Posted by: kwbrand | January 1, 2008

Give Yourself a Brand New Resolve

Previously published in the County Cable, February 2007, reprinted here with permission.

Statistically, most of us break our New Year’s resolutions. It’s a shame, too, because we all meant well. Remember that feeling of determination and hope? Remember that thrilling sense of stewardship as you told yourself that yes, this year, you’d make the most of the time and really accomplish x, y or z? On paper, and on the crest of a brand new year, it all seemed so doable. But the stunning failure rate begs the question: what if the goal, rather than the process, is itself flawed?

I spend most of my time helping businesses analyze, clarify, and position or reposition their brands. Corporate leaders call people like me when they realize their company has lost its way or stalled. They’re working hard, but something isn’t clicking. Often, part of the problem is that their brand is unclear or undifferentiated from competitors’. Through the process, I try to explain the power of a clear brand: it’s the comforting knowledge of the likely experience customers will have with their product or services; it’s the attributes that set them apart from competitors; it’s the tool they use internally to help keep them on their intended path. Their brand is the set of boundaries they draw around themselves to clarify who they are and—as importantly—who they’re not. Those boundaries serve as the river banks of their efforts and without them the flow of their energy and intentions pools and puddles…and stagnates.

What if the same is true of the individual human experience? What if, instead of making a New Year’s resolution to change a habit or behavior and apply it like some kind of veneer, we approached the process from the inside out and resolve instead to clarify who we really are and who we’re not? What if we resolve to clarify our personal brand and to use it as a guiding tool for the remainder of the year? Perhaps a clarified personal brand would create a more solid foundation for other goals.

I decided to try this out. I sent colleagues, clients, friends and family members an abridged sampling of the same types of questions I typically pose to customers, suppliers, and employees of a client undergoing a corporate branding process…except these were designed to identify my personal brand as they’d perceived it. Naturally, the process was fraught with vulnerability (and was in truth an idea I’d had in the middle of the night and then executed before I had a chance to chicken out). The results were both interesting and humbling, but it was the trends that were the most fascinating…and freeing. For example, I was not surprised to learn that I lack a, shall we say, certain “gentleness” for people’s feelings in the way I present my ideas (okay, so sometimes I squash opposing ideas flat while passionately presenting my own). However, I was very surprised to hear how consistently others valued skills or attributes that I tend to take for granted. I realized that my own work ethic might have gotten the better of me; I guess I assumed that if it comes easily to me, it must not be of value to others either. I was wrong.

I came away from the experience with a new resolve to use this upcoming year as an opportunity to relax into some of my strengths and use my personal brand attributes (even the attribute of “bottom-line honesty” which is what I’m gently calling my lack of tact) as a guide for my other well-intentioned goals. I also came away from the process with the conviction that clarifying one’s personal brand is a good idea for people seeking greater focus and better alignment between one’s stated values and one’s choices.

If you want to begin the process of self-branding, start by asking yourself questions like this: what characteristics come to mind when you think about who you are as a person? What are your obvious strengths and weaknesses? What are the types of projects for which you’d happily volunteer and why? What are the types of activities from which you run screaming and why? Based on the way you typically interact with others, what types of values do you consistently convey? If you’re brave, try posing these questions to people who know you and look for trends in their responses. Bear in mind that the point of the process is not to change who you are to fit external expectations. The benefit of self-branding is to clarify how you come across in relationship with others and to resolve to use that clarity to confidently move forward, into the New Year and beyond.

Kyndra Wilson, KW Brand Translation


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