“That’s not a thing,” he said. If you are a fan of Colbert and happened to catch Jon Stewart’s impromptu (very planned) pop-in to the show last week, count yourself blessed. Regardless of your political leanings, Jon Stewart is one of my favorite branding case studies and I routinely find inspiration from the way he words things, the way to speak his mind while infusing personality.
And last night after an evisceration of the RNC, he threw out a one-liner most will overlook.
That is not a thing.
I didn’t overlook it.
When a potential client comes to me and says they’ve just been rebranded and they need photos but they don’t know what they should look like and here, look at my new logo, I want to cry inside and say, “That is not a thing.”
Like a blue collar billionaire is not a thing, a brand without direction is not a thing. Here are three reasons your brand is not (yet) a thing.
1. You Don’t Know Your Why
I’ve been listening to more inspirational and education audios than ever before. Where I might listen to the same tired playlist at the gym in the past, lately I’ve been choosing “edutainment” that will actually aid my future.
And in one of those audios, a gentleman recently posed this thought that I’ll paraphrase: “I believe we are asking people the wrong question. Instead of asking what they do, ask why they do it.”
Think about it for a moment. Because I’ve photographed several business coaches and while they may have different strengths, they are all business coaches. How do you stand apart from the rest of the online coaches these days? Even with a tight, narrow niche, there are others that do exactly what you do!
Your why informs your brand, gives it a direction. And when you can express your why along with your values and the results you offer your clients, you make your business so unique that nobody can touch you. You’re un-copy-able.
If I can’t, in the first 30 seconds of scrolling through your website, see a why that informs your brand, I’m probably clicking away. I’m possibly never coming back. I’m certainly piling you into the forgettable category. This is why your brand isn’t a thing.
2. You’re Concerned With Approval
More specifically, you’re concerned with approval from those who do not matter.
When it comes to your business, take the advice of someone who has been in your specific situation. If you’re an energy healer, taking business advice from your uncle the CPA will lack specifics that you need, and will also not bridge the huge mindset gap between a traditional small business and an alternative small business.
Most people look to their parents as a source of advice. If your mom is a lawyer and has a successful law practice, and you also are building a law practice, this is a good idea. If, however, you’re a photographer and your parents are computer programmers and teachers, this is a bad idea. They have no concept of what it takes to succeed in your arena.
Yet all too often, I see entrepreneurs listen to the advice of regular, 9-5 corporate employees. They have no experience and no business giving you financial business advice. But you, as their child, will likely consider it. You will possibly take it. And when you business is teetering on the brink of failure because of it, it affects you. Not them.
When it comes to seeking approval, save that for personal issues if you must. But when it comes to your business and your brand, know this: unless someone will bear the financial success or loss of your business, their advice is just an opinion and probably one less informed than your own.
If you need to post on social media three times a day for your business, do so. Your dad and uncle are probably already doing that anyway, just not for their businesses.
And then apply this same idea to potential clients, because not everyone is the “best” client for you. This is the heart of foundational branding work. Make decisions in your brand based on what your best client would want to experience. You’ll become indispensable to that best client and build a community around people who want and need what you have to offer.
When you water down your message to gain approval from the masses, you fall right back into that forgettable category.
3. You Aren’t Playing Full Out
I finally started reading Big Magic last week while at the gym. I was barely in, reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s page on all the fears one might have.
“You’re afraid somebody else already did it better.”
“You’re afraid your work isn’t politically, emotionally, or artistically important enough to change anyone’s life.”
And many more of course. But it was about then that I looked up from the stationary bike and saw the girl.
She was on a treadmill and facing me, but two rows away. With earbuds in, she was half rocking out and half running full out.
I watched her for a bit, transfixed as she lip synced with nothing short of gusto. And I, the most epically awful lip reader, wanted to start singing with her. “Shut up and dance with me!” It occurred to me there, I don’t often do *anything* with as much oomph as she simply works out.
I’m going full out and I’m pumped. I’m ready to turn heads. And I’m making statements that sometimes turn heads, sometimes might get your hackles up because they make you uncomfortable.
What could you change right this moment? What are you holding back in that you know, truly, you should play full out right now?
If this is the gentle (or not so gentle) nudge you need, take it. It’s time to make your brand a thing.