Build a Breakthrough Brand


You don’t own your brand. Your customers do. There are thousands of books written on branding, and, unfortunately, there are too many people who consider themselves brand experts. So, what exactly is a brand? A brand is simply “what people think of when they think of you.” Three words sum up the lessons my team learned in building the breakthrough brand, “Take the Stairs”: perception, persistence and congruency.


Your brand isn’t necessarily what is true about you, what you’re qualified to teach, or what you do best. Because a brand is “what people think of when they think of you,” the defining element of your brand is simply what you are known for. Everything you do and don’t do influences what you are known for, including what you wear, what you say, how you act, who you associate with, what type of work you take on, what type of writing you do, the quality of everything you put out for public consumption (your website, your tweets, your photos, your email signature), your attitude, etc. Everything matters because it influences other people’s perception of you. So, act deliberately.


In Take the Stairs, I wrote, “Success is never owned; it is only rented— and the rent is due every day.” That statement applies to your brand. Your brand is only protected by the strength, consistency and currency of your messaging to the world. People are bombarded with stimuli and input every day. You are fighting for the very tiniest sliver of their brains in hopes that, if you hit them enough times and someone asks them, “Have you ever heard of (insert your name), they reply. “Oh, yeah, he’s the expert on (insert topic) and (s)he’s (insert adjective).” It’s why Scott McKain, CSP, CPAE, says “mind-share precedes market share.” Once you’ve defined what you want to be known for, then you must work your tail off to consistently present the same message over and over to your market.


You don’t invent a great brand— you reveal it. A great brand is so aligned with the brand’s messenger that it would be difficult to copy. You could shave your head, wear brightly colored shirts, and deliver irreverent messages, but if you don’t see the world through the eyes, expertise and experience of Larry Winget, CPAE, you will never successfully copy his brand. Don’t even try. Instead, discover what your brand is by taking Winget’s advice: “Find your uniqueness and exploit it in the service of others.” Fill in the blank: “The key to success in (your topic) is to ______________.” That will tell you what your message is. From there, you can use your creativity to find congruent branding. You don’t control your brand; you influence its perception. You don’t own your brand; you rent it with persistence. You don’t invent your brand; you uncover its congruence with who you really are. What do people think of when they think of you?

Rory Vaden

Rory Vaden

Rory Vaden, MBA, is co-founder of Southwestern Consulting. He is a self-discipline strategist; speaker and the New York Times best-selling author of Take the Stairs.
Rory Vaden
Rory Vaden
Rory Vaden
Rory Vaden

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