By Kristine Steinberg, CEO of Kismet
Do you remember the Apple billboards from the early 2000s? Picture a silhouette of someone dancing to music on their iPod, in contrast with a colorful background. These ads effused the essence of counterculture, individualism, hipness, and fun. Without using any words, Apple elicited a feeling that drew many of us in — and a desire to buy an iPod.
The way in which a company, product, or person makes others feel or behave is their brand essence. Often, it can be summed up in one simple phrase or image that embodies their uniqueness.
Historically, branding was used to differentiate one person’s cattle from another’s by means of a distinct symbol “branded” into their animal’s skin. It allowed ranchers to graze their cattle together in the same fields, knowing that when it came time to round up their herds, the marks would determine whose cattle belonged to whom.
Today, the concept of branding has evolved to encompass the name, design, and symbol that identifies one seller’s goods as distinct from another’s. Branding propels consumers to make choices, from the clothes we wear and the food we eat to the technology we choose and the influencers we follow.
Some brands are weak and fleeting, developed by organizations motivated by market value and potential profits. Trends and superficial branding often lack staying power. The strongest and most sustainable brands belong to companies and leaders whose purpose is deep and defined. They stand for something. They often provide value, meaning, or joy by intentionally aligning with customers that share the same values and beliefs.
Consider Harley Davidson, a company who has built a fiercely loyal customer base with an emotional connection to the brand. It’s not the quality or design of their motorcycles that Harley is primarily known for, but the value they place on non-conformity and self-determination. Owning a Harley makes a powerful statement to others that you can and should live life on your own terms.
Now, consider your own personal brand, the stamp you leave that distinguishes you from everyone else. Your brand is what makes the essence of you tangible to the world around you. It’s what you’re known for. It’s how you speak, how you act, and what you stand for. But it also goes deeper — it’s how you make people feel that truly drives your brand home to those around you.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou
Everyone can act a certain way, say the right things, and check all of the boxes. But when someone walks away from you, how do they feel? Is there a deeper connection, a genuine curiosity? When people talk, do you listen? How do you make them feel seen and heard?
In my work as a coach, I use this three-tiered system of reality with my clients to help them identify the impact they have on others. Your brand lies within the third state:
- The Consensus Reality refers to what is currently happening. It’s the realm of facts. We can all agree on these truths. I’m Kristine. I’m sitting at my desk in my studio as I write this. It’s 2:09pm on a Monday.
- The Dream Reality is your set of hopes and wants behind what you are doing. It’s the dream behind the facts. Each of us experiences our own dream reality. I hope and dream that you gain something from reading this blog post.
- The Essence Reality is the soul underneath what you do and say. It’s the emotional connection and lasting impression you leave. It is felt, but can be hard to articulate. I want you to be moved by these words. I want you to feel inspired to do something new as a result of reading this.
Showing people who you are and what you believe in is a courageous act. Your brand will not resonate with everyone, and that’s okay. You don’t have to be all things for all people. When you start from an authentic place within, your brand will naturally resonate with exactly the people you want to attract.
It’s the difference between job searching by sending 150 emails out to a broad list of companies, versus connecting with the 10 organizations you would love to work for and not wavering in your pursuit. It’s a way of being proactive in your life, rather than just reacting to what others want from you.
Without a clearly defined brand, you can become invisible. People skip over you, don’t ask for your opinion, and opportunities pass you by. Worse, it comes with a deep sense of not knowing how to spend your own time. Life becomes draining and full of effort without focus. Led by a dim flashlight, you won’t be able to clearly see where you’re going.
A clearly defined brand essence is magnetic. It’s a force of energy that builds momentum towards a greater movement and inspires others to join you.
But the real benefit of having a clearly defined brand essence lies within how it changes you. You become more aligned with a sense of ease. It’s not that life becomes easier, but that you will feel an ease with how you move through the world. The right opportunities, relationships, and experiences will come to you. When your essence is illuminated, you will naturally gravitate towards your destiny.
Coaching Questions to Define Your Brand Essence:
- How would you describe yourself at your best, highest self?
- How would you describe yourself at your worst, lowest self? How can you let go of this?
- What do you stand for? What makes you unique and distinguishes you from others? How do you want to be known?
- What are you really good at? What is the intrinsic value you bring to your team, relationship, organization, or profession?
- Who do you need to connect with to learn more about your brand so that you can realign it? What support do you need from others in order to live your ideal brand?
Do you have any questions on how to define your brand essence? Comment below with your question and I’ll respond shortly — if you have a question, someone else will probably have the same one. We all have something to learn from one another.
Kristine Steinberg is the CEO of Kismet. She believes that your life should be deeply fulfilling — not tolerated. Partner with Kismet to dismantle fear, define your path, and lead with courage. Start your transformation today: www.thisiskismet.com.