Ask a good marketer how to get people to buy a product. Inevitably, you’ll get to the concept of branding. It’s a way of defining yourself, your product or service, and what makes it special. It might entail visual presentation, such as colors or font, maybe a logo or a catchphrase. It’s a way of presenting yourself in a way that makes people know who you are and what you’re about, from a professional standpoint. If you’re successful, someone looking at a combination of colors or thinking about a specific topic will think, “Hey, that’s this guy’s turf. I should call him.”
I’m not a marketing expert. I’m a therapist. Seemingly, successful branding and mental health have little or nothing to do with each other. On a deeper level, though, there’s a significant degree of overlap between the two.
We all have brands for ourselves, whether they’re professional or personal. Some of our branding messages are helpful and supportive, like “I’m capable of taking on new things,” or “I’m a good cook.” We’ve paid special attention to the parts of our life stories that support these messages, and we believe them to be true. We continue to notice and reinforce those stories, making our brand stronger.
Then there are the unhealthy brands, the ones that tell us we’re ineffectual, or incapable. The messages that tell us we’re failures and cannot change are also products of our stories. We’ve culled these narratives to form a comprehensive evaluation of our selves, our efficacy, and our value as people. These are the brands that not only aren’t helpful, but hold us back actively. It’s as if we’re putting up billboards in the Main Street of our heads, declaring, “You can’t do this!!!”
Businesses look at their branding strategy all the time. There’s a very hands-on role they play in public perception; how they market themselves and understanding how their marketing resonates with their audience. People need to run their lives the same way. Be aware of what billboards you’ve seen in your head. What do they tell you about yourself? How are you going to market yourself to yourself? What’s your brand?
If you haven’t thought these things through in a while, perhaps it’s time to do that. What do you want your brand to be?