You know what your brand is. Now live it

SmartCompany, December 12 2016:

After a recent brand workshop for the Women in Digital Group, I received a lovely message from Jenny Lindsay:

“I’d been overthinking how to ‘create’ my brand, when, by contemplating my values, I realised knew it all along. Now I just have to live it. What a revelation.”

At the event, Jenny talked about how confusing all the different rhetoric about brands is as she’s starting her business. And whether you’re just getting started or been in business for 40 years, I’m sure you can identify with her quandry.

My response is always that there are only three things you need to know to build (live) your identity in a way that results in a brand that people will care about. And they are things you already know—even if you don’t know know them.

To anyone who reads this blog regularly, I’m sure you’re able to name the three things off the top of your head. For everyone else, they are: your purpose (what you care about), your values (how you do things) and your positioning (your current story to the world).

Jenny’s comment holds a key piece of wisdom for anyone struggling with the idea and reality of their brand: “I realised I knew it all along…”

It’s not an act of creation, but of awareness that results in a brand. Discovergood deep insight

The answers are there if we care to look.

When I’m working with organisations we spend a lot of time on the deeply unpopular act of looking at what is. Sure it’s fun to imagine who we could be, but there’s no path to get there if we don’t know where we’re starting from.

I also get people to look at what is because there’s always, always a tonne of good deep insight ready and waiting to be unleashed. These sessions produce spotlighted moments of pure ‘aha’; moments when the veil of delusion lifts and what’s left might not be slick or sexy, but it is real. And as Jenny noted, it’s usually something that we knew all along.

And we’re surprised that there’s actually good stuff. Stuff we can build on and keep using. Stuff that our customers and people who work here know, because they see it everyday in what we do.

The last part of Jenny’s comment contains the secret sauce of getting the brand result you want: “Now I just have to live it”.

Here’s the work, because brand is never created. It is built one action and a decision at a time. It becomes through living the identity found in your purpose and values. It’s in the decision you make when no one is looking, as well as what you do in the glare of the customer’s gaze.

It’s a chain of alignment across every part of your organisation, driven by that identity. Top to bottom and side to side. People, product, service, process, policy and practice.

“Now I just have to live it.” And that’s the hardest part.

Good luck to the Jennys out there. Don’t be bamboozled by brand—we already know what it is. And with a bit or awareness on our part and discipline across what we do, so will everyone else.

See you next week.

Michel is an Independent Brand Thinker and Adviser dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make—with a strong, resilient organisation as the result. You can find Michel at or you can follow her on Twitter @michelhogan.