Have you ever thought about what makes you truly different? I have, and I’m betting you have too. Of course, the bigger question is the extent to which you can translate those insights into more success in your career and business life. One way, of course, is to develop your personal brand. Yet, in pursuing a recipe for branding yourself, you risk being just like everyone else. [Tweet This]
So, what to do?
I have some ideas. Before I get to them, however, I want to give you a little context. It comes from the work of Harvard Business School professor Youngme Moon. In her book, Different, she tells the stories of brands that have broken the mold, in some way, to stand out and attract loyal followings.
I don’t know about you, but I love the idea of upsetting the status quo! Frankly, it can be risky, but it seems those who do, reap some very nice rewards. [Tweet This]
Take Cirque du Soleil, for example.
It is one example of what Professor Moon calls “Idea Brands.” That is, brands that challenge limits and assumptions. They are brands that break away by disrupting our consumption classification patterns with new frames of reference. It’s what Cirque du Soleil accomplished in its careful positioning as “being everything a CIRCUS is not.”
As she points out, idea brands are “…not perfect brands. … They are polarizing brands. They are lopsided brands. …[yet]…they make perfect sense…” Actually, I think the unique imperfection of idea brands, offers some clues for how to be more attractive to the people we want to serve.
Okay, now for some ideas:
Offer something that’s hard to come by.
It may seem simplistic, but no one is “youer” than you. You have no substitute. So, whatever your profession, by conveying your unique style and perspectives, you deliver value in a way no one else can – even people with similar skill sets. So, make an effort to figure that out, and then bring it.
Embrace your weirdness.
Of course, truly being you means being more transparent about some elements of your personality that may make you feel…uh…weird…!! Yet, as Seth Godin points out in his wonderful book, We Are All Weird, real choice and richness come, not from following the norms of a mass culture, but from connecting with those who love what we love and share common experiences and perspectives. So, you enhance your chances of success by joining or creating tribes or brand communities where people who pursue common goals and interests “get it” — and therefore “get you.”
Reflect your commitment to a big idea.
In and of itself, being weird can make you novel and attractive in the short term, but is insufficient for long-term connection to your community. For that you need to convey your vision for the world, and your sense of life purpose in serving others. People will not necessarily expect you to achieve global change. Yet, in living your vision and purpose, you will show how your daily actions make a difference in things you can control.
Have sensitivity to the concerns of real people.
Success in business is typically achieved by making a difference to the people you serve. And yet, to be in the position to serve them, you need to make an emotional connection. Why? Because people most often choose to interact and do business with people they know, like, and trust. For you to achieve this, you need to maintain a level of engagement that allows meaningful responsiveness to the people you serve.
Invite connection through your stories.
No one else has your set of life experiences. So nothing sets you apart as much as your story. Or, perhaps I should say stories. In actuality, your life experiences tie together to reveal the themes that have guided your journey. Yet, many of your experiences can stand alone in conveying the vision, purpose, values, passions, and beliefs that you bring to what you do. In sharing about your life, make sure to also share stories of your failures and key life turning points that have shaped who you are. Not only will this make you more human, but it also lets people in, and fosters emotional connection.
Forget about being a brand.
Perhaps one of the most valid and well-argued criticisms of personal branding makes the point that people are not brands. In pursuit of a personal brand, most often, it’s the contrived cleverness gets people into trouble – because it’s perceived as fake. So, just be yourself. Most of your little quirks make you likeable, and the ones that don’t can be managed.
What are you doing to be what other people aren’t? Leave a comment and let me know. And if you’re interested in digging into what sets you apart, consider my Insights for Success coaching.
Credit: Original photo of an art work by Jose Fuster, Havana.