Why I’m a Brand Therapist (and Not a Branding Consultant)

Brand Therapy

As a brand therapist, I help you get to the bottom of your branding issues, then help you take real-life, tangible steps towards solving them. Yes, it’s therapy, but no, we won’t talk about your mom (unless she’s your business partner or in your target audience).

If you want to know what the hell brand therapy is, or if you’re thinking “How can I get some of that!?”, you can learn more about me and Brand Therapy here.

When I was a branding consultant and designer, I spent a lot of time discussing how brands look, a.k.a. a brand’s visual identity. It made sense. I’m a trained designer and it’s what my clients hired me to for—to make their brands look good. There was just one little (huge) problem:

My clients couldn’t tell me anything about their brands other than how they wanted it to look. That’s like not being able to tell me anything about your best friend other than how she dresses.

Make sense?

My clients hadn’t thought much about who their brands were. They just knew they wanted their brands to look good—and professional.

They thought creating a brand that “looks professional” was the most important thing they could do for their brands. “Looks professional” was usually code for “looks like it can outperform a company that has way more resources than I have”.

But these weren’t brands that could outperform much larger brands—not with the brand strategy they had in mind.

So, they needed more than a designer. And, I learned, most people with brands need more than a designer (or even a branding consultant) to help them build brands they’re proud of.

Creating a strong visual identity for your brand is absolutely important. However, creating a shallow and meaningless brand personality, and only thinking about whether or not your brand looks good? I’m not here for that.

First, let’s understand what we’re working with. A brand’s visual identity is made of the brand assets we’re most familiar with, like:

  • a logo
  • color scheme
  • flyers, posters, business cards
  • website, social media graphics
  • anything visual that represents the brand

You should know a bit about who your brand is before you ask someone to design those for you. When I’d ask a client to tell me about their brand, so that I’d know how to design a look for that brand, they’d say “well our new website / logo / business card will be our brand—once you design it”.

Meaning: we don’t know who we are, but you making our brand look good will be enough.

That is a recipe for “rebranding” in a year.

Also, with that kind of thinking, I fully expect a business like that to fail, or change dramatically—after spending way too much money trying to make it work.

Picture this: you want a new wardrobe. You find a stylist online and hire them to pick out an entirely new wardrobe for you—but you don’t tell them anything about who you are. You tell them you like the color yellow, you’re currently listening to Lady Gaga’s latest record on repeat, and you want something that “pops”.

When this stylist fills your closet with yellow fishnets and amber tutus, you might love it.

…but, you’re a man who works in finance and doesn’t particularly care for fishnets or tutus and everything is three sizes too small, so you probably don’t love it.

And your audience (your finance clients) won’t trust you if you show up to work like that—outside of Halloween—unless the way you dress makes your audience relate to you. Maybe your clients are wealthy drag queens?

How your brand looks should be a reflection of who your brand is.

If you had mentioned:

  • what kind of clothes you’re comfortable in
  • your interests
  • the work you do
  • where you’ll wear the clothes
  • who might see you in the clothes
  • what you want people to believe about you
  • what size you are
  • your gender

…you might have gotten a wardrobe that truly represents who you are and helps people make the right assumptions about what to expect from you.

Brands fail when they don’t know who they are, who they serve, what purpose they serve, or why they’re better for the people they serve than any other brand.

Once I realized how many problems clients were having all throughout their businesses, because they didn’t understand this, I changed how I worked with them. My work quickly resembled therapy more than it resembled consulting.

When you’re only focused on looking good, you might get attention…but you won’t keep it.

How your brand looks should be a reflection of who your brand is. Share on X

Those are the kinds of things I deal with if I’m working with a freelancer, a solopreneur, business owner, or any other kind of entrepreneur. My work as a brand therapist is slightly different when I’m helping people build their career brands.

Career Branding

Career branding is all about positioning you to get the opportunities you want in your career. This is about getting your resume right, changing fields, getting a raise, a promotion, a new job at another company, or even doing things outside your job that raise your profile like getting press for yourself, leading a professional organization, getting elected, speaking at conferences—I mean, the list goes on.

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Those clients don’t think about the visual side of a brand—their career doesn’t have a logo or a color scheme (usually), so they don’t get caught up in those items. On the other hand, because they don’t have those things, they may think their career doesn’t have a brand at all.

That’s a mistake.

Your career is simply a business you don’t have to incorporate. Your career’s job is to make you money, just like a business’s job is to make the owner money.

And businesses have brands. Just like your career.

I’ve got career branding resources you can check out here. If you want to change careers or get better opportunities, using these will help.

Your career is simply a business you don’t have to incorporate. Your career's job is to make you money, just like a business’s job is to make the owner money. Share on X

There will be a lot of questions

I ask my clients for more information about their brands than they even know they have! I ask challenging questions. I ask questions that make you feel uncomfortable and, honestly, a little embarrassed that you hadn’t asked them yourself before.

Don’t feel bad—every single one of my clients has felt this. It’s my job as a brand therapist to make you dig deep.

When I was newer at this, after all that digging and getting to the bottom of the issues my clients were facing, I found that my approach was really intimate—way more intimate than my consulting sessions (in my other areas of expertise).

My clients get to the end of our sessions feeling relieved, enthusiastic, hopeful, and excited about getting back to work!

In reality, I was a brand therapist long before I realized it.

This work was more exciting and more beneficial in the brand’s long-run than spending hours talking about which font would make for a good logo.

Most important, my clients found these sessions more helpful. We’d end our sessions with them invigorated, fired up, and ready to go be great. That’s a great way to feel when you’ve got work to do!

But those were not consultations. Those were something else.

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Consultants are amazing resources for brain picking. Consultants are like human libraries on a particular topic. If you want to know how things are done, and how they’ve been done in the past, there’s likely no one better to ask.

My approach as a brand therapist is insanely (and intentionally) personal. We don’t spend our sessions talking about how things have been done in the past, by other brands. Instead, I help you figure out how you can do things better than the competition based on who you are. I help you make better connections, using your brand—intimate connections that only you can make.

Yes, there are opportunities out there that are only for you.

There are opportunities out there that are only for you. Share on X

Sometimes attracting these opportunities requires breaking the “rules”. Sometimes this means knowing why those rules don’t even apply to your brand.

But you have to know your brand in order to make that distinction.

And in order to really get that concept, you have to understand that brands aren’t “made”.

Your brand exists in the mind of every person you or your business comes into contact with. You can refine your brand and you can work on the way your brand is perceived, but—and I really need you to catch this—people do this wrong all the time because they are trying to be something instead of showing how they already are that thing.

If you try to be someone else, you will fail. If you dress your brand up in a style that doesn’t match who it is, people will not trust it—and eventually, you will hate it, too.

Your brand already exists. Get to know your brand and then learn to use it. As a brand therapist, I help you do that.

If you try to be someone else, you will fail. Share on X

When you get to know your brand, you’ll also learn a few things about yourself. These realizations are really valuable as you encounter new opportunities in business or your career. Your brand is a personal guide for how you should conduct yourself and your business in specific settings. However, if you don’t know your brand, you’ll be inconsistent, which makes it difficult for people to trust you—making it difficult for them to bring opportunities to you (read: get you paid).

As those opportunities come your way, you’ll achieve things you didn’t think could happen for you. And, quite honestly, it’s not because you got better at something or learned a new skill. Nope. More often than not, it’s because people are seeing you in a more capable light now that you’ve brought to their attention what you can already do well. This works really well for people who rebrand their careers.

This is why I’m a brand therapist and not a brand consultant. Consulting isn’t designed to get this deep into who you are. Therapy is.

You need to know who your brand is if you want it to be successful.

In actuality, if you watched a consulting session and a therapy session, you might think that they don’t function very differently. But if you listen to what’s asked—and what answers come out of those sessions—you’ll see, it’s a totally different experience.

I think it’s smart for people do brand therapy with me before they use their brands the wrong way (like focusing on how it looks before crafting a captivating story). However, I find people who are ready to rebrand make better clients for me. They’ve already tried the things that they thought should work for the kind of brand they’re trying to make—which didn’t work—and they’re ready to create a more authentic experience (read: get more honest about what they’re doing and why they’re doing it).

Therapy doesn’t work without honesty.

It’s frustrating to get your brand wrong and then find out months, or years, later that you’ve been over-complicating it, or overlooking what was right in front of you. One of the reasons I do so well with my clients is I’ve always been good at making complicated things simple. So, while I think consultants can do awesome work for brands, I think brand therapy is the right option for people who don’t even know what to say to a consultant.

Therapy is a very personal, intimate, focused journey to success. I think every brand (and person) should have that.

If you’d like, you can check out my resources (some of which are free) here.

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