THE BLOG
03/22/2013 06:41 pm ET Updated May 22, 2013

A Brand as a Person, a Person as a Brand

I was born in a small town in Western Kentucky, right between Possum Trot and Monkey's Eyebrow. Growing up in a small town taught me a few things:
  1. a yearning, and then appreciation, for multiple retail options
  2. the way you look and act accrues into who you are and will become

The '70s were my teenage years. For awhile I tried on others' identities for size, to see how they fit. I was a frequenter of David Bowie's skin especially during the Hunky Dory and Diamond Dogs eras. I had a vivid dream I still remember where I was Roger Daltry's son, complete with blond ringlets. I was trying to find myself through others. I didn't know it at the time but each incarnation that I tried on, or discovered, became the coloration of the future me.

As I looked at these icons of the day I didn't know it, but I was discovering brands and deciding whether to become a part of them. Becoming a brand fan of David Bowie or Jim Dandy (throwing in a Black Oak Arkansas reference here) was no different than my affinity for brands of the day; Triumph motorcycles or Rossignol skis. I was learning what would create an emotional connection for me. I would borrow elements of, or assimilate into, these brands to demonstrate my affinity for their image.

For a time I felt like an imposter for not being a true original. And then as I studied culture, art and history I realized that all iconic brands -- people and companies -- are borrowers. We are all inspired by those who came before, by those around us. We assimilate and mix. The output, the unique combination of elements, both borrowed and created, became the original me.

Because I create/burnish brand stories for a living and because I have an outward appearance that causes strangers to pull out cameras and snap away in my face, I spend a lot of time thinking about brands, branded things and experiences.

A brand is a person. A person is a brand. Everything you do or don't do creates the branded you or the branded corporation. If you know somebody who is a kind-hearted, mild-spoken person that all of a sudden lets go with string of damning expletives, you would most likely reconsider your opinion of that person. The same goes for a company working toward becoming a loved, enduring brand. Everything you do, the way you look, speak, smell, taste, feel and touch are the ingredients of your brand creation.

Sometimes you are given a set of parameters that you can build around. Let's take something very superficial: hair. In this case, my hair. By observing my hair parentage I could of assumed that I would be follicly challenged as I aged. I didn't plan on this but it must have been in the back of my mind as I worked my way through numerous hair incarnations in my formative years.

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That hair exploration was the trying on of different suits to see which one fit me best. Which one would fit my brand, and ultimately be my brand. Physical appearance is superficial, yes, but until you speak to a person and start to get to know them, that is all you can judge them on. Physical appearance is the outward manifestation of your brand. What is the image you want to put out there to the world? Do you guard your image tightly like Apple? Or do you prefer a loose interpretation like MTV?