The Art of “I” Branding

November 2, 2007

My nose was runny at the office one day that I said to my friend, “Could you hand me the Kleenex?”  Without even looking away from her computer screen, she reached across the desk and passed me a box of tissue, and yes, we’re not in the States, so she was actually handing me a Paseo instead of a Kleenex.

Kleenex is one of the world’s greatest brand, with a power not to just dominant the market, but also to reach the point of commitment in which the customers actually felt a proximity, an intimacy, and a deep loyalty towards the brand to the degree that the word Kleenex actually became a generic name for tissue.  A few other brands have also enjoyed this society gratification.  The words “Just post-it your comments on the documents” or “I need you to Xerox this before the presentation” or even “The baby needs to have her Pampers changed” are used more and more in substitute of the words “stick the note”, “photocopy”, and “diapers.”  Nicholas Kochan wrote in his book The World’s Greatest Brand that brands impact enormously, not only on the company which owns them, but also on the wider society in which they operate and in which they are enjoyed.  A great brand serves not only as a marketing icon but also as a powerful emotional tool.  People are still ordering Cokes or wearing Nike shoes not just because they trust the quality of these two market leaders, but also because these loyal customers somehow feel emotionally attached to those brands.

Branding has this unbelievable power to repackage an abundance of perceptions, attitudes, behavior, and experiences that the people have on a name or a product into something unique to which they relate.  Volvo equals the safest ride on earth.  Benetton is commonly perceived as a representation of racial harmony through its matching of colors.  McDonald’s defines fast food.  Nike is worn by champions.

Let’s look at the case of the latter.  Nike was brilliantly named after the Greek goddess of victory, which now leads it to become a top-of-the-mind brand in the sporting goods industry.  It’s famous for taglining its advertising campaign “Just Do It” – encouraging everyone from athletes to average Joes and Janes like us to live the competitive spirits-, but my favorite is its latest tagline: “Why Sports?”  In this commercial, a woman was shown coming home from a workout with an axe murderer with a freaky ski mask waiting at her house.  Shocked and panicked, she immediately ran for her life, scrambling through the woods in her Nike, while the psycho kept running after her.  But only a minute of chase, the axe murderer started gasping for breath, and finally gave up the chase while the woman kept running and running away.  The tagline then reads: “Why Sports?  You’ll live longer.”   The brilliance of this commercial lies in the fact that it’s not directly selling Nike, but it’s actually emphasizing on sports.  But they know the mind of the consumers all too well because encouraging sports equals selling Nike.

While we’re very well aware of the depth of these greatest brands, can we also manage our image the way the companies are managing their brands?  How do we reach a point where we become a household name, recognized by the whole world only by first name basis, like Brad, Angelina, Jen, Oprah, and Tom?  Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, let’s just start with the simplest question of self-image management: how do you want to package yourself to get the wanted perception from the society around you?  Let me introduce you to the art of “I” branding.

Kochan said in his book that the brand-building process begins by understanding and anticipating the needs and desires of consumers and the key attributes of the product.  Although also deals with society’s perception and individual attributes, “I” branding is not about matching the desires and needs of the consumers with the person’s attributes.  “I” branding is much more narcissistic than that.  It’s about communicating your vision, individuality, views, and attributes in such a way so friends, acquaintances, or society in general will see you as one unique person, as a brand. 

While consumer products are developed to respond to the needs of the consumer – in which the packaging, the marketing concept, and the image are shaped to fit the society’s expectations -, your self-image is totally the opposite of that.  Branding consumer product means identifying with the market behavior.  Branding “me” means identifying myself the way I want the market to perceive me.  Coke, for example, responded to the growing habit of healthy living by introducing Diet Coke and caffeine-free Coca Cola.  If society wants “Ika” to be quieter and less opinionated, I will not immediately reshape my image to live up to that expectation, because the quiet Ika is not the “me” brand that I want to portray.  The power of “I” branding lies in the commitment to stick to the individual’s core values.

Core values are the motives behind your vision and the depth of your individual attributes.  These are the values that guide your thoughts, shape your behaviors, and define your presence.  How the “I” branding is interdependence with my core values is very obvious: society sees me from my appearance, views, thoughts, and behaviors.  The “I” branding is a genuine representation of my image and personality.  The “Ika” that I want society to see is an independent, smart, fun, chic, and pretentious female, because those are the five core values that construct my personality.  These five core values shape my outer image and identifies my inner being.  Although the “Ika” brand is not necessarily widely accepted in the market, that’s not the main point.  The significance of “I” branding is creating your own market, an elite group of society that enjoys your brand and later becomes a devotee.  Pardon me for sounding too pretentious, but these are the people who mingle easily with you, who respect your thoughts, love your presence, and even admire your personality.  Unlike a consumer brand, the challenges of “I” branding do not lie in penetrating and expanding the market, but in keeping and maintaining the existing market.  I must constantly live up to their expectations, because the occasional slip up of being dumb or boring will immediately cause my people (again, sorry for sounding too self-centered) to say: “What’s wrong with you?  That’s is sooo not Ika.”  But because their expectations are actually my own core values, it’s not hard at all to fullfill, right?

I realize that I’m not a marketing guru or a psychologist, but I believe “I” branding has managed to brilliantly collides the basic concept of psychology with the advanced adaptation of marketing.  “I” branding begins with self-discovery, continues through image portrayal and self brand management, and literally never ends.  It does not just put yourself out on the market, but it also continues to encourage you to grow as a person and to be honest to your true-self. 

Now tell me, what is your brand?



4 Responses to “The Art of “I” Branding”

  1. cedric Says:

    Hi Natassa,

    I am writing a research project paper and would like to use your article as a reference. This paper may be published in an academic journal but can only be accepted if the references used are validated. I was wondering if you could give me some background information about yourself and tell me if you used other references in order to write your article. Indeed, I can see that you wrote your article after having done some reading.

    I thank you in advance for your help.

    Kind regards


  2. Merlin Kersch Says:

    By far the most concise and up to date information I found on this topic. Sure glad that I navigated to your page by accident. I’ll be subscribing to your feed so that I can get the latest updates. Appreciate all the information here

  3. I congratulate, it seems remarkable idea to me is

  4. Dorky Dimz Says:

    I’m currently doing may final research at my university and I’m found your page by accident, could U tell me if you used other references in order to write your article??
    btw, aku orang indonesia jg gt… jd please reply ya??

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: