What you need to know before branding is critical to your branding success.
Before you understand how to craft and influence your brand, you need to know how a brand works. Where it comes from. Who owns it.
So, your first hardcore experience with branding was probably in middle school, how most of us learned about brand identity most brutally and harshly. The world of middle school cliques is simply a microcosm of the world itself. I used to say to my kids when they were in middle school, “But don’t worry, it gets better. People grow up, blend, and are much less harsh in a civil society. That allows us to be who we are and find our place. In a grown-up world, people need people outside their group, now they don’t, but someday they will.”
And for many years, that was true.
Today, thanks to social media, we are more like middle schoolers than the mature civil society we all hope for. But that will be discussed later. But for now, it just means that the middle school branding lesson is more real than ever.
In middle school, we were thrown into a segmented society with clear brand identities, and we had to find our way into one of those groups. We had the preps, the jocks, the pops, the nerds, the achievers, and so on.
The first thing we learned about branding is we don’t own the brand the people around us do. They are the ones that give power to the brand. As much as we wanted to decide who we were for ourselves, it was the other people in the school who decided what clique we fell into. They evaluated who we were based on the basic external brand identifiers: look, style, voice, attitude, personality, and messaging and decided where we fit. We were forced into a category like it or not.
Then we used that same set of attributes to help us fit into our group of friends by acting alike, saying the same catchphrases, and dressing alike. Maybe all the time, we were still trying to figure out who we truly are as we went.
We used things like dress, attitude, opinion, and style to increase our brand authenticity, and ultimately our brand power. We didn’t possess the power of our brand; the people around us gave us that power. They empowered us through their perceptions of us based on our brand attributes.
To the core fans of our brand, the people at the center of the clique or group, the brand was deeper than just the surface brand identity. The more depth of authenticity we had, and that they could identify with, the more power they gave to us. Our brand story gave us the authenticity to gain power within the clique.