Before we get started, you should definitely know what a brand is. That is, before you try to use your brand to get anything.
A brand is a set of beliefs used to identify an individual, company, or other entity. Those beliefs are based on the words and behaviors of said individual, company, or other entity. A brand sets up expectations so that people know what they should and should not receive from that brand. I could go on, but I know a brand that can explain this a little better than I can.
People often describe a brand as a set of colors, a logo, or other design elements that are attached to a company or business. That’s because those are visual items that make it easy to identify a brand. But those things aren’t a brand, and they aren’t the only things that you can use to identify a brand.
There are also characteristics that make up a brand. New York City has a lot of options for people who want to hang out late at night—fact. There is also a 24-hour transit system and there are more cabs than stars in the sky.
So, because it’s a good option for night owls, one popular opinion on New York is that the city is always “awake”—even though there are parts of the city that go to bed at a reasonable hour. Still, New York City is known as the city that never sleeps. That’s branding.
And because of that branding, you’d be very surprised if you went to New York City and found that most of the popular venues closed by 8pm. Because expectations.
So that’s what a brand is, in a nutshell. You can use your brand as a powerful tool to attract opportunities. When people expect something from you, as opposed to someone else, people will start to bring opportunities to you that match what they expect. If you’ve never mentioned to people that you play tennis competitively, people are unlikely to tell you about a really cool, paid opportunity to teach children how to play tennis. But if people know that you sew a lot of your own clothes, they might let you know about a new boutique that’s opening soon and looking for local designers to feature.
You have to promote who you are and what you do for those things to become a part of your brand.
This is why you are your brand but your brand isn’t you. Your brand is what people know about you, expect from you, and say about you when you’re not in the room. Morbid alert: it’s what makes up the things people say about you at your funeral. As far as other people are concerned, what they think about you is who you are.
But your brand might not reflect the real you. People may think things about you that aren’t true, both good and bad, because they believe things about you that just aren’t accurate. Sometimes it’s a misunderstanding. Almost always, it can be changed—both for good or for bad.
To control and use your brand, you have to communicate and perform. Back to the example of sewing your own clothes and how that can lead you to an opportunity: you have to both sew the clothes (perform) and let people know that you sew them (communicate).
Communicating doesn’t have to be boastful. You might not want to walk around your day job every day announcing that you sewed each of your outfits this week (though you should at least mention it when you get compliments), but you may want to start an Instagram account and use it to display your handmade wardrobe. This gives you a great outlet to communicate your ability to perform.
Communication without performance is a rumor. Performance without communication is a secret. If you’re trying to create opportunities for yourself, you don’t have time for either of those.
People need to know what you CAN do in order to bring your name to the table when an opportunity presents itself. People need to be confident that you can handle an opportunity, and risk their reputations for you, before they connect you with someone else. More important than both of those, YOU need to know that you can perform so that when an opportunity comes straight to you, you can capitalize on it.
So, in order to use your brand, you must be skilled at building it. But once you know who you want people to think of when they think of you, you’ll be able to use your brand to take you wherever you want to go.