By Rachel Felix
What is a brand, exactly? Is it the product you use on a consistent basis or that Super Bowl commercial you love? Is it the way a company makes you feel? Is it simply a logo?
To students outside of the Reynolds School, at least, branding is a vague term that clearly signifies a whole lot more than its simple definition. I didn’t quite understand what “branding” meant for a long time.
I decided it was significant when I first started hearing the term in each of my classes, every day, all the time. Gradually, however, I began to truly understand its importance in relation to not only journalism, mass communications and the professional world, but why it’s beneficial to my life. Branding, frankly, is everything.
It is the ever-so-frequent, racy status on Facebook, it’s the slightly too risqué Halloween costume photo on Instagram and it’s your profile picture on LinkedIn. Branding is your arrival time to your weekly lectures and it’s the degree to which your hair is combed for that job interview you’ve been anxiously awaiting. It is your tone of voice. It is your confidence level. It is every choice.
Branding is everything.
From a technical standpoint, branding is emotional, connective and alluring to mass audiences for the benefit of the consumer and for the benefit of a company. It’s the way that companies attract potential customers and keep them coming back for more, time and time again. It’s that thing you just love about a company and its products, but that you can’t quite verbalize.
Over time, I’ve come to realize that the concept of branding can and should be personalized. If we, as humans, can dictate the perception of others of our own thoughts, dreams and goals, why wouldn’t we?
The thing is, this shouldn’t be considered selfish. And it isn’t, really. We all want to be perceived in the way in which we see ourselves: the best possible version of our own being.
Establishing my own brand has been a bit of a journey. I don’t have a strategic understanding of my current brand nor have I made a definite decision about how it may change five years down the road. I do know, however, who I am and how I would ideally like to be perceived.
My brand, unbeknownst to me, has been evolving since I began my university education. I don’t consider anything previous (like high school, for example) to be part of my overall brand positioning. If this was the case, I’d still be “be-someone-you’re-not, don’t-apply-yourself-as-much-as-you-could, cheerleader” girl. That said, I’ve changed a whole lot since then.
Since learning about this conceptual, completely individualized “brand” that I have, I’ve begun taking control of all of its elements and dynamic parts. I see myself as strong, confident, intelligent and witty. I hope others see me that way, too.
My brand has evolved from the series of choices I’ve made over the last couple years and it will continue to change based on the choices I make in preparation for my future. Whether I stay in and study for my LSAT next weekend, or I decide to “carpe that diem” and go out with girlfriends, I know either choice will contribute to my “brand.” The great thing is that neither choice is the wrong one.
If anything has shaped this thing I call “branding,” it’s the perception that I have of myself. The days that I feel especially confident are the days that I feel most positive about my brand. This is why, as I approach my professional career and the many milestones that have been looming for years now, I know I must consider my brand, most importantly, for the positive impact it will have on my life, not anyone else’s. My positive perception, my “brand,” is the way I’d like others to see me, is a direct reflection of the way I see myself.
So, maybe I’ll refrain from posting that photo on Instagram, and maybe I won’t say that one inappropriate thing on the tip of my tongue. Why? Because I hope to be perceived in the way that fulfills my highest possible potential.
Branding is the future and the now. It’s our perception of all the world’s advancements and a great factor in our successes. Yet, there’s no real way to maintain a perfect grasp of its meaning.
I do know with certainty that we must keep learning, growing and thinking about this concept called “branding,” because of how it might positively affect our lives as young professionals, now and most definitely in the future.
Branding, this qualitative, complex and fascinating concept, is everything.
Rachel Felix studies public relations. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.