No Products in the Bag
When you hear the word “philosophy,” you might get a mental image of old white men in togas. But philosophy isn’t just for history lessons and college classes; it plays a direct role in how you build a strong brand identity that allows you to connect with clients and form lasting, meaningful relationships.
Let’s consider this your 101 on Philosophy & Brand-Building.
Defining (And Developing) An Identity
Philosophy is sometimes defined as a study of the “fundamental nature” of our existence. As a brand, your philosophy stems from how your business defines itself (or how it exists, if you will). This existence determines how your identity is developed and eventually presented to the masses. When helping a client develop a strong identity, I like to help them hone in on their philosophy by asking what they are against, rather than what they stand for. In reality, pretty much every business stands for the same things: helping people, providing good customer service, being experts in their niche and so on.
What you stand against is what makes you interesting.
So, rather than falling back on the same cliches of “customer service” and “synergies,” take a step back and think more critically about your niche and the business world as a whole. What pisses you off? What do you hate more than anything else? When you can identify these things and figure out how you will take a stand against them in your business philosophy, you will be well on your way to a powerful and distinctive brand identity.
Communication: Putting Your Brand’s Most Authentic Self Forward
Both experts and students of philosophy are on a constant quest to understand their “true self.” Once this true self has been captured and defined, it is then shared with other like-minded individuals. You can see where this is going as far as brands are concerned, right? Once you know the ins and outs of your own identity, you will be better able to communicate with prospective buyers, and ultimately build lifelong trust and loyalty. I recently had the chance to speak with Thomas J. Stieger, co-founder of the young athleisure wear brand Ossesso. According to Stieger, industries such as fashion, which are characterized by extreme competition, require a special focus on communication and brand philosophy in order to differentiate from other players. During our email conversation, he explained, “So much of communication depends on being able to convey your ideas in a way that helps the person on the other end feel understood and validated. The way we communicate is a validation and extension of our own identity that we’ve already established, and that in turn allows us to connect with the right target audience. Be true to your brand’s distinct philosophy, and your communication will be that much more effective.”
Calibrate And Recalibrate (Then Rinse And Repeat)
In academics, philosophy typically seeks to understand people and the relationships they share with others. Of course, people, places and environments are constantly changing — and that means their relationships will change, as well. For businesses, this means you must be able to evaluate the changes that are occurring in your market, as well as how they could influence your clients and the way they engage with your brand. The best brand-builders understand that nothing is ever truly “set in stone” in the business world. Sure, your core philosophies and values should remain constant. But certain elements of your identity and messaging will need a certain amount of fluidity. The COVID-19 pandemic created a situation where many consultants, freelancers and small business owners had to recalibrate their relationships. After all, when you can’t meet in person, the next step is to go to phone calls, emails or Zoom meetings. These changes came because of a shift in the environments and the ways people could interact. Those who balanced their core philosophies with an agile approach were able to maintain their identity and values, even as they adapted their business approach.
Putting Everything Together…
Still not convinced that philosophy plays a role in building your brand? While I’m not usually a fan of talking about the world’s biggest brands (I’m all about freelancers and small business), these big-time examples clearly show how a philosophical approach can deliver big results. Just look at Google, whose mission statement “is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.” The world’s most powerful search engine and producer of gazillions of other tech gizmos has a distinct philosophy that cannot be misunderstood. At the same time, this is a philosophy that isn’t easily imitated by others. It is truly unique, and it is easy to see how this guides Google’s actions and messaging. Nike’s philosophy incorporates the idea that anyone can be an athlete. While their messaging often features professional athletes, the brand has increasingly focused on inclusion — such as with designs made for plus-sized mannequins or shoe designs that are compatible with prosthetic legs. Their philosophy is communicated in their marketing, as well as the things they do. Sure, your own brand might not be a household name. But these same philosophical principles serve as a powerful guide for your brand-building efforts. When you put it all together and stay true to your philosophy, you will get the results that allow your brand to grow in the way you see fit. Get started HERE!