Seven ways to use your identity to build your brand
By pa360, Feb 14 2015 07:22AM
Have you ever been asked whether you have any identity? Perhaps in a bank or at a port or entry/ exit or at your place of work? Basically, identification is evidence to prove that we are who we say we are. Simply saying that I am who I say I am, is all well and good, but without evidence to prove it, how can I convince those who do not know me?
Likewise, an organisation that wants to attract the best talent by promoting itself as preferred employer, will struggle to do so, if in reality, the would-be employer is actually known for promoting a toxic working environment. This is how your identity (who you really are) relates to your brand (how others perceive you). So how can you use your identity to build your brand? Set out below are seven tips.
1. Recognise and acknowledge what you see in front of you
Using your identity to build your brand, starts with recognising what you see in the mirror. Ultimately, this is all predicated on the extent to which you possess a sufficient level of self-awareness and are willing to subject yourself to honest self-appraisal. In essence, if what you see walks like a duck, looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it is probably a duck. Moreover, if you can see that it's a duck then it's reasonable to assume that others can too. The point to note here is that if building the right identity starts with honesty, then honesty demands that you recognise and acknowledge what you see in front of you and not try to explain it away because it is inconvenient. If you struggle to be honest with yourself, then you will struggle even more to be honest with others.
2. Define what matters for you, but be mindful of what matters to others
First, second and last, the fundamentals of identity are sincerity. Whether as an individual or a business, you have to be your authentic self. That said, you may very well discover that there is a natural agitation between authenticity and acceptability. So much so, that there may be aspects of what is unique and individual about your identity that ultimately become impediments to your progress. If that proves to be the case, instead of retreating to indignation, consider what your non-negotiables are. For example, are there things that you would not want to change, irrespective of the consequence? Or are there things that, on the face of it, seem important but in reality don't really count? As long as you remain in touch with reality, that is what matters. However, it is important for you to remember that with identity, choice is a matter for you, but acceptance is a matter for others.
3. Understand that sometimes there may be a world of difference between what your identity is and what you identify with
Your identity is who you really are. It is observable, fact-informed and evidence-based. By contrast, the concept of what you 'identify with' is much less clear, because that can change over time or may reflect a superficial level of interest. An example of this, is the public policy issue of climate change. Many identify with the climate change agenda and broadly support its goals. However, embracing the issue as part of one's 'identity' (as many have done) requires conscious lifestyle choices and changes that not all, who 'identify with' the agenda, may necessarily be willing to make. That is not to say that they do not still 'identify with' the goals and objectives of climate change, rather it simply highlights the fact that what your identity is, may not always converge with what you identify with.
4. Choose it or change it, but don't just accept it
Identity is personal to each individual or entity. In simple terms, you can choose your identity, your identity cannot choose you. People can be 'marked out for success' and choose to fail and others can be 'marked out for failure' and choose to succeed. One of the interesting things about a person's chosen identity is that, if you do not like who you are you can change it. As a case in point, an employee known for poor customer care can ask to attend training and development courses, to improve their performance and deliver better customer experience. Whilst there is no guarantee that this will lead to an increase in the number of customers patronising that establishment, those that do are more likely to have a positive perception of the previously poorly performing employee, as well as the business brand.
5. Identify with the things that you value
Whatever people identify with shapes their brand. If someone identifies with their past failures, it is unlikely that they will be able to identify with the prospect of success. For such a person, each failure would bring with it a self fulfilling prophecy that they are not quite good enough and with that, there will be yet another reason not to try as hard next time. But far worse than that, a life limiting outlook means limited life chances and limited life chances are likely to translate into limited life outcomes. Again, in the context of a brand, the perception will be that of a 'quitter'; someone unworthy of opportunity because they are either unwilling to try or are bound to fail. By contrast, a person who identifies with success and associates with those whose values, habits and behaviours are also aligned with that, creates the exact opposite effect.
6. Don't make a noise, if you're not going to make an effort
People will not know what your identity is until you say something, but they won't know what you identity with until you do something. The point being made here is that the relationship between your identity and your brand is not always an automatic one. You often have to define that relationship yourself not just volubly, but more importantly, visibly. If a restaurant guarantees to deliver all orders to tables within 10 minutes and does exactly what it promises, then it aligns what it 'identifies with' (good customer service) to the brand it seeks to establish (good customer service). The likelihood therefore is that the perception of customers, will also align with those of the restaurant; confirming not just that they say what they do, but more importantly, that they do what they say.
7. Understand what is ultimately at stake
Changing, choosing and establishing your identity can be difficult work. Particularly if the intention is to effect a change and move away from something that one is known for, in an effort to be known for something else. Moreover, you need to determine whether in the grand scheme of things, the effort and risk will ultimately be worth the reward. With identity, if the underpinning values are not deeply held and tenaciously defended by you, then they are highly unlikely to garner a positive response or perception from others. If that is the case, then keep in mind that nothing is more damaging to a brand, than the perception than it cannot be trusted.
In conclusion, although your identity is not your brand it is very often the basis upon which your brand built. Ultimately, the right identity, not a strong one, is what makes for the best brand.