You’re Not the Brand of Me!
As part of my job I serve as a branding “expert” guiding clients toward consistent visual representation of their businesses as well as the focused brand message to be carried throughout their marketing efforts, including their websites. Branding sounds simple and on an essential level you could rightly define it as full range of assumptions drawn from the consistent representation of an entity through all media. Even the most scatter-shot marketing results in a brand, albeit a negative brand impression that doesn’t serve you well.
I know this like the back of my hand. I also know that this applies to personal branding. They way each one of us presents ourselves to the world is a form of branding. This includes the way we dress, style our hair, the clothes and jewelry we wear (or don’t wear), our personal hygiene, what we say, and what we do. Most people do all of this without thinking. We might be unconscious of the messages we send as we willy nilly buy clothes off the sales rack, wear others hand-me downs and get haircuts at the discount barber.
And that was me for too many years. I had a string of tough times starting with the illness and death of my sister in 2013 which coincided with a downturn in my business success. Money was tight and then I lost a second stream of income (shaking my identity as a performing musician) in 2015. I lost two years while I grieved and slowly healed from that experience. My core business Vision Marketing survived this stage and re-emerged with a sole focus on digital marketing and website development. I look back on this and see myself as a resilient survivor.
However, looking at myself in the mirror remained painful, very painful. I had gained a significant amount of weight. I wore frumpy blouses bought off the Ross rack or at a plus-size store. I stopped wearing jewelry other than one necklace and my wedding ring. Shoes were no-nonsense slip-ons or flip flops. Cheap haircuts and a only tinted sunscreen from the drug store were the most I would invest in for that final finish. I didn’t feel worth the effort and I didn’t think it mattered.
And, my friends, that was my brand. Was it any wonder I wasn’t thriving in my endeavors? My brand communicated, “I’m not important—and neither are you, frankly. Think what you want, I don’t care.”
Lovely, just lovely.
Except I did care and I was horrified by what I saw. What I saw in the mirror was NOT the brand I wanted. I didn’t want to convey that message to the world and I was mortified and ashamed.
I have the best friends who handled me with care. Not one of my friends or family shamed me. The cardiologist did. My family doctor talked with me kindly because my weight was severely impacting my health. But it took a number of pebbles in the water to raise the level to the point where I felt an urge to change.
My business was growing again and I knew that I would be even more successful if I adopted a more professional wardrobe and polish. I wanted to look the part of the successful professional but all I could see was that at the weight I was, it was impossible. (Not true, but that’s another post.)
I had the opportunity to witness the remarkable transformation of a close friend as she regained her health and lost weight over a number of months. I wondered whether I could do that myself. Maybe.
There came a point where I started to look with new eyes (ok, eye) and gained the desire to change. I’ve already talked about meeting Jessica Papineau, stylist, and Philip Bourgerie of Profile Plan and so far, they are my stalwart partners in my own transformation.
Now I am down 2-3 sizes and starting to wear that more professionally polished wardrobe, but there is more to come!!
I now envision a professional brand for myself that encompasses all the good qualities that I am willing to acknowledge – intelligence, creativity, integrity, love, and beauty.
My new brand is emerging. Please be my focus group and tell me what messages you get.