The truth about brands

A brand is what people say or think about you or your business when you’re not around.

Put another way — people are looking to answer a simple question when they experience an individual or company for the first time: “Am I with you or am I against you?” Every subsequent interaction either affirms or negates their initial decision.

Sure, branding — all the ways you paint a picture of you or your business for your audience — can help you influence their answer. But the answer itself? That’s what your brand ultimately becomes.

Which means you’re actually not the one building a brand. Brand-building is a responsibility and privilege for the people who are standing with you. And the status of your lifestyle or business depends on if there are more people with sufficient social, economic or cultural leverage standing with you rather than against you.

So if you’re not building a brand, then what are you doing?

If you ask me, what people really mean is they’re shaping, sharing and upholding a “point of view.”

Your point of view is your outlook on or experience of a particular thing or situation. It reflects how you think and feel and what you believe and ultimately create. It’s the foundation for the vision you have for your work and life.

If you’re “brand” feels off the rails, it’s probably because the visual (logo, imagery, typography, colors, and creative direction) and verbal (language, voice and tone) cues that communicate your point of view make more people who have megaphones stand against you than with you.

So the worthwhile investment is on developing and articulating a compelling point of view. Not “building a brand” that you can’t (and will never be able to) control in the first place.