In the early years of my business I would sit down for a little face time with new clients. The goal was to really pinpoint the direction of their personal brand. I would have them fill out a questionnaire and I would show up prepared with a list of my own targeted questions.
About 9 times out of 10, they would sit across from me and instead of telling me more about themselves they would tell me who’s website or business they adored and how much they were like that person.
I’ll never forget conducting a branding pow wow with a particular client from Latin America. She was going into personal coaching and intended on creating a lot of video content, as a part of her marketing strategy. The messaging focus was overcoming personal obstacles to success, challenging fears and building self-esteem. She was cute, introspective a little shy and had a very thick Spanish Accent.
Coveted Brands, Look But Don’t Touch
In our meeting, she focused heavily on why she was very much like other women that are more established in her space and that she wanted her branding to be just like theirs. Here’s the thing, none of these women are at all like the other. They are in the same orbit and team up once in a while, but they all do very different things; their energies are polar opposite and their communication styles are not at all alike. In short, their personal brands all dance to the beat of a different drummer.
My client was not reminiscent of any of these women as individuals or as a combo platter. Apart from being inspired by what they had to offer, that’s where the synchronicity ended. She may have dug what they were creating, but it would have been a waste of time to copy them. In fact, it would have been completely off brand. Why? It just ain’t her.
She was suffering from brand lust.
Overcoming Brand Lust
So, I laid the truth on her and told her if she wanted to get the best out of her brand, her coaching business (and me) she needed to start with herself.
I made her abstain from studying other people’s work, for starters. In fact, I didn’t really want her trolling the web at all. Instead, I advised her to go deep and explore herself. Focus on what was different and unique about whom she was, her way of working, communication style and connection with clients.
I told her to explore what she had in common with her audience, where they spoke the same language and what she had that they might covet. We would use that is our foundation—our branding building blocks.
We reconvened a few weeks later and started from scratch, creating a brand from a neutral space that really was an extension of her voice and her unique qualities. Now, she was really stepping into herself. She was going “native” and she was on fire.
The results were amazing. What she had to offer, the visuals and the copy all began to flow and her personal brand was completely transformed.
Listen, I get it. We’re often like monkeys. We see something pretty and shiny and we want some now! There have been times in my career when I have looked at someone else’s business and said, “Wow! That’s awesome! I’d love to have more of that in my work!” But, I’ve trained myself out of comparative thinking. Coveting is a human reaction; to want what other’s have, to be what other’s are … that’s one of the cornerstones of developing a successful brand.
So, what am I asking you to do? Look, but don’t touch? Yup. And one more thing—tease the hell out of others with your own authentic personal brand.
Timothi Jane Graham is a personal branding expert, photographer and videographer working in NYC, Los Angeles and Europe. She travels the world creating Personal Branding makeovers for Entrepreneurs and small business owners. She is the author of the soon to be released Confessions of a Brandographer. Connect with @timothi_tweets on Twitter.
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