I certainly hope not. No diss to Chris… He’s doing his thing. I hear he’s a nice enough fellow (I don’t know him personally). I own two of his books (one was stolen from me). But there’s no reason to want to be just like him, Oprah, Tony Robbins, Seth Godin, Maverick Carter, Jay Baer, Mitch Joel, Gary Vaynerchuk or anyone else. Learn from these masterminds. Study their actions, teachings and failures. Maybe even seek their advice but don’t idolize them and sacrifice your own identity and methodology in your attempts to copy. Your clients want you to grow their brands by using your team’s creative angle in collaboration with (sometimes in lieu of) theirs. Work your own angles … sharp and precise!
I’m a firm believer in creating your own lane… especially in marketing and branding. In this post I will give you a little guidance on how to tap into your passion and uniqueness for branding yourself and others. If a company wanted to work with any of the folks I mentioned above, they’d go directly to them. So here’s to you doing you.
What’s your passion?
What’s the one thing you love to do that doesn’t feel like work? Be really specific. Got it? Okay, how can you add value to that activity? These are questions that you as a branding professional must ask yourself and your clients. More importantly, you must take time to answer them. You can’t allow your identity to be defined by someone else’s passion. You can’t dance like Chris Brown or Usher if you don’t enjoy long hours of deliberately practicing your moves with drill sergeant choreographers.
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Adding value is key. Having passion for something without being able to add value won’t yield differentiation. If you have a “passion” for micro-blogging on Twitter but your timeline is jammed with auto-generated tweets with links to Mashable articles, then how are you different from every other ‘bot tweeter out there? That’s not passion, that’s laziness. People want to learn about your story and to be given advice on how they can tell their story. You are successfully adding value to your passion when you find that others are inspired by your work. If your personal brand doesn’t inspire others, how do expect to inspire people for your clients?
Though research and external factors including innovation and natural events can help you find your value-add, ultimately it will have to come from within. That creative spark or aha moment could take years of thought and tinkering, but it will be worth it. Fabricated value is easy to spot and won’t allow your brand to grow any roots. The process for finding your value-add should be low-pressure and unforced.
Say you’re a basketball fanatic who does sales for a web design firm. Your friends hate watching TV at your house because you’re liable to pop in a VHS tape filled with NBA playoff games from 1985. Your college degree (applied mathematics) isn’t being put to use but you’re good at it. How can you combine these seemingly unrelated things? You love playing pickup basketball and watching every level of the sport from YMCA to NBA (even the Euroleague). The problem is that you’re 5’9”, slow and you don’t have a point guard skill set. Hold up though… You have an applied mathematics degree! You don’t necessarily enjoy doing math but maybe there’s a way to combine it with your love for hoops. OF COURSE there is. Don’t forget that you have access to web designers at your job. There could be opportunities for turning your passion into a side hustle. That side hustle could become a platform. Boom! You’re on your way to building a brand. There are guys like Kevin Pelton and John Hollinger who have taken this mashup to great levels. There was a movie recently made about Billy Beane and baseball Sabermetrics (Money Ball). You never know.
What are three words that describe you? What three words would your friends use to describe you? What makes you stand out? What’s the most random thing about you? What are your quirks? What’s likeable about you? What personal attribute pisses off your parents (or anyone for that matter)? Answering these questions can help you find your unique qualities. Plug these qualities into the formula for your value-add.
What if you have an issue that the world sees an disadvantage? Hopefully you don’t have a medical condition that gives you really bad breath. Bad breath is never good for business. Anyway, find a way to add value to your passion through your “disadvantage”. Finding a creative and inspiring way to push through things that would stop most people in their tracks is a sure way to stand out and possibly succeed more than your “non-disadvantaged” peers. You also gain the advantage of learning how to work and power through natural business aches and pains. Is your brand resilient? The good ones are.
Hopefully this blog post has inspired you to do your own thing. The goal isn’t to discourage you from studying the moves of successful people. The point is that the world would rather see you shine in your own way.