I spend a lot of my coaching time working with entrepreneurs, solopreneurs and small biz owners to develop (and then execute against) their platform for success.
This may mean their life purpose, their personal brand, their business brand or all of these, but whatever it is we’re working toward in this arena, my clients all seem to have a similar desire in common:
They want to be visible, they want to be known, they want to stand for something important and stand for it loud and strong. They want, as Seth Godin says, to make a ruckus.
So, how do you create a brand platform that’s capable of garnering that kind of attention; that immediately defines you and/or or your business (giving your audiences something tangible to grab onto); that gets you remembered?
Equally, how do you create a life purpose statement/plan so meaningful and important to you that it naturally overrides the internal saboteurs that scream, “That’s too big for you, missy!”?
Like just about everything else, the answer starts and ends with love.
While it may be more obvious why love has a super big role to play in life purpose work, it’s just as important in branding.
To get to why, let’s first define what a brand is:
A brand is the perception others have about you, your business and your offerings. Put another way, it’s what people say about you and your business when you’re not in the room.
The perception others have will develop over time whether you consciously decide and control what you want that perception to be or not. Those who decide to take control begin to develop the key brand elements that are collectively called a brand platform and which give businesses a voice and a role to play in the world.
These elements are: brand purpose, brand position, brand promise, brand essence, brand values, brand personality and (sometimes) brand story.
Also contributing to what makes a brand are certain business platform elements. I include these in the brand development process, because the brand you create must be able to achieve and address them.
They are: BHAG (big hairy audacious goal), basic business plan “I do/sell (what) to (who) (where), value proposition and buyer personas.
But if you look beneath the surface at what all these elements are really communicating, you start to see that a brand platform is also simply an expression of deep caring – of your love for your work, your customers, etc.
In other words, it’s your love expressed through the purpose you’ve taken on, the position you claim, the promise you make, the values you honor and so on.
And when love, rather than strategy or logic, is first to drive the creation of these brand platform elements, you end up with something unforgettable.
So, how do you get to the love that lives through your brand?
You can start by getting up on your soapbox and going on a rampage about what you care about using an exercise I call, “I Love You, Here’s Why.”
This exercise is essentially a series of questions about what you love, and why – and then, why that? and why that? and why that? In fact, the “here’s why” is what makes this exercise far more fruitful than simply articulating what you’re passionate about. That’s because “here’s why” is about forcing yourself to look deeper and deeper until finally you get to a center point that surprises you. A place that takes your breath away.
To do the exercise, ask a partner to ask you a series of questions that help you look deeper at everything you say:
What do you love about what you do? Why do I love that? Why is that important? What does that mean to you? What do you love about your customers? What do you want for them? Why do you want that for them? What’s important about wanting that for them? What does that mean? What will you love about the world when you’ve reached everyone you want to reach? What will be different? Why is that difference important? etc.
The thing to remember is that it’s usually NEVER the answer to the first question in any string of questions that will become the foundation of your brand.
It’s your answers to those follow-up“why?” and “what?” questions (why do you love that?; what’s important about that?) that, collectively, begin to reveal the love that exists at the ground level of your platform – because it’s in the digging that you really unravel what you are saying and begin to understand it.
This is only one exercise out of many that done together over a period of weeks will help you get there, but the BIG IDEA behind your brand (or your purpose) may come directly out of any one of them.
A client and I did an “I Love You, Here’s Why” session last year, and she talked for a long time about what she loved about her clients and what she wanted for them, in a very logical, strategic way. But after a whole bunch of why, why, why’s, she finally blurted:
“What I really want is for every woman in the world to throw her scale out the window.”
Her brand platform, Weightless Woman, came directly from that idea.
Love is monumental in allowing a brand to be creative and bold because having that deeper level of understanding about what you’re up to, and coming from that very connected place, is freeing. There is no fear when you’re fiercely in love with your customers; when you want something big for them.
For a really long time, the word love was missing from the business vernacular. Love had no place in the corporate world and if you talked about it, people thought you were weird, weak or woo-woo.
More recently, though, love (the concept and the word) began to make its way into business. Coaches, consultants, business gurus and others begin talking about leading from love, loving your staff, loving your customer.
Within the context of this new thinking, the idea that the boldest, most creative brands are actually founded on “love exactly articulated” is not far fetched at all.
The trick for us in creating a stronger platform is having the determination (and the patience) to go beneath the trite, Hallmark card-ish expression of our love to find the deeper truth of what we care about and stand for. To insist that our love be visible, known and fierce enough to move mountains,
To what a love-based brand is capable of putting in motion.