This essay was initially delivered August 12, 2016 through my personal newsletter (Sincerely,).
In this week’s blog entry MY OWN SUMMER, I divulged some recent projects that illustrate the future of branding as individual. Here’s a further breakdown. I’m figuring this out as I go along – kinda talking my way through this out loud – but, this is where my head is at.
For 13 years, I’ve been extolling the virtues of Brand. A brand is a platform to stand out, be heard, and shape identity. It defines who you are, you define what it is, and if all goes according to plan, your brand can grow into an amplified self. More than just an Instagram bio, your brand precedes you.
But, as a creative person, Brand can also hinder, even restrict. A clear and sharp brand boxes one into categories, establishes a unique – yet, monotone – voice, and as it gets stronger, draws up stringent rules. Great branding is all about saying No. It’s about discipline, sticking to a course, and consistency. Saying No to incompatible deals, no matter how lucrative. Saying No to off-brand opportunities. Saying No to reckless abandon.
Creativity, on the other hand, is all about saying Yes – to drawing outside the lines. Yes to emotion. Yes to breaking rules. The whole artist disregards the roadmap and embraces caprice. This is often why creative people don’t make the soundest businessmen. It’s hard to tell the kite where to fly.
Strong branding is good for business though, right? I mean, over the last decade, we’ve convinced ourselves that Brand is SYNONYMOUS with Business. Beyond marketing, strategic branding is the catalyst and the case for a smart and relevant enterprise. But, some of the most powerful brands today are people – flawed, unpredictable, and at times, wildly inconsistent. You know them by name: Kylie. Kanye. Kim. Even with a character like Donald Trump, the further he strays from developing a cohesive brand, the greater his audience (not “greater” as in making America “great” again).
Authenticity and transparency are still important. Yes, we want to meet the company founder and track his or her values. But, we also expect them to be human, freethinking, and receptive to change. As consumers, it’s uncomfortable when businesses veer into different product lanes or make unexpected creative choices. But, as people, we allow our peers the freedom to change hairstyles, adopt new hobbies, and date dissimilar partners. Brands can be heavy, obstinate, and for some, baggage. People, however, can adapt – and, are quick to reinvent themselves. Without a history on their back, without hard expectations to fulfill, people can move faster and slide into new opportunities easier.
Which is why the future of Brand is people. Behaving like people. Focusing on people. And, becoming people. It’s almost like we’re working in reverse now (people became brands, and now brands become people). But, a better way to look at it is that brands aren’t just the platform, they’re the springboard for people to dive off. I always say that my brand is my business card. It gets me the meeting, it fills the room. But, then it’s on me to live free, create, and speak to the audience.