Branding is NOT a Dirty Word!

I’m gonna get a little soapbox-y this week. 

And although the Canadian side of me will probably want to apologize at the end, the American side of me can be rather unapologetic. Plus you deserve full transparency which you know you’ll always get from me. So here ya go.

(Prefer to listen? Click below.)


Last week I was scrolling through Instagram and came across a post from a well-known author who shared her thoughts (and I paraphrase to protect the identity of the guilty):

Branding is for products and cattle, not people. 
Don’t put yourself into a brand identity box. 
Claiming your whole self is more powerful and honest than a brand.

What’s worse than her statement? Within an hour she had over 250 comments like “YESSSSS!”, “soooo good”, “truth”, and “I’ve been thinking this same thing.” They went on to say that branding was “stifling, inauthentic, and makes people less approachable.” Of course the author didn’t even use it as an opportunity to engage in meaningful conversation. It was the classic "post and run”. 

Sometimes ignorance only breeds ignorance, y’all, and there’s nothing blissful about it.

Not to mention that this same author has used a carefully curated brand for over a decade to help propel her very successful writing career. I won’t even get into the hypocrisy.

Branding is not a dirty word. by Michelle Clayton of Let Her Fly

It broke my heart and pissed me off because this is not “truth”. It’s a lie that too many women believe.

There are only about eleventy billion things that I know little-to-nothing about. But, honey, branding ain’t one of ‘em.

So here’s my rewrite of her flawed declaration in a way that is both truthful and life-giving, and then let’s talk about it, shall we?

Branding is for products, cattle, AND especially people. 

Your brand identity sets you free from “the box”.

Claiming your whole self makes the most powerful, honest brand.

Instead of jumping on a ranty social media bandwagon, can we have an intelligent conversation and discuss what branding really is?

1 | Branding is for products, cattle, AND especially people. 

The first flaw in her post is a misunderstanding of what branding is. Quite simply, your BRAND is what people think about you and how they feel about you. It’s the opinions they form and the vibe they get, even when you’re not in the room. Especially when you’re not in the room.

In short, your BRAND = your REPUTATION, and last time I checked, reputations are all about people.

Look at Disney World, for example. You probably know that their motto is “the happiest place on earth.” How do they build this brand every single day? Through their PEOPLE. From the customer service rep who answers your online chat, to the groundskeepers who keep the park immaculate, to the individuals who dance around in character costumes in 100° heat – their brand is built and maintained by their people.

The same goes for you. Whether you're a one-woman shop or part of a larger team, how your business is perceived is directly tied to you. Does that feel daunting? Perhaps. Is it powerful? You better believe it.

This means that you have control! You’re not at the mercy of algorithms or your competition. You have the ability to directly affect your clients’ perception and your own reputation.

2 | Your brand identity sets you free from “the box”.

Designing a brand identity (your logo, fonts, etc.) that aligns with your business brand (your reputation) should always encapsulate everything you are and your mission in the world. It’s not a box to contain you. It’s more like a solid foundation or even a launching pad. In a word – FREEDOM!

If you feel like your brand has put you in a box, it’s probably due to one (or both) of these things:

  • A deficit with your designer – She doesn’t, or doesn’t know how to, ask the right questions. She can’t intuitively see threads of connection. She doesn’t make you feel safe so that you can share openly and honestly. She doesn’t inspire trust and confidence. She’ll make you a pretty logo but doesn’t understand the brand strategy behind it.

  • A deficit within yourself – You don’t really know yourself, your audience, or your business well enough YET to answer her questions thoroughly. You’re too concerned about giving “the right answers” instead of honest answers. You may have even come to her with predetermined ideas (colors, fonts, etc.) that you insist on using, even though they don’t align with your brand direction. You’re overly concerned with your competition instead of keeping your eyes on your own lane.

It’s important to know where the problem lies. If the deficit is with you, then finding a new designer won’t fix the issue. However, if the deficit is with your designer and she’s not “getting it” no matter how much info you give her, then let’s talk. It doesn’t have to be this way.

My clients squeal with delight, cry tears of relief, and happy dance regularly. Not because I put them in a box but because they’ve been released from one. We tap into what makes them unique so that they can stop trying to fit into a mold, play to their strengths, and take their business to the next level. Freedom like this is powerful. (And to be honest, I squeal, cry, and dance too when I see them step into that power.)

3 | Claiming your whole self makes the most powerful, honest brand.

I don’t know where people get the idea that you either have to “be yourself” or “be your brand.” They’re not two opposing forces. The more YOU-ness is in your brand, the more powerful and authentic it will be because people are drawn to people. Period.

That might be sweaty selfies, photobombs by your goofy kids, and Facebook lives from your kitchen table; it also might be your immaculate home office, freshly manicured nails on your Starbucks mug, and well-aligned stock photos. It’s all welcome when you allow all of YOU into your brand. You get to choose.

Personally, I talk about my burnt dinners and beautiful brunches, my perfect Christmas lights and my imperfect family, my wins and flops, and I complain about the weather even though it’s sooo cliché.

You can have a brand that captures and broadcasts your whole self. You can also choose to set boundaries and limit what you share, and that doesn’t make you dishonest or inauthentic. And anyone who tells you otherwise doesn’t know diddly. 

If your brand makes you feel stifled or pigeon-holed, then your brand was designed wrong.

If your brand feels weak and generic, then your brand is wrong.

If your brand has left a part of you on the cutting room floor, then, honey, it’s time for a do-over.

I should know. I’ve been there and so have my clients.

I realize you may not believe me. You may not think that changing your brand could possibly change how you feel about yourself and your business. I promise you – nothing could be further from the truth.

Embracing a brand that feels just like you, that accounts for every wonderful, quirky facet of YOU is a liberating, powerful gift you give yourself and, in turn, your audience.

And if you still don’t believe me, then book a free consult and let’s talk it over.

I’d love to unapologetically happy dance with you, too!