Advertising is everywhere. Television, radio, bulletin boards, online banners, and other media channels bombard us with advertising designed to steer our preferences for practically everything—striving to claim a share of our thinking and of course our wallets. They spend hundreds of thousands even millions of dollars for 30 second spots intended to grab our attention. Its called “branding”. Does it work? Yes. You know that Michael Jordan’s Air Jordan sneakers is Nike’s brand. Those of us over forty still remember the images of the lonely Maytag repairman who has little work to do because of such reliable Maytag appliances. We associate Volvo with safety because of branding. The message is that branding works. I just spent two days in Denver, Colorado with an excellent branding specialist, Dick Bruso, to better hone in on a brand that best captures the essence of me. It was a great experience. You’ll hear more about that in coming months. But, the process got me thinking about the brand that each of us convey in our meaningful relationships. When people think of me, Dr. Harold, what comes to their mind? That is my brand. What is your brand?
The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines a brand as a combination of factors that identify the product and differentiate it from other products. We can pretty easily understand how this applies to commercial products.
But, what about your own relational brand? What combination of factors uniquely define you?
During my time with the branding specialist, he asked me how those who know me well describe me. He wanted to know what specific words they would use. I thought about actual words that gracious friends have recently articulated like “hard-working”, “committed”, and “smart”. I appreciate the positive sentiment that friends ascribe to me character. But, capturing one’s relational brand goes beyond describing personality characteristics.
Rather, what words would people use to describe their relationship with me? What images come to their mind? Do they see me as someone who walks alongside them when they are in a time of need? Am I perceived as someone who knows how to listen to their heart in the good and the tough times? Are they left behind in the wake of my busyness? Is my engagement with them consistent with how they see me engage with others?
These are the type of questions that inform your relational branding.
Why is your relational brand important?
Ultimately, it is the same as the reason that branding is important to commercial products. It’s about influence.
The way people perceive your brand (though they probably don’t think of it as a brand) will determine the level of confidence and trust that they have in you. In turn, the level of trust they have in you will drive the level of influence that you have with them. And, at some level, we all want to be people of influence.
We want influence at home with our spouse and children. We want influence in our workplace with co-workers and supervisors. We want influence in our churches to help guide people on their faith journey.
But, your relational branding determines how successful you will be in these respective domains.
My desire is that my relational brand conveys authentic engagement, genuine concern, and spirited hopefulness. But, given my nature, this will probably always be couched in the context of faith and pragmatism.
Ultimately, it isn’t very important that I have a lot of degrees. Though I’m proud of them, the awards that I’ve accumulated are just pieces of paper. The accolades that are so graciously directed my way make me feel good. But, if my relational branding is not conveying authentic engagement, genuine concern, and spirited hopefulness then I’ve failed.
God placed me on this earth to “Be the Brand” that he designed from the foundation of the world. Yes, I am a designer brand—not faux or generic. So are you!
It is important that I “Be the Brand” because others’ future depends on me walking in my design.
In my experience there five ways for each of us to be the original brand that we were designed to be.
Five Ways to Promote Your Relational Brand
- Mature Your Voice – Your voice is your message. Your message reflects a combination of personality, interests, and your journey/experience. This combination makes your voice unique from every other person in the world. Your voice will mature as you think about and develop it as a tool of influence and compassion.
- Share Your Heart – Your mature voice reflects the essence of you. It is the heart of what makes you you. But, it can only influence others positively as you share it with others in a spirit of love. In other words, you desire to share your heart to help move people to a better place of belief and functioning not to manipulate them.
- Be Present – People want to feel that you are listening. They want to believe that you identify with them. They want to feel that you are present with them. When they feel this way, they will trust you implicitly. And, they will follow your voice.
- Expand Your Circle of Influence – As you authentically share your heart and connect with people on an individual basis, your influence will grow. They will seek you out. They will ask your advice and opinion. They will tell others about you. Your circle of influence will expand. You were designed to influence generations. But, it starts with one person.
- Stay Consistent – One of the biggest challenges folks face is consistency. Many start off with great intentions. But, most fade out as the busyness of life and personal challenges arise. It is important to stay consistent. It is also imperative to be consistent in the different domains in which you operate. In other words are you the same way at home as you are at church or synagogue? Are you the same way regardless of which group of friends you are hanging with? People can spot a fake. If you are hypocritical in what you communicate, it will interrupt the degree of your influence.
Last weekend, I took my daughter to a concert with Season 10 American Idol winner country singer, Scotty McCreery. One of the songs that he sang talked about the dash. Yes, a dash. One day you will no longer be here. At some point, you and I will move on from this life. In our obituary there will be a place where your loved ones noted your year of birth. For me that was 1965. And, then there will be the date that you died. But, between the year of your birth and death there is a dash (“-“). That dash represents everything meaningful that happened in your life. As people see your dash, what will they remember?
It will not be degrees and positions that they remember. It is not how much money you had in your bank account. What they will remember about your dash is your relational branding. That will be your legacy. So, go “Be the Brand” that you were designed to be. Others are counting on you.
Leave me a comment and let me know what you desire your dash to be. Wishing you God’s richest blessings in doing your dash.