Branding and symbolism

According to wikipedia’s definition:

“A symbol is a mark, sign or word that indicates, signifies, or is understood as representing an idea, object, or relationship. Symbols allow people to go beyond what is known or seen by creating linkages between otherwise very different concepts and experiences. All communication (and data processing) is achieved through the use of symbols.

Symbols are the basis of all human understanding and serve as vehicles of conception for all human knowledge. Symbols facilitate understanding of the world in which we live, thus serving as the grounds upon which we make judgments.”

Let’s just think about this for a moment.

ALL communication is achieved by the use of symbols.

Symbols facilitate understanding of the world in which we live and are the grounds upon which we make judgements.

In other worlds, we see the world in terms of symbols and communicate our understanding of the world through symbols.

More than that, they enable us to make connections and carry concepts across boundaries – a lion as a symbol of strength, for instance, or the colour red as danger or passion, a flower for growth and so on – and symbols speak to us at a deep, philosophical level.

This is of fundamental importance to the role of brands.

What the truly successful brand does is create a universe of symbols around itself which speak to its purpose, its vision and its promise to customers.

These are deeply important in people’s perceptions and create a “drawer in the mind” which contains all the symbolic signals they have received about you – from your logo, to colours, to tone of voice, to advertising messages to how you respond to enquiries and so on and so on.

Right back in the early days, a “brand” was a symbol on cattle which reflected the ranch they came from. Over time, that symbol also came to represent what people thought of that rancher – was he reliable, was he honest – and that symbol could be projected through communications to build reputation and attract people.

If we see the world around us in symbols, and if we use symbols to facilitate understanding, it follows that perception is everything and everything is perception.

Everything you do, everything you say and everything you use in communications must be consistent, it must say something about you and your company and – above all – it must be honest and reward our interaction with you.

Symbols are about trust.

So the next time you are considering a “brand refresh” or a logo change or a change to how customers access your services, be aware of the depth of your brand and the conscious and unconscious impressions you will be attempting to re-engineer.

Personal branding – 5 things to get right to achieve your goals

“To thine own self be true” – Shakespeare

Personal branding is the process of building a unique brand around you as an individual and follows the same concepts as developing a brand around a product or business.

And, just as in business, Personal branding is becoming increasingly important because the complexity of modern life means audiences look to brands they can trust when making decisions.

The importance of trust in today’s brand marketing cannot be over-emphasised.

In addition, branding for individuals and businesses has reached a new level of complexity because of the rise of the Internet. The interplay between the real and the virtual world means you have to think about the need to manage multiple identities consistently.

For instance, employers are increasingly using social media tools in order to vet potential job applicants.

5 things to get right

  1. The elevator pitch

The quote from Shakespeare above means two things – you have to understand who you are and what you do, and then you have to present it authentically and consistently.

One way to do this is to write a personal statement. Think of it like an elevator pitch.

You are in an elevator with a potential client and you have 15 seconds between floors to tell them who you are, what you do, how you can help them.

What would you say?

Think about:

  • Your skills
  • Problems you can solve
  • Who would benefit
  • Your USP – what makes you different?

This is all about your professional reputation, so you need to be critical of yourself and ensure what you offer can be delivered.

  1. The Proposition

Like all good branding statements, you need to sum up your brand in a single phrase or sentence which encapsulates the offer you are making to customers.

There are lots of examples out there, but here’s mine:

I’m Ivor Lawrence and my company is called Underlying Form. I believe passionately in the power of brand strategies to transform companies, connect with their customers and motivate their workforce.

It’s a core to your business – a brand is a promise kept.

I specialise in helping organisations develop strong brands and improve the effectiveness of their marketing activity by focusing on re-discovering their vision

Once you have developed who you are and what you do, you can use the proposition just the same as in branding a product to produce consistent communications and messages and to answer the dreaded first question in any conversation – “Tell me about yourself/ your business”

  1. Start thinking of yourself as a brand

What do you want people to think when they hear your name?

My boss in an advertising agency I worked for called it “The drawer in the mind”. So, when people think about cars or insurance, or plumbers or consultants, they open the drawer in their mind with those headings and ask themselves two questions:

  • Who have I heard of?
  • What do I know about them?

Once you start to think of yourself as a brand, you can start to be more strategic and more creative about how you promote yourself.

You need to audit your existing footprint – what is your online presence? Do you present yourself consistently across platforms?

Do you have a simple on-line profile/web site you can refer people to?

  1. Promote yourself

Think about your audiences, the ways to reach them and the messages you want them to hear.

For instance, LinkedIn is a great networking tool for professionals which enables you to develop a profile, connect with potential clients and promote yourself through blogs and articles.

However, you have to focus on your brand, your audience and your offer otherwise you can end up with a large, unstructured network of acquaintances.

Find ways to produce value by creating content which is useful to people – this article is an example. This is not about selling. This is about sharing your knowledge and showcasing your expertise to build your reputation.

Be thoughtful about what you share and where you share it. Every tweet you send, every blog you publish, every comment you make on other people’s blogs contributes to your personal brand. But this isn’t a negative issue – all these instances are a positive opportunity to present yourself and your ideas widely and consistently.

  1. Walk the talk

 A strong personal brand has a story and a personality as well as skills and experience.

Think about Richard Branson, David Beckham, and Muhammed Ali.

All these people have a skill set which set them apart, but they also have a story and a way of presenting themselves consistent with that story.

Branson is an entrepreneur, an iconoclast and someone who likes to work for the customer and take risks to make things better. This is presented consistently form his business dealings through his personal exploration challenges to the things he writes.

Look at some of the great figures from history and the presentation devices they used to get their message across and present themselves in a memorable way (consistent with their proposition):

  • Churchill with his cigar, two finger salute and bowler hat which immediately said stubbornness, pugnacious, strength and self-belief
  • Ghandi with his simple loin cloth and spinning wheel which portrayed him as a simple man of the people, non-violent, and not swayed by self-enrichment
  • John F Kennedy with his youthful image, glamorous lifestyle and positive vision for the future

These may be extreme examples, but they show the need to think about the image you give people and how it is consistent with what you are offering.

So there you have it. 5 things to think about when it comes to personal branding and how it can help you achieve your goals.

Please visit my web site to find out more about who I am and what I do

www.underlyingform.co.uk