What Your Brand Isn’t

Thinking about what you are not can help you figure out what you are.

Wendy Ruyle 3.7.2019

In branding, we spend a lot of time trying to figure out who we are as organizations. What do we stand for? What do we do better than our competitors? What do our clients care about? Sometimes it’s easier to identify the ideas that don’t fit than pinpoint the ones that do.

Here’s an exercise to help you get to the essence of your brand personality by thinking about some opposite traits. By understanding and clearly projecting your brand personality, you’ll be able to attract the customers that want what you have to sell.

Go through the process of answering these questions about your organization and how it operates. Obviously, there are a lot of things you wouldn’t do or say (Let’s hope!)—like lie, cheat, steal, be insulting or violent, etc. So, focus on things that others might do but you would not. There is no right or wrong in these answers, just the way you go about your business.

What would you never do?

If you’d never take on more than you can handle, you’re probably very pragmatic, reliable, and stable. If you jump at the chance for every new opportunity, even if you don’t know exactly how you’ll accomplish it, your brand personality is energetic and aspirational.

What are some of your standard business etiquette philosophies? Would you never wait more than two hours to reply to an email? Then responsiveness is definitely part of your makeup. How do you interact with your team? If you would never forget someone’s birthday, then building personal relationships is an important part of who you are.

What would you never say?

This can be about the content of what you say or the way you say it. Maybe you’d never be a yes-man. If so, your brand could be about challenging norms. Perhaps you would never use casual language or slang. That shows you appreciate a formal approach and care about propriety. Do you hate jargon? Then you want to be open and forthright with your customers.

What would you never look like?

What colors, images, and styles don’t feel like the right fit? If the idea of bright pink in your color palette makes you cringe, you’re probably more on the traditional and established side of the spectrum. If navy blue and maroon make you roll your eyes, you probably take a more innovative and unconventional approach to your work.

If you can’t imagine using stock photos, your brand might be about customization or a personalized touch. Whimsical illustrations might feel awkward because your approach is very buttoned-up.

For each of these questions think about why you would never do, say, or look like that thing. What is sparking your dislike for one action or another? What is the opposite attribute of that action? List out the opposites and you will have compiled your true brand attributes.

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