We live in a society that values experts. And, by “experts” I mean people who specialize in a certain niche fields of business or study. Your expertise is often your brand.
What Branding Is
If you want a decent paying job, you’ll probably need to develop a specialized set of skills that you can uniquely market to others. Skills that make you uniquely “you” and help you stand out from the rest of the crowd.
For example, if you are a chef, it’s not enough to say you are a good cook. Rather, you need to be able to say you are great at making Texas style barbeque. Saying such can be the difference between getting a job merely as a line cook vs being the executive chef at a restaurant.
When individuals specialize in certain areas they begin building a “brand.” A brand is simply the “image” people associate in their minds when they think about you. “You” aren’t simply a chef, but a Texas barbeque wizard who knows how to form a killer bark on a brisket.
And if you are on the Food Network, it might be helpful if you can spike your hair for decades at a time, and be really good at throwing adjectives around (like the “Mayor of Flavor Town,” Guy Fieri).
Branding Can Be Dangerous
Branding in and of itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. People tend to cultivate a “brand” or “image” or “identity” about themselves whether they are conscious of the fact of it or not. This happened a lot in Jr. High and High School. Branding happens often and early, and seems to be a natural force in the universe.
The danger with branding though, is that it can commodify us into things that can be bought and sold. And if our personal brand starts to be connected with the thing that is being bought or sold, it could have a corrupting influence on who we are as people.
Take for example, Ravi Zacharias. He’s a popular “apologetics” minister in Evangelical Christian circles. Zacharias has built up quite the reputation as a superstar in this world. If you need anyone who can refute skeptics and answer objections to the Christian faith, Ravi Zacharias is your guy. That’s his “brand.”
But apparently this popularity wasn’t enough for Ravi Zacharias. He needed something that gave him a little extra “umph” to his ministry branding. At some point in his career, Ravi Zacharias started calling himself “Dr.” Ravi Zacharias, and marketed himself as having earned a PhD from Oxford and Cambridge. Unfortunately, this was a lie, and he was forced to acknowledge such after famed blogger Warren Throckmorton uncovered the truth and exposed him.
While branding might be unavoidable, I think we need to be careful that we aren’t focused strictly on our branding, whether or not we are speaking about ourselves as individuals, or as corporations.
If all we do is focus on our branding, we’ll eventually be put in a position where we simply don’t live up to the expectations of others regarding who we are, and we may be forced to compromise who we actually are in order to maintain a certain image.
Instead of always focusing on developing, marketing, and protecting our brand, we need to become larger than a brand. As a Christian, I believe we need to focus on being continually conformed to the image and likeness of God.
God is bigger than our branding.
And, in focusing on being conformed to the image of God instead of the image of our logo, we can escape the inevitable temptation that will threaten our particular brand. We won’t need to continually make ourselves into a commodity that can be bought, sold, re-designed, or even put out of business. We can be free to be the person that God created us to be, as bearers of His image instead of our own.