Often, we put in so much time and effort to create a brand identity, but we don’t realize that there’s a huge disconnect between that brand identity and our consumers’ perception of our brand image. In this episode, we are joined by Lydia Michael, Founder of Blended Collective, a multicultural marketing firm that helps people and brands reach and engage diverse audiences. We discuss the difference between brand identity and brand image, their importance, and what to do to ensure that they align. Lydia also explains how consumers increasingly support brands that have meaning and are purpose-driven and the importance of picking values and brand pillars that you know you can live out as a brand. We then discuss the Blended Collective’s multicultural and diversity work, how it intersects with brand, and how to build brand love through authenticity, humanizing, personalizing experiences, and storytelling.
Key Points From This Episode:
- How there is often a disconnect between who a brand says they are and who they are perceived to be.
- Brand identity versus brand image and the importance of them aligning.
- What brands need to consider to ensure that their brand identity aligns with brand image.
- What to do about the brand pillars that you associate with your brand that consumers are not perceiving.
- How Blended Collective ensures that brand identity and brand image align.
- The importance of picking values and brand pillars that you know you can live out as a brand.
- How to build brand love through authenticity, humanizing, personalizing experiences, and storytelling.
- The importance of brand love to a successful business.
[00:00:01] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to Branch Out, a Connection Builders podcast. Helping middle-market professionals connect, grow, and excel in their careers. Through a series of conversations with leading professionals, we share stories and insights to take your career to the next level. A successful career begins with meaningful connections.
[00:00:20] AD: Hey, everyone. Welcome to the Branch Out podcast. I’m your host, Alex Drost. Today, we welcome Lydia Michael, Founder of Blended Collective, a multicultural marketing firm. Lydia and I discuss how you can take control of your personal brand by becoming more intentional with your actions. I hope you all enjoy.
[0:00:39] ANNOUNCER: Connect and grow your network. We are on LinkedIn. Search for connection builders.
[00:00:47] AD: Lydia, welcome to the Branch Out podcast. Excited to have you here today.
[00:00:50] LM: Alex, thank you for having me. I’m really excited to be here today.
[00:00:53] AD: So why don’t we start the conversation off today, Lydia, and you share a little bit about yourself and what you do? Then we’ll take the conversation from there.
[00:01:01] LM: Sure, yeah. So I run Blended Collective, which is a multicultural marketing and brand consultancy. We are currently based in Detroit but we are a national and international brand. So what we do at the core is we help organizations and brands connect with diverse audiences. So we help them reach and engage diverse audiences. As we work with them on their marketing journey, we help them infuse cultural elements into their process.
[00:01:30] AD: So let’s dive into that a little bit. I’m going to actually talk to our listeners for a minute. Part of the reason I invited Lydia on here is because I find the work that she does fascinating. On one hand, it has a multicultural diversity focus to it but it’s also around branding. In particular, one of the things we’re going to talk about today is personal branding. What I like about the work you do is that you found this kind of intersection between the two. So why don’t we first spend a little bit of time unpacking brand and what brand means and really dig into personal brand. Then let’s come back and talk about where some of the diversity and multicultural fits into that and some of the lessons you’ve learned in the work you do today. So let’s just start in brand. What does brand mean to you?
[00:02:09] LM: Brand is really a reflection of who you are. So whether we are looking at a company, a business, or even us as individuals, is a representation of who we are essentially, a collection of our values, our identity, our image that we’re creating, right? So a lot of times, what we think is that our brand is who we say we are and what we put out into the world, right? The very same thing goes for a company. So a lot of times, we put in so much time and effort to create this perfect image of what we want our business to be perceived at. But what we don’t realize is that the perception is held by our consumers. It’s held by the outside world, right? So what we do is we create a brand image of how we want to be perceived. We attach all of these values to our brands. Again, it goes for business and for individuals that we want to be associated with.
I’ll give you an example. When we started Blended Collective back in 2017, our core pillars from the very get-go were authenticity, culture, and diversity because we knew that everything we were going to do in the business world, whether it was client work, our past speaker events series that we were hosting, really any type of way that Blended Collective engages in the community, we wanted that to connect to at least one of these pillars. That’s kind of how we stay true to who we are as a brand.
But the truth is that unless your actions and your activities as a brand connect to all of that, it’s very easy to deviate from that. What I mean by that is when you look at a lot of brands these days, sometimes there is a disconnect between who they say they are, so really their brand identity, and then who they are perceived to be, their brand image. That brand image is something that is sort of a result of what the consumers, what your audience thinks about you. When you’re not in the room, what is it that people say about your brand? That is something that is really important to be understood because there’s so much power in consumer behavior. There’s so much power in what the consumer says, thinks, and does when it comes to our brand. At the end of the day, of course, we want those two worlds to align because if it doesn’t, then again, there’s a disconnect, right? So the consumer won’t really connect with your brand.
As we’ve seen over the past year and a half, two years throughout the pandemic, the cultural landscape has changed, and consumers have really been supporting brands that stand for a lot more than just a product or service. They want brands that have meaning, that are purpose-driven, that have more value attached to them. So this is why the concept of branding is so important.
[00:04:44] AD: Lydia, a lot to unpack there. My hand is sore from writing notes. Yes. So I love a lot of what you said there. The first thing I really want to go back to is let’s start with brand identity, and really brand identity versus brand image. What I heard you say, make sure I heard this right, brand identity is what we want to be, our values, who we want to be, how we want to be perceived. But ultimately, brand image is the other side of the token, and it’s how the consumer actually perceives us.
What I heard you say around brand as a whole, we don’t necessarily own our brand. Really, our consumers in the outside world owns our brand because their perception of our brand, their perception of brand image, how they look at us, is what ultimately matters more than anything. It doesn’t matter who we say we want to be. It matters how that is perceived to the outside word. Is that a fair way of looking at it?
[00:05:33] LM: That is a fair way of looking at it. But I do want to add, of course, who we say we are, we want that to align with what the customer thinks about us, right? That’s where successful branding comes into play, and that’s where a lot of times you’ll see brands rebrand because, again, there is a disconnect, and that’s just one reason for going through a rebrand process. But there can be a very strong disconnect. So, again, success lies in us ensuring that our brand identity that we’re creating, that we’re aiming to create, aligns with that brand image.
I can also compare that with the concept of and I’m not going to – I’m trying to not get too philosophical here, but the concept of absolute truth versus relative truth, right? So the absolute truth is where the truth is the truth, independent of what other people think, right? But then there’s the relative truth. That is the truth that whatever the truth is to the individual, right? So if I think this is reality, then it is reality, right? That’s kind of a good concept or analogy to compare this to in the branding world because a lot of times, the absolute truth almost doesn’t matter. It’s about what the consumer perceives you to be, right? While I don’t hold that belief outside of the branding world, I do believe that there’s an absolute truth and all of that. But, again, for branding, all that matters is what does my consumer think I am, who do they think I am, what do they associate me with.
[00:06:53] AD: You said earlier that to get this alignment, the success really comes to having my brand image and my brand identity aligned. My brand identity can be what do I want to be, making sure that there is – The outside world is perceiving me the way that I want to be perceived. That’s ultimate success in branding. You had said actions and activities must be connected. They must be aligned. Let’s talk through that a little bit. If I’m a brand, if I’m a company or an individual, and I’m worried about my brand, what do I need to be cognizant of? What do I need to be aware of? What do I need to be thinking about to ensure that my brand identity does actually align with my brand image?
[00:07:31] LM: Yeah. So in the process of going through that, whether it’s, again, with a business or just personal branding with individuals that we work on through those sessions, and we do different exercises, where we start is with the brand identity, right? You start internally. You start with who you are, what your brand is supposed to be about. That’s also where we have to be a little bit careful because as we go through that branding process, a lot of times we associate ourselves with values of who we want to be, who we strive to be, right? So sometimes – We make that mistake where we say, “My brand is about ABCD.” But then when you look externally, people might not associate your brand with those characteristics that you think hold true to your brand. Throughout those exercises, it’s really important that we tap into your network and your circles.
I’ll give you an example. Just recently, I was working with a psychologist, therapist who is looking to branch out her personal branch. She’s trying to expand, so went to speaking engagements, just a lot of different activities around the daily work that she does. So when we were going through the exercises, we were talking about what do you think your brand is, right? What does your brand entail? If you had to name values and characteristics, what do you associate with your brand? So we come up with 5 to 10 keywords. Then the exercise that I gave her was to go out into her circles, so clients, family, friends, her whole network. Try and mix it up, and ask them that very same question. What do you think about when you hear my name? What does my brand mean to you?
So they all came back with different feedback, and it was interesting because in that exercise, we see which values actually align based on what you came up with and what your network came up with, right? The ones that align are the ones that we say, “Okay, we’re going to take these and focus on these because they obviously are true, because not only do you see yourself as such, but also externally people associate you with these values.” So there must be some truth to that, correct? That’s kind of where we start. The ones where we’re a little hesitant about, we might put those aside and come back to those. But that’s kind of a process of where we start, and it’s so insightful and I think very enlightening for the clients a lot of times to see that process because they would have only focused on who they want to be and who they think they are.
But, again, if your brand views, your brand perceptions are held by your consumers, then it’s not just about who you think you are because, again, sometimes we think we are a certain way or we want to be a certain way. But we might not be.
[00:10:05] AD: We want to be a certain way, right? I mean, it’s a little bit of doing the brand exercise, not in a vacuum, right? Not in your own world only, right? What I heard you say loud and clear, there’s, “Okay. Well, I’m going to start with identifying some attributes that I want to be in.” We all have our own perception of what we want our brand to be. I’m going to talk about this purely on a personal branding standpoint because I think it’s a little easier to relate to it for our audience. So if I’m identifying attributes for me, for my personal brand, I create this list. But the reality is out in the real world, there’s a different way that people are looking, and it’s a Venn diagram, right? Somewhere, there’s probably some crossover. Hopefully, there’s a decent amount of crossover Venn diagram.
But you’re saying focus on that part where the crossover actually happens because those are things that not only do you feel strongly about and you know are true and that you want to live out, but also others are seeing it and associating you with it, right?
[00:10:57] LM: Yeah, that’s where you’re really able to build a strong brand. I know this is more on the personal branding side. But also, when we work with clients and businesses, the question we ask is if your brand were a person, what would those characteristics and those attributes look like to actually humanize the brand and that process of thinking of your brand and your business as a person? Because that’s when you’re doing the best work and creating those values and creating those brand pillars that then have to connect with your consumers who are human, right? So that concept of humanizing your brand is a very important element as well.
[00:11:33] ANNOUNCER: This is Branch Out, a Connection Builders podcast.
[00:11:41] AD: So what do you do about the attributes that I want to be? Whether I’m a company or an individual, I have brand attributes that I want to be but maybe that aren’t so clear in the marketplace that people aren’t picking up on? How do I deal with that? What do I do at that point?
[00:11:55] LM: Very good question. I think there are a lot of brands that have brand pillars or values associated with them, that are not manifesting in the best way possible, right? That’s kind of where we come into. So what we try to do is figure out, okay, let’s take a look. Let’s assess your brand pillars. Those are essentially just values that define who your business is at the core, right? Sometimes, they’re communicated externally. Sometimes, it’s a little bit hidden all throughout your company and your messaging, whether it’s your website or other communications you put out. But what we try to do is take those brand pillars and look at ways that you have been manifesting that message to your audience. Like you said, if it’s not visible in the marketplace, obviously, you haven’t been doing the best job possible. So we look at ways of how those values, how those brand pillars can be manifested through your messaging and through your communication.
I’ll give you an example. So I know I talked earlier about our brand pillars or core values that we decided on when we started Blended Collective. They’re authenticity, culture, and diversity. So there are different ways that these values can come to light. In order to make sure that consumers associate us with those, we have to do certain things, right? We have to sort of hold ourselves accountable for being authentic, being cultural, being diverse, all of those things. Otherwise, it just serves as a checkbox.
With authenticity, for instance, we have – So throughout all of our social media, any communication we put out, we do not use stock images. We only use real life photos. So everything that you see on our social media or any communication we put out or presentations, anything you can think of, everything is authentic. That is a very important value to us. So if we were to use stock images, I don’t know that that would be a very good reflection of our authenticity, right? Again, that’s just one way of sort of manifesting that value. But that is one really important way for us to create content. So we pull content from our speaker event series that we were hosting around multicultural marketing and diversity and inclusion. We would always have a photographer there, and we would always capture content that would capture the essence of who our audience is, a multicultural audience, because that’s the focus of our work. We would do that or capture video.
Or even now, I just had some speaking engagements out in Detroit, Chicago, and Miami with the Digital Summit. So that was another opportunity for us to get a lot of content in person because we haven’t been doing as much of that over the past year and a half, right? So just thinking of creative ways of how we can capture that authenticity of our brand.
Culture I think sort of goes without saying. I mean, everything that we sort of do is less by culture. It’s sort of we infuse cultural elements into our journey and what we do but then also the organizations or companies we associate with, right? So even as a brand, going through our business development efforts and all of those things, we are part of a lot of ethnic chambers in the community, right? That is something where we pull cultural inspiration from, but also sort of give back and associate ourselves with just cultural organizations.
Then, of course, the diversity portion where that also filters into our work. So a lot of our speaker events series that we used to host that supported really all of those pillars but very strongly the cultural and the diversity elements. That would be one example of manifesting your brand pillars.
00:15:30AD: Let me ask a question about that, Lydia, because I think that one of the really important things you hit on there is you talked about authenticity as one of your brand pillars, right? I think all of us – If you ever spent time doing a brand exercise, and whether it’s, again, for yourself or for an organization, typically it comes down to identifying attributes, a pillar or some way of saying, “This is what I want to be.” Authenticity is one that I think often comes up. I don’t know many people or brand that says, “I want to be inauthentic,” right? But everyone does say – I shouldn’t say everyone. Many people will say, “Well, authenticity is something I want to be.”
But what I heard you say, and I think is the real important element of this, is that the idea of saying, well, authenticity is a pillar of our brand isn’t just about saying it and saying, “Well, that looks great. I want to be authentic.” You’re saying, “Well, this is important to us. And now, I have to be very thoughtful about all the other decisions I make in communicating with the marketplace to ensure that those interactions and communications are in alignment with authenticity, that there is an authentic feel and factor behind it.” Because if not, then it goes back to the brand image versus how does someone perceive you, how do you want to be, right?
[00:16:40] LM: Yeah, definitely. I think with authenticity, and you’re right. Nobody says I want to be inauthentic, right? Everybody wants to be authentic. But it’s one of those things that not everybody prioritizes though.
[00:16:50] AD: You have to prioritize it, if you want it to be real.
[00:16:52] LM: Exactly. I think not a lot of businesses push that into the forefront as a driving value, right? For us, it’s in the forefront.
[00:17:01] AD: Why not? Like you’ve worked with companies, and what I really want to drive into, when you’re working with companies and whether it’s authenticity or any brand pillar, I’m sure you consistently see individuals and companies that have one brand pillar they say they want to have. But then when they realize what it actually takes to live that brand pillar, like there’s a disconnect that exists, right? What do you see in your work around that?
[00:17:21] LM: Yeah, that’s such a good question because it’s so difficult to exercise your brand pillars, depending on what they are. That’s why it’s important to pick values that you know you can live out as a brand, that you can live out as a person. A lot of times, when we shape brands and we create companies, especially with small businesses and startups, you see, it takes on the personality of the founder a lot of times because the founder has certain values that they care about, and they want to highlight those values through their company. So we see that overlap a lot of times too.
But, again, we’ve seen, to answer your question, diversity is a very simple one because over the past year and a half, two years, it’s become a trendy topic. Even authenticity has and brand purpose, right? All of those keywords that we hear people use and throw around is because they want to be associated with those, because they see that there’s a positive return on being associated with these values. But also, your customer will recognize whether that is a genuine and authentic effort or not. That’s where you can also burn yourself. You can do a lot more harm than you do good when you do that, right? Because if you say, for instance, we take the element of diversity, and a lot of companies now have added diversity as a priority, as a checkbox, right? So they do certain activities around that. Companies might do a training once a year to fulfill that diversity requirement, right?
But we know what the core – I mean, we’ve seen companies say, and I won’t say any names on this podcast, but we’ve seen companies come out and say, “We are all about diversity and inclusion.” You go back to their website and you look at their board, and there’s 20 white people, all men, sitting on the board. Your question, what that really looks like. Or companies who have said, “We care about diversity and inclusion,” but then you have their employees come out who have been there for 10 plus years and say, “That’s not even true. I’ve been working here, and I’ve faced these challenges, and I’ve come across these issues, and this is not a true statement,” right? So where do you draw the line?
[00:19:19] AD: What’s interesting, what’s bouncing around the back of my mind as you’re saying that is, I think when we talk about creating a brand and, again, whether it’s personal, an individual brand, or it’s an organization brand, you want a limited number of brand attributes or pillars that you’re building off. You can’t do it all. You can’t be everything to everyone. You have to identify what matters to you. In doing that, it’s really where do you focus your time and energy to make sure that your brand becomes that.
Your point around diversity is one that definitely became a hot topic over the last year and a half, two years. Just to say, “Well, diversity is important to us, but we’re not going to go put the work in,” that falls short. That goes with any brand attribute. Diversity is obviously the example we’re using in this case. But at the end of the day, the reason that you have to be so selective and so picky about what your attributes are is because living them out is not easy. It takes a ton of energy and resources to truly live those brands out and make sure that you’re authentic in what you’re saying. Is that a fair way of looking at it?
[00:20:16] LM: Yeah, definitely. I couldn’t have summarized it better.
[00:20:20] ANNOUNCER: This is Branch Out, bringing you candid conversations with leading middle market professionals.
[00:20:26] AD: Let me ask you this then, Lydian, and this might be a great time to transition. I want to spend a little bit of time talking around the multicultural and diversity work that you do and where some of that intersects with brand. I’m sure that in the last year and a half, you’ve seen a lot of demand around some of that because of the specific work you do. But can you first just share a little bit about what you do in particular around multicultural universal work? Then let’s weave that back into where it ties into brand and maybe the good and the bad lessons that you’ve seen in the last year and a half, two years of this.
[00:20:55] LM: Yeah. So a lot of our focus is helping brands reach and engage diverse audiences, right? What that means at the core is that we can help with efforts such as brand development, where from the very early beginning of forming, shaping a brand, we help identify what the foundation looks like, right? So anything from your mission, your vision, your purpose, your values, the brand pillars that we were talking about. What does that look like when you’re manifesting that into the world, the communications, the messaging, all of that? So social media, websites, all of that sort of builds around that.
That’s the early stages of brand development, but we also are very heavily focused on strategy, so helping companies with their marketing campaigns, content, communications development, diversity strategy. We’ve done a little bit of trainings and workshops. Lots of workshops actually, virtual workshops now, over the past two years, both in multicultural marketing, diversity, but also just branding and personal branding, and just sort of partnering with organizations that have a wide reach of small businesses especially because those were really the ones that we saw going through challenges and difficulties and sort of needing that type of assistance, right? That’s where we saw a lot of our work and a lot of our value to the community in the past two years.
I’d love to speak a little bit about that because some of the work that we’ve been doing there was really important in partnership with a few different organizations. So one that we did last year was with the SBDC Michigan, and that’s the Small Business Development Center. They’re right under the SBA. So they had a program that they offer to small businesses to help them with their marketing disruptions and business disruptions as a small business. We were brought on as the sole marketing and brand consultancy, basically. We worked with nine businesses throughout that time to help them sort of identify their strategy, re-strategize their efforts during this time. So we would look at their business, do an audit and assessment, understand where their pain points were, their challenges, and how they can continue to be of value during this time. Do they need to adjust their messaging? Do they need to adjust their service offerings, right? Did their offerings expand or get reduced because of the pandemic? Looking at all of those different factors, and we worked on a lot of different industries and worked with a lot of small businesses, woman-owned businesses, minority-owned businesses, to sort of go through that.
Then the second program we just worked on and just wrapped up at the end of September this year was with the Great Lakes Women’s Business Council, and it was their COVID recovery program that they had. That was also funded by the SBA, the Small Business Administration, and that focus specifically on women-owned businesses. A lot of them are minority-owned businesses as well, so just working with them on a one-on-one basis over the past. I think the longest client we had on the program was about seven months. So it was anywhere from a month to seven months for each one of those, and it worked with, say, 17 or 18 clients total during that period, and just one-on-one doing both personal branding elements, looking at their company, identifying what their marketing efforts could look like, how to improve.
But the biggest thing was really how do you continue to be of value, now that consumer behavior has changed, now that consumers might not engage with you for the same product or service just because of the challenges they face every day? So a lot of that work focused on the foundation, building that foundation. We did a lot of workshops around the reassessing of your brand purpose during this time because, and this goes for both large and small companies, what we found was that during a time of difficulty, customers typically connect with brands that inspire them, that are purpose-driven, that are not just about the product or service.
There was a lot of digital engagement that everybody was spending more time online and on social media. So brands would go back to the drawing board and say, “Okay. Well, what do we stand for? What are our values? How are we communicating that to our consumers? How can we build that brand love?” Another one of my favorite topics, how can we build that brand love with our consumer? We saw that a lot of the companies that had already built that foundation prior to the pandemic were the ones that were able to continue to succeed in this space, right? When we talk about brand love, it’s all about evoking an emotion with your consumer, making them choose your brand over a competitor’s brand.
[00:25:29] AD: How do you get there? What do you do to build that brand love? Because I think that’s the goal of many companies, right? You want your brand to be one that your consumers are loyal to believe and follow and trust and do business with. Regardless of what your underlying product is, regardless of your service or what you actually do to add value, you want consumers to love and trust your brand, right?
[00:25:48] LM: Definitely. That’s been my topic for the Digital Summit that I mentioned earlier, where I just spoke in Detroit, Chicago, and Miami. I’m doing Dallas, Texas in December and just speaking about brand love. I mean, it’s been perceived really well by the audience because, again, what we focus on is how can we as brands evoke an emotion with our consumers. So the way we do that, there are a few different elements that are relevant in order to sort of accomplish that, and it goes back to authenticity being one of the first ones, right? How can you ensure that your brand is authentic? How can your brand be meaningful and purposeful? But also, how can you humanize your brands? How can you create proximity, that closeness between the brand and the consumer, right? So also building trust, building closeness with your consumer.
Another element is personalizing experiences. So we see that a lot of times, the brands that personalize the engagement with their consumers are the ones that win because they’re making it about them. It’s not about the brand at the end of the day, but it’s about the consumer. If the consumer recognizes that you are listening to them and you are responding by offering certain products a certain way, or allowing somebody to customize their product or personalize the experience, it allows me to trust you. It allows me to build that close connection, that emotional connection with you. So that’s another important element.
Then the last one that I talk about is storytelling. But I think as marketers, anybody who’s listening, we’ve all heard the importance of storytelling, right? But the key with storytelling is how can we humanize our brand because feelings are a foundation of feeling human? Again, if your brand were a person –
[00:27:32] AD: How would it communicate?
[00:27:33] LM: Yeah. How would it communicate? What would it look like? What would the characteristics be? Emotion can go into a lot of different elements in marketing, so we talk about sound, right? What does your brand sound like? We talk about scent. You remember, when you walk into a certain retail store, Abercrombie and Fitch back in the day was known for that. You walk into the store, and it smells a certain way. It’s because they have branded. They have attached a scent to their brand so that people associate that with the brand, right? Really powerful.
I was in Dubai a few years back, and they are notorious for scents. Everywhere you go, very unique, extravagant scents. Scent branding there I noticed was a very big thing. You would walk into any type of store, any type of place, and it had a very unique scent to it. Again, scent has a very special connection with the way we memorize things in our brain. It’s actually one of the first things that sort of catches our attention, subconsciously. So scent branding is really important too. Those are all different elements of how we can create that emotional brand, and I think sometimes we’re not aware of how powerful branding can be if we engage all of our senses.
[00:28:52] AD: What I hear you say through all of that is recognizing that, one, creating a brand and a successful strong brand of marketplace takes a ton of work and a lot of intentionality, a lot of thought, and a lot of effort. But also recognizing that if done right and building the right connection, that emotional connection, invoking emotions within our customers and building trust and doing things that really create that brand love, are what allow brands, whether companies or individuals, to be successful, right? It’s a lot of work. It takes a lot of focus underneath all of that. But it’s really about identifying your pillars, and then being very intentional and thoughtful about the actions you have to build that engagement, to invoke that emotion within your customer base, and ultimately create that trusted relationship with them. Is that the right way of kind of looking at that?
[00:29:44] LM: Totally. I think a lot of times, we as brands focus so much on getting attention versus focusing on intention, right? So what is our intention versus just focusing on I want attention, I want to trend, I want to go viral, like all those things that we focus on? But if you’re intentional, I think all of that sort of comes in a very natural way as the result.
[00:30:08] AD: That’s going to give us a great place to wrap up here today. I want to just talk on that just for a quick minute. This is really – The root of all of this is about being intentional, being thoughtful, putting and slowing down and taking the time to be thoughtful and really create the brand. Next, we’re working with an individual like yourself or a consulting agency like yourself to help do that as an excellent choice for businesses and individuals. Because at the end of the day, if you aren’t intentional, if you aren’t thoughtful, it can be very – You’re simply just not going to be successful in building a brand. Regardless of whether it’s individual brand or an organization or company brand, you have to have that intentionality behind it.
Let me give a quick summary of what we covered today, Lydia, and let me know if I missed anything out. But we talked about brand is who you are. It’s your identity. It’s what you want to be perceived at. But the key of this in branding is that your brand, the perception of your brand, is really held by the outside world, in meaning that you can say what you want to be. But at the end of the day, if the outside world, if your consumers, if the marketplace that you interact with, doesn’t see it and doesn’t see it the same way, that ultimately you’re not going to be successful as a brand.
True success comes in having your actions and activities being connected and not having the disconnect between your brand image and your brand identity. Again, brand identity being what I want to be, brand image being what someone views me as. What you want to do is really step back and say, “What does my audience think of me? What is the marketplace? What are the people I connect with? What do they think of me?” Start to understand. I use the example, the Venn diagram, right? How do I align up what I say want to be versus what people perceive me to be and find that overlap and understand that that’s my true brand identity, the brand pillars that I need to spend time working in building?
Then you had said that part of doing this, and this is speaking to an individual really, if you want to build your own brand, write down your pillars. Understand what you think they are, but then go talk to people. Go talk to your network. Go socialize the topic and say, “Hey, what do you think of my brand? When you think of me, what do you think about? Or if I’m a company owner, what do you think of my brand as a company?” Start to test the market and recognize that if you do it in a vacuum, you’re not going to come up with the right answers, versus working with the outside world and getting that feedback and looking at how to ultimately find what the market thinks of you and find that crossover.
Now, where that all comes in together is that when you build that brand and you get the messaging right, you get the communication right, and you really want to step back and say, “How can I invoke emotion with my customers? How can I take the things that I want to be and build that trust, build that brand love in the marketplace?” Again, whether as an individual or as an organization, all with the idea that if I can build that, if I can truly live authentically, and whatever my brand pillars are, and the market sees me that way, and I’m in true alignment, and then I build trust, and I’m doing things that are making the market trust and believe in me and like my brand, that’s how ultimately you’re going to be successful. That all really led us up to all too often we are far more focused. Brands in particular are more focused on getting attention, clicks, likes, views, versus the intention of their brand, the intentionality that truly drives it.
Lydia, what do you think? Good summary, anything we missed there?
[00:33:19] LM: You know what? I want people to know that they are a walking billboard, anything that you do. I think a lot of times when we put ourselves out there, we do things subconsciously, right? We sort of portray those values, those characteristics, because they’re so normal to us, right? We’re used to being a certain way and doing certain things and saying certain things. But people associate us with that, right? So if I go on LinkedIn now and I write an article about the same topic for the next month, I guarantee you that 80, 90 percent of my audience, of my network, will associate me with that very same topic, right? It’s that brand association. That’s what I’m telling people I am.
That’s a good way. That’s a good and bad thing, right? Because a lot of times, again, we do things subconsciously and we’re associated with things that we may not want to be associated with. But it also gives us an opportunity to sort of put our best foot out there, to put those values that we want to manifest, to put that out there intentionally. I think that’s something really important to take away because details matter to those who matter.
[00:34:20] AD: I could not agree with you more. So for our listeners this week, I want to give a quick call to action. The call to action is this is going back to a little bit of Lydia shared on doing a brand exercise. I asked all of our listeners to take 30 minutes and just write down a few brand attributes about yourself. This is on the personal branding front. Write a few of these down. Be thoughtful and intentional. Get them captured on paper. Then over the next couple of weeks, find people you trust in your network and ask them, “What do you think? What are my brand? If you think of me, how do you perceive me? What are your thoughts about me?” Write down their thoughts and use that as a framework to start finding alignment between what people perceive you and what you are, and look for ways to fill those gaps and areas that maybe you need to improve on. Or also recognize where maybe there’s some attributes you think about yourself that maybe aren’t as true as you wish they were. That gives you a place to start doing some personal assessment around it.
Lydia, for our listeners, how can they get in touch with you? What’s the best way to find you?
[00:35:17] LM: The best way to find me, so our website, of course, blendedcollective.com. I also have my own website, lydiamichael.com. So feel free to connect with me there. Of course, for Blended Collective, we are on all of the social media platforms @blendedcollective. Then feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn. It’s just Lydia Michael.
[00:35:36] AD: Awesome. We’ll make sure that is all linked in the show notes below for listeners. Lydia, I appreciate you coming on here. It’s been a great conversation. I think we uncovered a lot and learned a lot about brand today, and just appreciate your time and contribution to the show.
[00:35:48] LM: Yeah, I had a great time. Thank you, Alex.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
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