Branding for small businesses is a complex endeavor. My clients see it as an opportunity to express themselves, but also struggle with the limitations and the focus that branding requires.
I am a huge proponent that in life and in business, you should be who you are and not give into what the world shapes you to be. As e. e. cummings puts it: “To be nobody but yourself means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight.”
The paradox is that while projecting an independent, unique brand is magnetizing, we often have to adjust it to the expectations clients have for us.
It’s the ultimate dance between who we are, who we want to be, and who others tell us to be.
Authors and business owners I work with often struggle with that dance–being themselves and fitting in. Whether they are constantly tuning into their clients’ needs, or are subjected to academia’s endless requirements, they are switching identities on and off. And that is not being duplicitous, it is reality.
When assisting your business goals, branding is extremely helpful. It narrows the lens and makes you relevant to the niche you are trying to reach.
Narrowing the lens of your identity through visuals and messaging that show you in the best light possible, and adjusting it to your niche is the price you pay for a prosperous business. In many ways, it is also a healthy way to co-exist with the world.
In that sense, branding is a business and a communication tool. But remember, the narrowing lens is always just the starting point, not the totality of who you are.
If used well, branding is also is a psychological tool. The more you know how to dig into yourself to access the knowledge of what makes you who you are, the more flexible and helpful you can be with clients and other identities imposed on you. For example, in marketing, you often put your clients’ needs in front of yours, by focusing messaging on what they need from you, not what you necessarily want to rattle on about that day.
This is bravery!
You are so strong and so empowered, you know how to put yourself on hold to serve others.
And last but not least, branding can be a creative tool, if you use it as an idea container. Assigning cultural importance to your work, not just bottom line, comes with sharing and generating ideas. Centering your work around an idea unique to you not only eliminates competition, but it makes you adaptable.
Since values and purpose are a given in business these days, your identity can become irrelevant and inflexible really fast if you don’t give it depth through ideas. Your only differentiation lies upon putting your emphasis on ideas, not a rigid identity.
Despite what we’ve seen as a trend in business–that we should be absolutely, unfailingly true to one authentic self–the truth is that our identities are multilayered and evolving.
There isn’t ONE true SELF to us, but many dimensions. While making your brand multi-dimensional and interesting is hard due to the natural limitations of business communications, you can start by sharing your ideas with the world. Your own ideas is what makes you unique and indispensable. If you are brave enough to put core idea behind your identity, you will be able to carve a corner in the marketplace that only you can own.
Brave ideas have depth. We can test them based on our experiences. When used in a non-authoritative way, brave ideas lean on the notion that we are more alike than we are different.
To break out from the common branding constrictions and brand your business bravely, start here:
• Use branding as a narrowing lens to focus on one visual identity, one message, and one niche.
- Use branding as a psychological tool to dig deep and find out what makes you who you are.
- Use branding as an expansive tool and generator of ideas, and lead with one core idea at a time.
In an ideal world, a brave brand with a strong identity also has deep, growing ideas that nurture your clients’ creativity, stretch their brains, and provoke courageous reflection.
Grab your courage and test your own brave ideas by booking a call with me here.
Partner & Troublemaker, Bigfish Smallpond Design
Brave Brander and Salad Smarty