Branding yourself as a small businesses is a complex endeavor. My clients see it as an opportunity to express themselves, but also struggle with its limitations. Between the commitment to serve one niche, use two steady colors, or produce on-topic content, they rapidly become a jenga of anxieties.
To which I say: an hour glass.
Here is what’s so interesting about hour glasses. They are calming, sophisticated, and a brand metaphor.
Picture the narrowest part in the middle, and the huge space on top and below where the sand collects. Distilling your identity to a few precise words and imagery is just like that! The narrow lens in the middle gives you the super power of this ONE thing, ONE idea, ONE feeling! At the same time, it’s not the totality of who you are, because you have all the sand on top and bottom- golden storytelling particles. The lens makes you relevant, digestible, and shareable to your clients, the storytelling earns you trust and authority. The tricky part is, this kind of lens is powerful and comes with a lot of responsibility. You don’t want to be going around anointing yourself with a reductive label without the humility of depth. It is a potent communication tool and a brave one.
You can also look at it as an exercise in adaptation.
I am a huge proponent that in life and in business, you should be who you are and not give into what the world shapes you to be. As e. e. cummings puts it: “To be nobody but yourself means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight.” The paradox is that while projecting an independent, unique brand, we often have to massage our identity to fit a variety of expectations. It’s the ultimate dance between who we are, who we want to be, and who others tell us to be.
Authors and business owners I work with often struggle with that dance–being themselves and fitting in. Whether they are constantly tuning into their clients’ needs or are subjected to academia’s endless requirements, they are switching identities on and off. And that is not being duplicitous, it is reality.
It is the price we pay to co-exist with each other in a healthy way.
But remember, the narrowing lens is always just the starting point, not the entirety of who you are.
Branding is also a psychological tool. Knowing who you are makes you more flexible with the identities imposed on you (including the girl from kindergarten with the nicer braids!). For example in marketing, you often put your clients’ needs before yours, by focusing your messaging on what makes sense to them and not just what you are in the mood to write about.
This is bravery!
You are so strong and so empowered, you know how to put yourself on hold for others.
And last but not least, branding can be a creative tool, if you use it as an idea container. Assigning cultural importance to your work, not just bottom line, comes with sharing and generating ideas. Centering your work around an idea unique to you practically eliminates all competition.
Since values and purpose are a given in business these days, your identity can become irrelevant really fast if you don’t give it depth through ideas. Your only differentiation lies upon putting your emphasis on ideas, not a rigid identity.
Despite what we’ve seen as a trend in business–that we should be absolutely, unfailingly true to one authentic self–our identities are multilayered and evolving.
There isn’t ONE true SELF to us, but many dimensions. While making your brand multi-dimensional and interesting is hard due to the natural limitations of branding, nothing should stop you from sharing your ideas with the world. If you are brave enough to put a core idea behind your identity, you will be able to carve a creative corner in the marketplace that is uniquely yours.
Brave ideas related to our field of expertise have depth. We can test them based on our experiences. When used in a non-authoritative way, brave ideas lean on the notion that we are more alike than we are different in the sense that we’re always evolving.
And so, to sum up. Branding your business the brave way, means to:
- Use branding as a narrowing lens to distill your identity in a few precise words and imagery
- Use branding as a psychological tool to dig deep and find out what makes you who you are
- Use branding as an expansive tool and generator of ideas, and lead with one core idea at a time
A brave brand with a strong identity has deep ideas that nurture your clients’ creativity and provoke gutsy reflections.
You want to be seen and heard above the rest?
Find that one, single idea that makes you who you are and never stop owning it! It’s your hour glass moment, and you better not waste one single milisecond of it!
If you want my help in testing your own brave ideas by book a call with me here.