Listen to this essay.
This is #6 of 12 experiments for the year, offered to get you inspired, thinking creatively, and organized in the pursuit of bold life ambitions of deep personal meaning. This mid-point experiment focuses on your brand; aka, that perceived image the world holds of you. I don’t need a brand! you say. Inside tip: you have one. Rock pile or cathedral. It’s not a question of creating your brand, it’s the importance of managing it. Onward!
IF you’re at midlife and considering an exciting encore career, committed to pursuing a grand (dare we say audacious!) ambition of deep personal meaning for your second act,
THEN you need a keiretsu of supporters, partners, and (possibly) paying customers THAT need to be persuaded of your dream’s merits, WHICH mean selling yourself as well as the dream.
This requires a compelling brand.
You may think you’re just writing a book. First, you’re selling the image of an exceptionally talented, uniquely insightful master of words and storytelling. Underwood on the table, disheveled bookshelf behind, contemplative stare. If not, why would anyone besides mom support your effort or buy your book? (Over 3.5 million books are published annually in the US alone; plenty of options.)
Francoise Peschon of Vine Hill Ranch, Napa Valley
You may think you’re just reviving an old, neglected winery. First, you’re selling the image of a passionate oenophile who loves tending the vines and is committed to relaunching a label with respect to the quality and history of that abandoned, storied vineyard. Tattered straw hat on head, glass of red in hand, big smile. If not, why would anyone besides mom support your effort or buy your wine? (Over 11,000 wineries bottle the grape in the US alone; plenty of options.)
You may be pursuing a dream that is completely noncommercial. Going back to school to earn an MFA in English Literature. Organizing a group climb of Mount Kilimanjaro, perhaps to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis, or maybe just because it’s there. In these and other towering ambitions you’ll be engaging with others – your patrons – and they’ll decide on the time and energy level you warrant. Warrant a lot. It will build your confidence and boost your chances of getting up that mountain. Nothing gets achieved alone.
All companies big and small work hard on their brand. Most startup founders do as well. Elizabeth Holmes, of the late Theranos scandal, branded herself as the next Steve Jobs and raised $945 million on the turtleneck ruse. (The rebranded Liz Holmes started her stint at a federal prison facility in Texas this week, sans turtleneck.) Entrepreneurs need a brand. Interpreneurs likewise need a brand.
4 Steps to Finding and Framing Your Brand
Customers don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. – Simon Sinek (Click here for his insightful video on WHY versus WHAT.)
There is an infinite selection of articles on brand creation and management at the click of a Google search, offering 5 or 7 or 10 steps to brand nirvana. I’ve read a few, talked with my friend Noel Thevenet, an expert in the field of tech branding, and even asked my 2 AI PAs: ChatGPT and Pi. Common threads weave through all of this advice, starting with WHY you do what you do, not WHAT.
This takes us back to our first 2 experiments of the year, The Wheel of Life and My Eulogy, which are all about finding your WHY (pursue a grand ambition of deep personal meaning). Your brand must emote from the WHY, then be reflected in the WHAT.
With that in mind, here are 4 solid steps to launch a search for your brand:
1. List what you stand for as reflected in the key values, passions, strengths, and other qualities that collectively power that pursuit of your grand (dare we say audacious!) ambition.
2. Develop a concise message that best captures these qualities. Does it reveal both what you offer and the core values of your interprize? Does the brand statement reflect benefits to your patrons; those people reading your book, drinking your wine, or joining you up on that mountain?
3. Is the brand in harmony with the Mission Statement you created in Experiment 3: Your Mission Definition? Together they should align with the North Star guiding everything your Interprize stands for: fulfilling your purpose, serving your patrons, impacting your community, and being a positive force in the world.
4. Does the brand feel honest to the authentic you? Presenting yourself as a bookish writer or wine-stained vintner might feel right to the role, but will kill your credibility in the long run if proven to be disingenuous. Just ask Liz.
As with earlier experiments, I encourage you to step away from your brand statement for a few hours, then take a fresh look. The next morning reread it as well. With each review you may tweak this or that to strengthen the identity. You may decide to restart from the beginning. Paint yourself and your ambition in a beautiful, authentic light that draws people in. Play with it. Enjoy it. Don’t rush it.
Crafting your brand identity through a well-honed statement is just Step 1 in brand creation. Communicating it through logos, colors, music, and a web presence that together creates an emotional connection with your patrons is essential. So is revealing it to your network and constantly checking for consistency. Again, there are plenty of free online resources for this: podcasts, articles, edX courses, and other.
When I launched the Interprize Group in 2013 I hired a professional designer to collaborate on my logo. My WHY? I was passing through a phase of intense personal reinvention, having just moved to Provence from San Francisco, and wanted to leverage what I was learning (through soooo many mistakes) to encourage and enable others in their pursuits of bold ambitions of deep personal meaning.
Tarik had a few proposals and we ultimately settled on the color green (for abundance and rebirth), a custom font (to reflect playfulness but competency), and a circle surrounded by inward facing tips (to impart community and openness). Money wisely invested, and the infinitely talented Tarik Koivisto remains a good friend to this day. (Her own professional reinvention – Luxe Provence – is branded as a slow fashion and lifestyle brand celebrating effortless chic. Check it out.
If you want to know more about the art of interpreneurship or our upcoming Life Leap workshops, you can contact me through the site here or at email@example.com.