Originally posted on rebellesociety.com
VIA KIRK HENSLER ON MAY 1, 2013
“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”
~ Oscar Wilde
When I was 10 years old my parents had a party at our house for my baseball team.
All the parents were getting drunk and eating food. We had quite a party house. There were coolers scattered all throughout the yard with different types of alcohol, Mike’s Hard Lemonade, Budweiser, wine coolers, and even a strawberry daiquiri slushy machine. At that point in my life I hated the taste of alcohol (judging from the one horrible experience I had sipping my dad’s Budweiser beer and nearly vomiting) but there was something about how cool all the adults looked drinking it that made me feel left out.
I decided to get my teammates together for a meeting and laid out a strategic plan to begin syphoning alcohol from their coolers and building up our own secret reservoir.
We first needed to locate an empty cooler and take it deep into the back yard where the parents would be too drunk and lazy to walk by. Then we had to hide the cooler underneath blankets and chairs and other indigenous suburban objects.
Once that was set it came down to simple recon. I selected the five sneakiest kids and assigned them each a particular cooler containing the booze. Their instructions were to grab one beverage at a time while no one was looking and casually (without looking conspicuous) walk them back to a check point where another trusted comrade and I were waiting to take the goods to our secret location.
After 45 minutes of patient execution we had accumulated 19 beers, 8 wine coolers, and 12 lemonades in our cooler. Upon my careful watch, none of the parents had a goddamn clue what was going on, they were too busy having the time of their lives, clueless to the fact that their children were robbing them blind.
We moved our cooler closer to the basketball court, which was in turn closer to where the parents were because we were getting comfortable with being sneaky and wanted our prize within close viewing distance. We momentarily got complacent and stepped away from the original plan.
My dad noticed this and walked back to the court, smoking a cigarette and drinking a Bud. He looked at me and then looked at a blanket that was covering an unknown large object. He pulled the blanket off and saw the cooler. My head got really warm and my ears started to itch. I was preparing myself for one of his trademark psycho streaks where the veins on his head look like they are going to explode and I will also perish in the eruption.
He opened the cooler and saw our treasure. We got made.
“What the fuck is this?” he said to me.
“I saw some of the older kids were trying to steal beers so I took them away and hid them back here so you guys could still have them,” I replied without thinking.
I remember feeling scared about how quickly I let myself believe the lie I just told. Kinda slick though.
He asked me a few more questions and although I tried to remember my original lie everything started to get confusing. I couldn’t remember if it was my friends that were stealing or my brothers or why I needed to hide them in a new cooler instead of returning them to the originals.
Eventually I cracked under the interrogation. I got a pretty good whack on the back of the head and was forced to go to my room while everyone else in the entire world got to stay out and party with the fire burning and the music playing and, of course, people were laughing and having a good time.
This is what happens with companies that don’t have a clear brand identity. They see something that they like and they get a big idea about how to get that thing and they act out of a place of desire instead of a place of knowing.
I never liked alcohol but I liked what the people drinking alcohol looked like. So naturally I tricked myself into thinking I liked it myself, confusing myself enough to risk everything I had at the time to be a part of some ‘cool’ idea.
It’s a fine line telling the difference between something you want to be and something you are. Uncertainty can be covered up for a while with good planning and a lot of convincing and potentially some charm. But the only thing that stands up over time, through all of the interrogations is the truth. If you’re telling the truth then you get to sleep at night.
It’s important to understand that your brand is your word; essentially you are your brand. It has to be true to you because there’s no stopping the truth from coming out eventually.
And let’s not even dive into the mental, emotional, and spiritual implications of investing time and energy into something that doesn’t serve your greatest purpose, because we’d need another article. So let’s just agree that engaging in any type of work that doesn’t align with who you are as a person in your core is a slow death. If it doesn’t kill you then I will, for putting it out into the world.
Here are seven tips to help you build your brand:
1. Be honest.
You think that’s too simple? Try this, be really fucking honest. Try running a campaign past your best friend that has known you since boarding school and see if they make you second-guess it the minute it comes out of your mouth. If you can get it past them, there’s a good chance it’s true.
2. Don’t’ be afraid of failure.
It’s a good thing. It’s not something you hide from, it’s something you look for. If you see it, then it can’t hurt you anymore. Surround yourself with people that are going to be honest with you, ones that aren’t obsessed with you already.
If you can’t take your message and say it out loud to the most important people in your life then how do you plan to stand behind your words when things get serious? People are going to try to tear you down, throw stones at your face, and push you down a flight of stairs because you’re brave enough to put yourself out there. If you know you have the truth in your back pocket then you can fight ‘til the death and no one will push you that far because they will know you stand for something.
3. Be bold.
Don’t waste anyone’s time with things other people have already said. It’s not about getting everyone to like you; it’s about being your goddamn self. Nothing stinks worse than insecurity. Make your statements and stick by them.
Even if you blow it here and there and make some people upset, they will come to understand you over time and even appreciate you for being you. You’ll be providing for them in a particular part of their life they have come to depend on you for.
4. Be consistent.
Make sure you know what your message is in the first place and make sure every single act of the company is a direct reflection of that message. It must all serve the big picture.
Nobody should ever be confused about the message you are sending, unless you’re some kind of artistic genius and you enjoy confusing people. Even in that case no one will appreciate you until you’re dead, so what good is that doing you?
Don’t get caught off guard trying to be too many things at once. Know what your message is and thread it through every single thing that you do.
5. Don’t worry about being perfect.
There’s a beauty in the human experience. Not every article or sentence or campaign is going to be a masterpiece, so what?
Don’t be so hard on yourself. You’ve forgiven people for having an off day; they do the same for you. Nobody remembers anything that happened more than five minutes ago anyway.
6. If you want to get people excited about you, include the people.
Nobody gives a shit about you, they care about themselves, and this needs to be remembered in branding. How many times have you looked through a random album of photos online and hoped to magically find a photo of yourself?
People want to see themselves, hear themselves talk, and stare at themselves in the mirror and take pictures with their iPhones. Don’t think for a second that they care more about you than they do themselves. They are only paying attention to you because you somehow remind them of who they are or who they want to be, so allow them to connect deeper with themselves through your voice.
7. If you’re not 100% sure then just find something else.
We only fight for love. If we don’t love our work, our brand, our word then we will be washed away with the majority. But if we have a feeling in our gut and a purpose with our word and a vision for our future, then we are on our way to something bigger than we can imagine. When we know something, nobody can stop us from realizing it.