Is Fear Killing your Brand?

Is your Business Between a Rock and a Hardplace?
June 20, 2012
Are You Optimizing Your Brand Resonators?
July 13, 2012

If I could wave a magic wand and get rid of one thing that plagues most human beings, it would be worry. I hate worry, HATE IT!  It is an evil that must be challenged at every turn. Worry stops dreams before they start. Worry poisons passion. And worry is one of the leading causes of a malady that strikes down many otherwise healthy business owners. It’s called weakbranditis. Weakbranditis is a condition that occurs when people worry too much about what other people think. They worry whether or not people will like them. They worry they will come across too strongly, too girly, too anything and everything. In an effort to avoid the discomfort of possible rejection, they pull back, tone down or dilute the very things that would make their brands special and memorable.

In some ways great branding is a paradox. You are trying to create a strong brand other people will like and to which they will respond. You are trying to build a loyal audience of pleased fans. So you are thinking about your audience a lot. What do they want and need? How can I better connect and engage with my target market? These are all good questions to ask. However, if you WORRY about what your audience will think, if you put their desires and preferences before your own, you will never, ever have a strong brand. You will be perceived as weak and you will feel weak. That is how worry erodes the strength of your brand. Those are the symptoms of weakbranditis.

You have to remember that people are RESPONDING to you. There has to be a YOU to which they can respond, good bad or otherwise. Otherwise, you end up in a position much worse than being disliked, you are ignored. If you have no definitive point of view, your brand message is nebulous. No one will hear you. In singing, in order to have a clear tone, your soft palette must be high and taut so the sound can bounce off and project out. If the soft palette is low and mushy, the sound gets absorbed and the tone is muddled and uninteresting. Furthermore, it does not carry. There is no ping. A brand without a point is like a tone without ping, boring.

Worry is a phantom. It lives and breathes on “what if.” We say to ourselves, “What if I create a workshop and no one comes? What if I give a speech and people think I’m boring?” The first thing you have to remember about “what if” is that it is always looking into the future. It takes you out of the present moment which is your place of power. It is in the here and now where you initiate creativity. You cannot predict the future, but you can take actions now that will insure your future. When you take action not only do you insure your future, you also cease to worry because you are focused on the task at hand.

The other kind of “what if” has to do with whether or not you think people will like you or like what you do. “What if I talk about my love of surfing and people think I’m unprofessional? What if I put hot pink on my website and no one likes it?” I want you to stop right now and turn your “what if’s” into “so what’s.” So what if some people think hot pink is ugly or inappropriate? Ask Dunkin Donuts or Barbie how hot pink has worked for their brands. As a brand you are not trying to appeal to all the people all of the time. You are trying to strongly effect and engage the group of people with whom you most resonate and with whom most strongly resonate with your authentic brand message.

Ironically, in my experience it is in those moments when you stop worrying about how you are going to be perceived that you get the most positive response. It is electrifying and refreshing when someone is completely authentic in the way they present themselves and their work to the world even if we don’t always agree with their choices. At the end of the day, we all want to be loved and respected, but the person whose approval you should most desire is you. When you have full-throttle, total commitment to your personal brand, there is no room for worry. There is only room for growth and expansion. You will inoculate yourself from weakbranditis and the result will be a strong, healthy business.