Why do we pigeonhole and label an artist? It is a sure way of missing the important, the contradictory, the things that make him or her unique.
– Lukas Foss
The ultimate driving machine. – BMW
The happiest place on Earth! – Disneyland
The best tires in the world have Goodyear written all over them. – Goodyear
All the news that’s fit to print. – The New York Times
Built Ford Tough – Ford
Good to the last drop. – Maxwell House
The king of beers. – Budweiser
Something special in the air. – American Airlines
It’s the real thing. – Coca-Cola
It gives you wings. – Red Bull
Each of these company taglines is a short phrase that reflects a specific position in the marketplace or manifests people’s perception of a product or service. As humans, we are wired to automatically label someone or something as a means of controlling our experiences and making things and people distinct – it’s one way that we keep ourselves safe. One of the most productive things you can do is realize that, as soon as people start to know you, you are pigeonholed in their minds. The challenge, of course, is that by allowing others to pigeonhole you, you run the risk of being poorly characterized, being given a negative connotation, and being separated out from some of your other qualities and attributes. Massively successful businesses, then, adopt the approach that they will be proactive, brand themselves, and take control of their public perception rather than responding to an externally imposed image identification at some later time.
I challenge you to do the same thing with yourself! That’s right, start being aware of your place in the world and how people might be classifying you. More importantly, now is the perfect time to choose how you want to be seen. If you don’t do it for yourself, it’s going to be done for you.
When I hold my retreats, I guide attendees through this very process. Whether as individuals or as a team, we develop provocative, exciting, and intriguing catch phrases and mottos; a rallying word or expression that not only serves as internal motivation but affects the outside world! In other words, I want you to start branding yourself. It’s a fun exercise and one that, I predict, will be one of the most powerful and significant things you will do for yourself in 2013!
Where do you begin? Get out a piece of paper and a pen or fire up your computer or tablet, and write/type out your thoughts, reactions, responses, and hopes for each of the following compelling steps.
STEP ONE. Get committed.
Make a Declaration of Possibility; a personal contract that you want to take charge of how others remember you.
STEP TWO. Get real.
Ask yourself: What pigeonhole have I already been put in by others? This is where you get the great joy of exploring how others have perceived you correctly . . . and more importantly, incorrectly. In Step Two you discover whether your inside has accurately been translated to the outside.
STEP THREE. Get clear.
Ask yourself: How would I like to be remembered by others? This step provides you with the insight of what’s truly important to you. Just saying the rather vague and inarticulate phrase, I want to be famous, is not an actionable – nor even empowering – goal. Be unmistakable about the YOU you are promoting.
STEP FOUR: Get transformed.
Change what others think of you by creating a sustainable, powerful, and preferred reputation for yourself. In this step, write out some catch phrases and taglines that will serve as a shorthand for what you discovered in Step Three. Use some of the successful branding models I listed at the start of this article as models.
STEP FIVE. Get authentic.
No one likes a fake. A mighty, self-created pigeonhole begins with genuineness, believability, and credibility. Explore what truly motivates you and be clear and concise about how your message can solve other people’s problems.
STEP SIX. Get going.
Sorry, but the best message, product, book, invention, and person are not going to be known if there isn’t some self-promotion that takes place. You have to call attention to and market yourself if your voice and your message and your talent is going to be heard, seen, appreciated, and embraced. A big secret here is to find an area that someone else does not already own. You can’t build a car and call it the ultimate driving machine . . . BMW already OWNS that! Be persuasive and of value in an area that currently has a gap.
Remember, you are going to be pigeonholed whether you like it or not. You might as well take charge of what that branding is going to look and sound like!
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