of the Scriptures.
Your personal brand book
We are each the sum of our experiences, beliefs, values, personalities, skill sets, opportunities, emotions and thoughts - who we are is entirely different from anyone else. I was talking with a good friend of mine about whether or not two twins who were raised the same way and lived their lives identically would be different. He pointed out that the mere fact that they exist in two physically separate places prompts them to experience moments from two different perspectives and perspectives are what shape the way we internalize the world. You're you and not anyone else. That fact alone means that you are uniquely qualified to do something that only you can do!
Our brand book is the collection of beliefs that we have faith in, the values that ground us in the face of difficulty, the principles that we remain unwavering on and the nuances of our personality. These things dictate the way in which we ingest and respond to the world. It's ever-changing as we learn and understand more about the world we live in and ourselves. Who you are right now may seem complex and incongruent but, I believe that if you take the time to seek those things which you truly believe in, you'll come to understand who you are - your personal brand.
Here are a few helpful questions and exercises that helped me:
From waking up to going to sleep, describe your perfect day down to the details.
If you didn't have to worry about money, what would you do with your time?
What world-wide concern or problem do you feel most compelled to solve?
What is one thing that you can offer the world that no one else can?
Who are your heroes and, more importantly, why do you respect them?
What are the 10 things that you value most (family, time, security, service etc.)?
What currently leads to most of your happiness and opportunity?
If you could participate in only one non-work activity each week, what would it be?
If you died today, what would you regret not having done?
Developing your personal brand isn't a frivolous exercise - it forces you to look at yourself objectively and purposefully. You can't be purposeful in crafting your brand and not develop as a person. You'll advance closer to the person who you decide to be simply in the act of putting that person down on paper. You'll become someone who better understands who they are, who's identity is grounded in something outside of themselves, who is confident and intentional in the way that they approach life.