The first time I designed a website (back in ’99), I had no clue about branding. Sadly, it took me a long time to learn how important it is to visually tell a story. When I was working at the Children’s Hunger Fund, my buddy Jesse Rodriguez led us through a solid re-branding process. I learned a lot. It also helped that I was in the middle of launching my new software business. I found myself thinking a lot about what our organizations were doing and how we could better communicate that.
I think branding is incredibly important. But I’m also kind of skeptical. I’ve seen a lot of companies pretend to be somebody they’re not, and I’ve seen a lot of great companies do a terrible job representing themselves. Just because people do judge books by their covers doesn’t mean that it’s a good thing. I’ve had some terrible wine in beautiful bottles, and I’ve had some great wine with some hideous labels.
We are so much more than the clothes we wear, the eyeglasses we put on, and the way we style our hair. Decorating yourself or your business with some make-up and perfume doesn’t make you somehow more beautiful. What makes you beautiful is who you are: the combination of your unique DNA, the influence of others upon you, and the choices you’ve made. Your story is beautiful, regardless of how you style yourself.
That said, if the story you wear is different from the story you are, you’ve got a problem. You’re like Microsoft trying to be hip. Microsoft is not hip. It’s corporate. It might even be cool. But it is not hip. So don’t try to be someone you’re not; just do a better job being who you are. Or better yet, be who you are called to be.
Calling is a tricky word, but I mean purpose, vocation, and passion altogether. We’ve all heard “be yourself,” but God is really saying, “Be who I’ve called you to be.” Being ourselves would simply mean being damaged, because that’s what we are – damaged. Yes, we all bear God’s image, but we’re also all sinful. What matters now is becoming who God’s calling us to be, warts and all. We can’t go backward, but we can go forward. If you’ve made mistakes, or if your company has made mistakes, that’s not the end of the story. Redemption lies ahead.
So calling is both ontological (who we are) and teleological (who we are becoming). Together, this sense of calling should shape our story and our brand – personal brands and corporate brands. We need to be honest with ourselves about our past, and we need to open our eyes to the possibilities ahead. Only then will we have a story worth telling. Only then will we have a brand worth building.
Look in. Look up. Then look out.