Are you a Brand?

Of course you are. Personal brands are the most prolific, yet under utilized tool of any trade. Are you treating your authenticity like a commodity or a tool to be leveraged? Authentic personal brands–no matter how they manifest themselves– are more powerful than inauthentic, carefully-crafted persona, no matter how purpose-suited they may be.

I look at my own case. I spent years in the corporate structure. I was well suited, usually in blue, or in grey in some hue or another. My head was clean shaven and I talked the talk of the “paradigm shift,” (this was the 90s mind you) and the “matrix this that or the other.” In short I tried to fit in. Which as a skin bald shaved, six-foot African American man in an almost all white work world is really quite laughable in hindsight.

What I learned over time is that I couldn’t fit in if I tried. So, why not fit out? Why not stand out? There really was no good reason not to. Authenticity has become my trademark. My dreadlocks, my tattoos, my inability to hide my emotions have become part and parcel of who I am. They are, in fact me. Surprisingly, far from repelling potential clients and allies, these authenticity traits seem to attract them. To be sure they repel some, but they needed to be repelled. You see, that was my God protecting me from people and opportunities that were not good for me.

Here’s the big point: just be you. Dress, be and do, as you like. Seriously. Get your mind off trying to be something or someone, and concentrate on just being you. Become your brand. Authentic brands set an expectation. People have an expectation when they meet you. And, because your brand has told them only the truth, everything else they find out in the course of doing business or life with you is icing on the “you” cake.

You are a brand. There is simply no escaping it. The decision is will you be organic, designer or counterfeit?

I say, go organic. It’s healthy. Done right it’s fad proof.