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Branding: The Emperor’s New Clothes

Kyle FlahertyGuest Post: Kyle Flaherty loves marketing, building brands, growing companies, and helping to be part of something special. Presently you’ll find him doing each as the CMO at 21CT, a leading provider of data analytics used for healthcare fraud detection, cyber security and terrorist hunting.  You can connect with Kyle on LinkedIn or Twitter

The world has become filled with brand ‘experts’, but who can blame them when there are so many people claiming themselves social media gurus. The concept of branding has permeated our everyday lives, hitting every outlet and medium, and much of it can be centered on the desire to build ‘personal brands’. But it has also become a pop culture reference point, which is always the moment that a concept goes from a niche industry and into the lexicon of every day people.

Beyonce and Jay-Z are no longer artists or even a couple, they are a brand. The Ray Rice debacle is typically covered first for the disgusting violence of the individual, but soon after it is reported how it is ‘tarnishing the shield’ and the NFL brand. Each of us are on LinkedIn claiming we are ‘networking’, but that is the result of building a brand here and on other online platforms. Most people can even now recite, whether in marketing or not, the impact of brand on corporations, and they typically whip out the old “you can really see the arrow in the FedEx logo” spiel.

21CTThe problem is, this is all wrong. That is not brand, these examples are the personification or output of a brand. And unfortunately if you think this way about your personal brand or your corporate brand, you will lose focus quickly and not actually accomplish the true mission of branding. People want to get to the flashy output of branding, without going through the work it takes to get yourself to that point. It’s the same methodology that leads people to work for companies for a possible payday, yet have no passion for the actual work. When branding, whether corporate or personal, ask yourself one question:

Do I live the brand every time I open my mouth?

The point here is, shed the fancy visual system, the logo, the new color palette, or if you’re Beyonce the dancers and light show. Can you just stand up there on stage and let your voice be the brand? Because that is what brand is, it is the voice of your company. It’s not a logo, it’s the words and tone you use in an email. It’s not your website, it’s the way your website speaks to your community.

Now, go look at your corporate and personal brand. Are they naked without that pretty logo and design style, or can they stand on their own by simply opening your mouth?

P.S. All that being said, I’m still awfully proud of our new logo 😉