You Don’t Know Your Brand

Powerful brands make the world go ‘round – and what we think of as a powerful begins with how we define “power.” Is it the brand with the strongest social mission? The largest revenue? The most employee retention? It gets personal. Quick.

This idea of powerful brands residing outside of the brand itself is an important part of the conversation we have when working with clients who are evaluating “the next thing” – and maybe the stuff of nightmares for marketers. A core belief of ours – one that we share with many – is that you CANNOT create your brand. That’s right – you can’t “make it happen” or “seize the day.” This time you can snooze and win.  

In a way.

After all, it is through a) consistency and b) others’ experience of you – that the truth of your brand is revealed, not just what you think it is or should be or used to be or could be. Just the truth. That’s a great place to start.

We offered this dichotomy at a recent Crain’s Summer School session, part of the Crain’s Academy suite of leadership and career development offerings. And we asked the question, “What are you known for (consistently)?” It prompted some introspection – and some uncertainty. Is what I’m known for a good thing? Is what I’m known for accurate? Is what I’m known for what I want to be known for? And then what?

Running an experiment on the brand called you is actually an easy lift; but it takes some guts. Our prescription: ask three or four people the simple question, “What am I known for (consistently)?” Remember to always consider the source – these are people that should have a sense of how you’ve shown up, over a period of time. You can even ask anonymously, or use one of “Start with Why” guru Simon Sinek’s templates.


And, of course, now that you have the data – a.k.a. what you’re known for a.k.a. the role you are master of – you’re only halfway there. You’ve got to tell the story of your brand, and this part you can control. Sort of.

Consider, then, sharing a branding Mad Libs with your chosen folk and pushing the conversation a little further to ask, “How do you see what I’m known for?” It could be sentence completion something like:

“YOU are really good if I ever need ______ and the reason I know that is because _______.”


“If I ever need ______ solved or have a question about _____, I call _______, and the reason I would is _________.”

Getting a little help from our friends (in the Collective) to define our brand makes sense.
Getting a little help from our friends (in the Collective) to define our brand makes sense.

Make this summer a time to take stock in what kind of awesome-ness you already possess and how you’ll talk about it heading into your next conversation or opportunity.