I’d like to talk about Branding. Not to discuss how to get your brand known, create brand recognition, nor how branding is supported through marketing or advertising. This instead, is the description of the “Natural Brand”.

Business success – lasting, enjoyable, and profitable success – comes from a business or organization knowing who it is, what it is committed to, and what it does best. Business leaders could be tremendously well served by examining this, both personally and organizationally. Ask: What are you passionate about, and what are you great at?

“Branding” has value. But lasting value comes from identifying one’s own “natural brand”. Identify the things you are most passionate about and greatest at, and keep your focus on doing those things. Know yourself and “to thine own self be true.” Let the brand come forth from who you are, and you will likely live up to the expectations you create. Natural Brand is an expression of values. Real Values.

Many companies have a great “Statement of Values”. For example, Enron had the following engraved in stone in their main lobby: “Integrity • Communication • Respect • Excellence.”

But, I am not referring to value statements; I am referring to real values. If you want to see the values of a business, look at their practices, e.g. how they approach their clients, their challenges, their decision making processes, etc. Real values are always realized; in existence, in the present tense.

I highly recommend that people who are interested in long term success read the book Good to Great, by Jim Collins. In it, the discussion of knowing who you are and what you are committed to is discussed with examples of some very successful organizations, world leaders in their time. And if any of you ever want to speak about how to apply these principals to make your business more successful, I would be happy to discuss it with you.

It is my belief that people who love what they do, and do it well, can be well compensated for their work. Further, I suggest that being well compensated for doing what one loves to do and does well is simple to create.

So now, back to branding. Real and effective branding (not sales pitches put forward by advertisers to get people to buy stuff that they don’t want) comes in three parts. I call them the Three Beings and they must be looked at sequentially. Taking the third before the first undermines the system, and any chance at having a credible identity in the market place. So, please take them in order:

Who You Are Being:

This is not who you wish you were or who you want to be or what you are trying to be. This is who you actually are, actively day in and day out. Are you new to your market, striving for excellence, looking to deliver great value? GREAT, be that. Are you (or is your company) a master of your domain, the best at some things and competent at others? GREAT. You have an identity: a role that you play willingly and you play it well. This is already your brand. Be that. And if who and where you are is not sufficient for you, make a commitment to shift who you are, take actions in accord with that commitment, and be the one who is committed to what you say are committed to. In baseball, a rookie player is rarely the best player in the world, but if his commitment is to be the best at what he does, or more significantly to give his all to every play, then that is what will come through. This is about what you are great at and passionate about. This is the place where what you are committed to becomes who you are. Once you are clear on who you are committed to being, the only thing left to handle is your personal and organizational integrity – focus on these, and who you are committed to being will come to define Who You Are for the world around you. This is your “Natural Brand.”

Who You Are Known For Being:

The people who know you – do they know you for who you are committed to being? Do they appreciate the value that you bring? Do they come to you for what you, uniquely are committed to delivering? Or are people calling you to ask for what is not your area? If people are asking for something other than what you personally are committed to, then Who You Are Known For Being is not in alignment with who you are committed to being. Correct this and life will get easier.

Being Known:

This is the measure of the community that knows you. Some of you are brilliant at this, some are terrible. Regardless, THIS IS THE LAST STEP. When an organization reveals itself for what it is committed to, every one can see it clearly. When someone chooses to promote themselves for the purpose of getting a message across that they think the world wants to hear, what actually comes across is a scattered message that might drive short term revenues. But, ultimately, it will lead to the loss of credibility of the product or service in the market.

When people look at Branding, they often start at step three. The result is short term sales, long term detriment. Before moving past step one, make sure you know who you are, who your teammates are, who your clients are, and what exactly it is that you do for them. What is the real value that you provide?

As often as not, getting through the first two steps, with real care, will bring about a shift in a business that is lasting; brings new business in and gets rid of the garbage. Moving into step three is for businesses that are ready: There must be infrastructure in place that allows the organization to deliver to a growing demand. It is not to be rushed. Moving too soon will undermine a reputation that has been rigorously built.

Again, I am always happy to discuss this topic further.  This is, after all, who I am committed to being.

Edited by Meg Buck

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