Understanding Brand: 3 Perspectives

  • Jeff Gibbard
  • 6 min read

When it comes down to it, your Brand can be looked at from three different perspectives.

How closely those three perspectives align with one another is what defines your Brand.

Even though, I’m going to be talking about this through the lens of an organization, this exact same principle can be applied to people, including YOU.

What’s nice is that when you re-frame this conversation to be about a person (such as yourself), it actually helps to paint a more vivid picture of what Brand actually is, versus the watered down version that people typically use to understand Brand.

Here’s how it works…

Brand Perspective #1

What you say about yourself

This is where you do all of your mission, vision, values, brand personality, visual brand aesthetic and so on. This is where the brand conceives of who they believe themselves to be.

This is what is typically thought of as “Brand work.”

In the best case scenarios, it’s the deep dive inward and subsequent documentation of who you are and who you want to be. This aspires to serve as the blueprint for how you will run every aspect of your business.

In the worst case, it’s an exercise in meaningless corporate masturbation for the benefit of those in charge who get a temporary jolt of self-satisfaction from insisting on a few more rounds of wordsmithing.

Brand Perspective #2

What you do

No matter what you say about yourself, there’s still the reality of what you actually do.

“We believe in diversity…just don’t look at our all-white, all-male board of directors.”

“We stand for quality…just don’t look at our product reviews.”

This is where integrity is revealed.

When a brand says something about itself, and then delivers on that promise with its actions, you have a brand with integrity.

Patagonia has core values that they proudly display and then business practices that align with those core values…that’s integrity.

On the other side, you have Brands that say one thing, but then do the complete opposite believing that Brand is just another tactic, akin to Public Relations.

Brand Perspective #3

What others say about you

Then, arguably, there is what may stand above all other perspectives about the Brand: your reputation.

Regardless of your well manicured brand deck, your tightly defined values, combined with your behavior that actually matches, what people say about you is often the reality of what your brand is, in practice. If everyone believes something, it must be true, right?

It’s not all bad however because sometimes, what people say about you, is exactly what you say about yourself. That’s brand congruence.

Sometimes, what people say about you is exactly what you deliver. That’s meeting expectations. This can be both good or bad. If you’re known for terrible customer service (Comcast) and then that’s what you actually deliver (Comcast), then you are meeting expectations (Comcast) for better or worse.

Brands with Friends

Let’s do an exercise. It may be helpful to open a note or get a piece of paper for this.

It can be confronting to think about yourself in this context, so think about one of your closest friends.

Got it?

Ok, now I want you to think of another person that you are friendly with, but you’re not very close with because something kind of irritates you about them.

Got it?

  • Great, now think about how you would describe each of them. What are their reputations in your mind?
  • Now, think about what they think about themselves or say about themselves. What type of person do they believe themselves to be? How would they define their “Personal Brands?”
  • Finally, think about their behaviors. How well do their behaviors align with what they think of themselves? How well do their behaviors align with how you define them in your mind—their reputations?

If I had to guess…

The person you are close with is fairly aligned. What they say about themselves is probably not far off from how you see them which is probably not far off from their real life behavior.

By contrast, the person you’re not so close with, has some inconsistencies…some things that don’t line up. Maybe they think of themselves one way and you see them another. Maybe they say one thing about themselves but in reality, you see their actions betray their self-ascribed attributes.

Whether with brands or people, we often seek out those who have integrity, who meet our expectations, and who we believe to be who they say they are.

The Pursuit of Brand Unity

Every Brand should be on a never ending quest for Brand Unity.

It is a mythical destination that both exists and doesn’t exist.

  • On the smallest scale, a Brand can achieve Unity in an individual interaction.
  • On the largest scale, a Brand will never achieve perfect Brand Unity.

Therefore, the goal is not to achieve Brand Unity, but to pursue it. Brand work is business. Everything you do, is Brand. The Brand is the ongoing sum total, and the moving average of every individual event.

The purpose of thinking about Brand and working on Brand is not to dupe people into believing your Brand Intent. It’s not Public Relations. It’s not a cute exercise for picking a new logo.

Loyalty does not exist at any point where only two of these perspectives overlap. However, one of the best ways to change your reputation, is to make sure that what you say about yourself, is what you do. THAT is a true rebranding exercise.

The point of Brand Work is to see that what you say about yourself, aligns with what you do, and that what people say aligns with both. Brand work isn’t just about the Mission Statements, or the clear defining of Core Values. Those things are helpful, but ultimately useless if you don’t do the work across the board to see those intentions made real.

So, when you do Brand work, remember that completing the Brand Guidelines deck isn’t the end, in fact, it’s barely even the beginning.

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