what should be
nor is it
it is simply
I wrote that simple verse in 1969 (!) but it came back to me after the events of this past couple of weeks. And the picture? Well, it was an early morning shot, in the rain, at the company offsite I was at just a few days ago.
Two unrelated things – a poem and a picture, more than 40 years apart? No, they really are connected, as imagery and philosophy are both part of one’s personal brand.
Philosophy? Doesn’t that just mean how we reflect on things? What’s that got to do with branding?
I was trained in Philosophy, or at least had a qualification in the subject. David Hume was always a favourite – and his proof that miracles do not exist was life changing. Not sure that going to gigs and organizing marches is quite the same thing, but at least there was some kind of thought behind it all. Of course, that was before Sartre got involved with darkness and nothingness … that’s another story.
But, if philosophy is reflection, how does it impact us as individuals? There is the kind of reflection that comes from things we have done, either well or badly. Sometimes we just want to learn. Sometimes we want to make excuses. And sometimes we are forced to reflect because of outside influences or events. We philosophize about all of these things, to try to draw patterns and create guideposts for the future.
Last week, the philosopher was talking to a group of young people, explaining how things were going in the business, and where they needed to go. And he made the suggestion that they all define their “personal brand”, because that is important to them as individuals and would be helpful to the group.
But what does that really mean? Is a “brand” a half-fiction, like a good advertising campaign – based on some core idea or truth but with a fantasy twist? Is it just fancy images and superficial content?
Is it a statement of fact – I am what I am – and it can’t be different?
Or is it a work in progress?
It was a talented group, with an eclectic mix of day-to-day skills spread across diverse cultures, different jobs and across thousands of miles. A year ago it was rather a mixture, and maybe a bit fragmented – drawn together for the first time and not sure how the pieces fit. This year, everyone was seeking a sense of purpose and the understanding of a common future.
And it all had a rainbow hue and a twinkle in the eye.
So what is this “brand”, and how does it reflect philosophy?
Well, a brand is partly defined by the skills we have learnt, the education we bring, our family history, and the intent that forms. It’s driven by our personal philosophy, which has been created over time. The classic definition is that a “brand” is a promise or benefit, supported by a reason or technology as to why it’s true – and it all sits on an image, a public face which is consistent and hopefully inspirational over time.
It’s more. What mistakes did we make? What will we admit? What would we do differently? And, most importantly, how can we help others learn and grow from what we have done and from where we have been?
And, imagery is part of a brand, whether personal or otherwise. How do you speak? How do you project? What’s your style? What will people remember? Imagery. Not superficial, but constant. Not without purpose
“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”
So said Mark Twain. Or, as Gandhi said:
“Be the change that you want to see in the world.”
And it’s still more. What do we value? What don’t we accept? Where is the line drawn? Where we will leave our mark in the future? What will we be valued for – and what will our tombstone say?
“There are two lasting bequests we can give our children: One is roots, the other is wings.”
said Hodding Carter.
Brands are built on values. We each own our brand. And our brands reflect our unique philosophy, our past and our future. The brands reflect our values, which are not fixed but always in motion.
What are our roots? And where will we place our wings?
It then changed. There was the insanity of indoor hockey, the recreation of the Olympic moment (but without the weeks of rehearsal). Certainly too much of a good time, and there were images galore.
Yet there was the camaraderie of a team – forming, storming, norming, and hopefully performing.
And it changed again. The corporate idea of how it should all be. Meeting with other teams, where the values are at stake, where the lessons need to be broad. Where there’s fun but with some purpose, however well hidden between the lights and the music.
So what happened to the personal brand? Did it get submerged, lost? Or did it get honed, sharpened?
Time will tell.
One thing is for sure.
The ideas of philosophy, of what is, will endure.
The question is, what’s your philosophy?
What are your values? And what is your brand?