You make things. That’s great.
Sometimes you make things of value for yourself. That’s also great. Sometimes you make things of value for others. That’s even better.
Whatever you make and whoever you make it for, it’s important that of all the things you make, make yourself a personal brand.
Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.– Jeff Bezos
And what that means is that people will create an image of you all on their own, without you even saying a word. People associate you to a feeling, an emotion, a value, a purpose; all on their own. So if people are going to do it anyway, it’s important to make sure that you’re helping them tell the right story about you and what you’re about.
The best way I’ve heard someone summarise what a ‘brand’ is, is simply: Your brand is your promise to someone else.
So when you’re making that hand made wooden table, or video documentary, or golden light-laced photograph, when someone sees that product, not only are they judging the product itself, but if they know whoever made it, they subconsciously judge the brand value of it also.
I really hate to use the most common example ever for this, but since it’s the easiest to understand, let’s go with it: Take the iPhone. But actually, take the logo off a brand new iPhone X, and look at the device objectively. Look at it as a mobile device; as bits of circuitry and a battery, wrapped in glass and the design choices of polished silver (or black chrome, whatever you fancy) and a candy-bar form factor.
On its own, without a logo, you know that it might have cost, say $500 to make. All other Android flagship phones would be made for just as much, you assume. Every other phone does pretty much the same thing, after all. It takes phone calls, it goes on the internet, it takes photographs. Whether it does some things better or worse than others is the difference of minuscule degree, relatively.
But slap that Apple logo back on it, and pow, suddenly you’re charged literally double that figure to purchase one. Now, take the latest Samsung product – the Galaxy S9. Remove the Samsung logo from it, swap the OS for iOS, swap the logos around and call it an iPhone. And again, pow, that device can be priced way more than Samsung would ever dream of charging for it, let alone what people would actually pay for it. The same couldn’t be the reverse for the brands, though.
Same device, same functionality – but that’s the power of brand. Identity; and the promise it brings people.
And it’s funny – in my day to day, I’m a Product (UX) designer. That means everyday I’m solving hard problems people have with products in an effort to try and deliver value or make their lives easier. But if you ask someone why they like Apple products, sure, some might tell you that they’re ‘easier to use’ – and the truth is, that there is an entire thriving industry of people who aspire to do just that – but for a consumer, that’s about as deep as it gets. Most don’t know that this exists. Many Apple users have never even used an Android product in earnest, yet they defend Apple to the death – the promise of the message and what the brand stands for are the most important things about the company. Not the ‘same same’ products that exist in the marketplace.
So you, as a creator of things – probably making the same things as many other people are making – are delivering on your promise to your users and customers too. Whether you know it or not. The difference is that brands like Apple are consciously crafting what that message is – the story they tell, the identity they create, the ‘people like us, do things like this’ story.
Do you know why people follow you on Instagram? Have you ever asked them? Do you know the subconscious message you’re sending out to them and what it says? It’s okay if you don’t. Once you work at your brand, it’s always a work in progress.
As a personal brand, you’re kinda different to those corporate types. The biggest difference is that you’re accountable for everything. Where Apple can hide behind its 150,000 employees for a single decision the brand makes, you are but one person.
That’s a good thing, but like all good things, it requires you to play the game a little differently.
Oftentimes that means that you have to be authentic to yourself and to your audience. The things you say have to align to the things you believe in, most of the time. But the beauty of authenticity is that there are no two you’s. You’re unique. And by virtue of being unique, your voice is the very thing that helps you stand out.
So for context, the reason why I’m writing this is because the journey of self-discovery is never over. I’m going through a minor rebrand myself, so I thought I’d share my (entire and past) process with you, in hopes that you consider a little more about your own brand too.
Over the next few weeks you’ll not only see the brand and the site change a little, but I’ll also be releasing some posts documenting the process and rationale: from here, to values, to audience, to visual identity, to online presence and more. If you’ve ever wanted to know anything about any of this stuff, drop me a comment and I’ll make sure to cover it.
Otherwise, start to think about it for yourself – your brand is important, and so are you. Let’s make sure the world hears your story.
See you tomorrow.