Belief As Brand

Special-K used to be just a crisped rice & wheat cereal.  Just a single product, simple.

Today, though, Special-K is a brand.  It started with more flavours of cereal, then extended to nutrition bars and pastry crisps, to meal replacement shakes and protein water, to crackers and crisps.

Marketers figured out that once customers knew what a brand stood for — what the belief structures behind it were — that other products that embodied those beliefs could easily come under the umbrella, quickly signalling their own values by wearing the known brand.

If a brand is a set of beliefs and values, quickly communicated, that consumers sign up for when they purchase a product.   This is why consumers end up owning brands; products that they decide well represent the values they think the brand means succeed, products that don’t, fail, as the developers of New Coke found.   Coke turned out to be much more about traditional values than about a flavour profile that worked better with HFCS.

Since we now live in a world of brands and branding, there are many, many people who believe that individuals need to be able to brand themselves to create success, using all the marketing strategies of positioning and value statements, shaping the belief structure and then continuing to develop the product — the person — to more fully and effectively meet those branding beliefs.

In this world, we don’t reinvent ourselves, we rebrand ourselves, defining our beliefs and values in a new way, then reformulating who we are to deliver on that label.

The big problem with branding, though, is that it is nowhere near as easy as it seems.   Every product in the dollar store has some kind of branding slapped onto the package, often created like the exercises in packaging assigned to art students.   How hard can it be, many people think, to brand a product or to brand themselves?   It’s just a bit of bullshit, right?

Dollar Tree knows that it isn’t that simple.  They buy up old, out-of-use brands to apply to their products, for example buying the Breck brand for in-house hair and baby products.   Why do they think it is worth the money to buy brands rather than just have interns make them up out of thin air?

It turns out that we respond to brands with depth and history.   We want to have brands that resonate, that for some reason, either past remembering or depth of knowledge, make us feel like there is more than just a label to the brand.

Great brands are great brands because they have substance, because they are not just a paper thin veneer popped on a generic product.   Great brands come out of great products with great histories because the values and the beliefs have clarified and made rich by the process of focusing on quality.    As much as Google creates the future, its roots of a few guys in a garage building an elegant and useful product still live on in its every successful venture.

Deciding what you should believe, what others want to hear, can only create a tinny pitch until you have the texture and tone that offers credibility.  That depth can only come from the real experience and traditions of creating mastery, not from making the label prettier.

You can’t just create a brand and then grow into it, but the process of defining your brand by assessing what you have to offer and what you value can help sharpen your own communication and your own choices.    The process of developing and defining a brand makes product choices more crisp and the process of product development makes branding richer and more clear.   They work together.

In many ways, transgender emergence includes the process of rebranding, taking knowledge, truth, values and beliefs that were previously hidden and putting them out front.    Combined with the process of development, shedding non-productive choices and replacing them with choices that more effectively represent and deepen what we offer, this give us a basis for becoming new, for dropping what doesn’t work and mastering that which is more effective and resonant in the world.

For me, it’s time for a rebranding.   I need to take what I believe & value and turn that into new choices, both of clear expression and of decisive action.

Rebranding always comes with resistance, because people are accustomed to the old brand, the brand they know and love, even if that brand has become moribund and is no longer growing in the world.   It even comes with resistance from inside, because we are familiar, comfortable and even fond of the way we have done things before.

To take what we believe, to get that clear and crisp, and then to turn those beliefs into a clear brand that we in turn use to shape our future choices, revealing ourselves as integrated and credible, then iterating what we learn back into strengthening our brand is a very newfangled way of self-development.   It is creation for culture where attention is the most precious commodity and where brand awareness is the drivers of most people’s choices.

The way we express belief today is by developing and consolidating brands.   That branding is not separate from becoming better but is part of the same process.

I need a rebranding, one that supports new choices and beliefs which transcend doubt and facilitate creation.   Happy brand, happy choices, happy me.

Being Belief

Whether you believe that you can, or you believe that you can’t, you’re right.

Henry Ford understood that attitude is at the centre of our ability to achieve.   Doubt depletes motivation, doubt removes that strength of persistence which is at the core of all achievement.    Once you think that it can’t be done, the probability of you doing it falls precipitously, down to around zero.

If you really believe it can be done, you will take the time to analyze why others have failed, why you have failed in attempts to do it, question what could have been done better, then come up with considered, new and innovative approaches that offer more possibilities of achievement.

If you really believe it can be done, you will make the tradeoffs and pay the costs required to achieve, rather than holding back, deciding that you are throwing good money after bad.   It may not be able to be done at a price you can afford after all, but if you believe it cannot be done, then you can never consider what the possible price may be.

I’m pretty clear about what I believe I cannot do.   What, though, do I believe that I can do?

In the end, your choices are shaped by what you believe you can do.

The doubter is wise, the believer is happy, as the old Hungarian proverb goes.

My job in the world has been the doubter.  I doubted for my family, I doubted myself to maintain the status quo. I doubted for my people to explore and communicate the boundaries of the trans experience.

I have chosen doubt for a million good reasons, not least of which is that I am very, very good at it, showing a theological bent from an early age.

I have a birthday coming up, though, one of those rollover birthdays where a digit resets to zero, a birthday that marks me as old.

Maybe it’s it is finally my time to wear purple, to act on my beliefs rather than my doubts, to reach for some kind of unfettered happiness.

It is a joy to find someone who believes in you, but there is a reason that Bobby Morse’s character in “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying” sings “I Believe In You” to a mirror.   In the end, you gotta believe in yourself because people tend to reflect your own beliefs rather than to lead them.

Whether you believe that you can, or you believe that you can’t, you’re right.

Can I believe that happiness exists in the world for someone like me, as scarred and battered as I am?   Or do I continue to vest my identity in the really brilliant and useful doubting that has defined so much of my life?

My beliefs have been bounded and constrained by the beliefs of others.   Thought forms gather strength by the number of people who sign on to them, as Rachel Pollack reminds me.

If our beliefs shape our possibilities, how do we own beliefs in the modern world?

That’s a good question for the next post.