Over the course of the past few days, I have spoken to my friends and colleagues and learnt that the word ‘brand’ evokes perplexity. Some understand the word and others struggle to understand it. Personally, I feel like I am somewhere in the twilight zone. I have been associated with powerful brands that I have worked for, used personally and ultimately follow as a loyalist.
To be honest, for many brands I use, it’s not easy to define why I would be proud of, respect and ultimately put my money where my feelings are. However, I do know that there are certain brands that I would most certainly pay a premium for. Case in point, Apple. I am completely hooked on to the Apple ecosystem. I use every product and service that the tech giant offers except the iPad. As for the iPad, I don’t understand whether it’s value for money knowing very well that there are a few activities I could use it for (such as watching a documentary in HD format within the confines of a private space). That’s a dilemma stopping me from buying an iPad.
However, there are certain truths I have gathered along my user lifecycle with brands. These translate well into the essential elements of a personal brand:
- Know your weaknesses well but focus on your strengths more: Brands know their weaknesses but they amplify their strengths. Apple knew that hardware software integration could be a weakness and it lost market share to the open source movement exemplified by Microsoft Windows riding on IBM PC’s, Linux and Android. However, it focused on integration as a method of creating a beautiful and simple user experience. So much so that, the switching costs of moving to iOS from a different operating system are nearly zero (except for the cost of the device of course). There is a tremendous clamor for simplicity and beauty today. While Apple’s weakness can be argued as it’s push towards integration, that integration has created a user experience making Apple the most valuable brand in 2016 at $146 billion (source:brand directory.com). As Sun Tzu explains in the ‘Art of War’ , if you know your enemy and you know yourself, the battle is won even before it begins. This concept is very profound. It’s application and use in psychological warfare, that the British were very adept at, created the largest colonial empire known to man. This concept is easy to read but very difficult to implement. Just unplug yourself from the world and put your hand to your heart and ask yourself this: do you truly know yourself? Do you understand your weaknesses? How much time do you think you spend proving that you are more knowledgeable than others? Stop wasting your time thinking you are a ‘know it all’. The more you know, the more you understand that you know less. Start being honest with yourself and surrender the conquest of smart brains. The brain is capable of progression but you have to push the start button. The start button reads ‘I know very little. I am willing to admit it and begin my quest for understanding’. On the positive side, focus on your strengths more and build on them. The combination of these two simple practices can multiply your personal growth exponentially. As an example, my reading habit has made sure my general knowledge provides easy icebreakers to many conversations and build strong and lasting relationships.
- Consistency is key to respect: Ultimately, everyone craves respect and love. Monetary success is a means to a greater end but is not the end in itself. Great brands have been consistent at delivering value over very extended periods of time. Citigroup is more than 200 years old. However, it has serviced client needs in over 180+ countries by consistently innovating and delivering on its promises. However, that doesnt mean brands, and by extension, people don’t make mistakes. Their consistency provides them a second and possibly a third chance where lesser known brands would crumble. The mountain goat is a classic example of slowly and consistently moving towards and achieving goals. Consistent behavior is slow, hard and requires tenacity. There are no shortcuts to a reputation.
- Proceed with a higher motivation: let money and hubris not be your primary motivators. The higher motivation is living for others. While it may sound too deep, it’s actually quite simple and translates into do unto others what you would have do to yourself. If you empathise with the people you deal with, you build a bridge to their heart as well as their brain. Imagine the power of an internet of human minds and hearts feeding into you. Great brands understand that and have now refocused their efforts on looking at their offerings from a client centric view.
While this is not at attempt at being philosophical, it does blend practical experience with certain higher but simple truths. Respect and Brands are built over centuries and can crumble in a week. But, knowing that a great brand’s valuation is a rough quantification of the respect it has earned from people across the world should prompt you to use it’s products or services or even better, be part of it’s heritage and work for it.