Branding has traditionally been thought of as defining who you are, and there are many branding techniques and methods that start with you defining what your business’ purpose is and then working outwards from that central point to identify the brand.
But it’s worth considering what your brand is not. It’s worth thinking about the things that define who you aren’t!
Sherlock Holmes had Moriarty.
Luke Skywalker had Darth Vader.
Superman had Lex Luther.
Seinfeld had Newman.
Although we could probably define these protagonists on their own, what they stand for becomes even clearer when they are portrayed against their villain – that is, when they are portrayed against the person who opposes them.
The same thing is true in your business. As you develop your brand, you’ll articulate your brand easily enough with some of the buzzwords and characteristics that you like – either they describe you now or they describe what you aspire to.
But take a moment to describe who your villain is.
I don’t mean that your villain is necessarily yoor competition, and I don’t mean that your villain is necessarily the opposite of you. (Take Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty as an example. They might be on opposite sides of the law but they are similar in some ways, too).
Describe what you don’t want to be. Describe the kind of brand that you don’t want to be described as.
I think a great example in the corporate is Apple versus Microsoft. In fact, Apple blatantly used Microsoft as their “villain” and many of their commercials pitted the two brands against each other. To PC users, it was a mildly humorous dig. To Apple users, it helped to unite them against a common “foe”. Today, Apple’s audience does the same thing now between Apple and Blackberry.
I’ll give you another example from my own business: I’m a freelance writer who specializes in business, finance, and real estate. I’ve always liked those elements as part of my brand. It resonates with something I’ve always aspired to. But when I consider who my “villain” is, they are someone who writes anything for anyone (i.e. a generalist) or someone who is a novelist or someone who is a jounralist. Obviously there is nothing wrong with those professions but I use them as a way to describe what I don’t do. I’m not those things and by describing what I’m not, it becomes clearer what I am.
Here’s what this means for your brand: I believe that branding is an ongoing, constantly-evolving process and how you brand yourself today might be a little different than how you brand yourself tomorrow. And part of branding is figuring out who you are and what your business stands for. But that will only go so far in helping to define your brand. You need to constantly assess who your villain is – who are you NOT – to determine your brand.