Words by Sanele Mawisa
Brand: A brand is a name, term, design, symbol or other feature that distinguishes an organization or product from its rivals in the eyes of the customer. Brands are used in business, marketing and advertising.
You’ll notice in the definition provided above that there is no reference to person or persons. For the longest time, brands have been associated as companies or organizations. This is what you would deem a traditional definition. The world of the digital age is anything but traditional and as such this understanding of what a brand is, has changed and rightfully so. You are a brand. Whether you know it or not, what you represent is your brand.
There is a greater awareness digitally of what being your own brand is and what it means. However you need a strong foundation before you can truly be a strong brand. The 3 questions you should ask yourself at the beginning of this process is: Who am I? (what is your personality); What do I stand for? (your morals, standards and purpose); Why should anyone care? (your relatability to your fans/supporters).
After you have asked yourself those 3 questions, you can start to paint the picture of your brand. Building a brand is not an easy process and it is a never-ending journey. Similarly to how your life has phases, so too will your brand. How you mature and learn and evolve as a person is inextricably linked to your brand.
To cast back to the original definition, there is one key point which is crucial to carving out a brand that accurately represents who you are. “A feature that distinguishes an organization or product from its rivals in the eyes of the customer”. A popular advertising/marketing term to describe this is what is your USP? – Unique Selling Point. What makes you special and different to anyone else? Because if your brand can be easily replicated then it isn’t very strong.
Are you the Motswako Originator? Are you a female that raps in a unique South African language? When you know your USP, you can build your brand around it. Even if you’re not the only one, but are you among the best? That is what matters.
Another important aspect to consider is your tagline. It doesn’t have to be explicit as in the case of organizations or companies but on an internal level what is your tagline that you can refer to as defining your brand. One of the most iconic taglines of all time is Just Do It. Everything that the Nike brand does is through the lens of Just Do It. It is unmistakably Nike.
Think of any artist in your head and try and imagine what their tagline could or should be. That is a sure-fire test for their strength of their brand.
Relevance and relatability is what will make people care. Does your story, your personality resonate with your audience? Do they have an idea of what it feels like to be you? At the end of the day, consumers must find a reason to care about you and be invested in you and your brand.
Digitally there are a few examples of artists who have a strong and distinguishable brand and we’ll look at 3 who I believe fall into that category. Riky Rick. Kwesta. Sho Madjozi. 3 very different people, in the same industry, with strong brands. Immediately I can associate 1 word, term or saying with each artist. Riky Rick – Stay Shining/Cotton Eater, Kwesta – K1/Spirit, Sho Madjozi – Iyaaah. Now when analysing this, you’ll notice that you can already understand their brand. Riky Rick is a super positive, swag dude, Kwesta loves where he is from and his career has come in leaps and bounds which has required an indomitable spirit, Sho Madjozi is full of fun, energy, dancing and happiness which is translated into her trademark adlib “Iyaaah”.
What is important to note here is the level of consistency to their brand. They rarely contradict their brand or go against their brand and that is a vital aspect of branding. Consistency. Digital consumers are smarter now than ever before and will pick up inconsistencies and tell you about it in 280 characters or even a thread.
I do not espouse to be the expert here but here are a few tips to starting, growing, maintaining and innovating your brand:
1. Surround yourself with people that know who you are as a human being. When you’re lost and unsure of who you are, they will be your True North and help you back to your destined path.
2. Look at how your idols have built their brands and take aspects that work with your personality. If you share similarities in career path or journey. Do some research on them. Take what you need and leave the rest.
3. Turn down anything that doesn’t feel in tune with your brand. And this means anything, not just potential collaborations with people or brands. Do not compromise your brand for anything. It is yours and yours alone.
4. Protect your brand at all costs. It’s easy to destroy and difficult to rebuild.
5. Don’t be stagnant, always look for ways to add more layers and texture to your brand. The more purposeful and detailed you are, the better. It adds more to your USP.
6. Get media training. How you want to be perceived by the media and your fans is not necessarily the same because they think differently and possibly expect different things from you, so understand that and adjust accordingly.
7. Understand your market. Know what makes them happy and what makes them sad. Be attuned to who they are.
Lastly, you are human, you will make mistakes, but it is the ownership of your mistakes that will endear you to others.
To close, with the words of Denzel Washington: “Keep moving, keep growing, keep learning. See you at work”.