The Corporate Self

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by: Jennifer Rice

Over the past several years I've gotten uncomfortable with the word 'brand.' Branding has traditionally been associated with marketing communications: the logo, tag line, visuals and tone of voice. I've been fighting a losing battle in my attempt to broaden the definition of brand to include operations. Talk to a CEO about his brand and he immediately says, "oh, that's a marketing decision." Yet if a company's actions don't match its words, the brand is simply a facade that customers so clearly see through.

So this morning I was surfing through the thesaurus in search of an alternate word without so much baggage. It was pretty enlightening. Compare the associations with the following two words:

Brand: Classification, badge, identification, signature, symbol, emblem, stamp, label
Self: Being, essence, personality, substance, texture, distinctiveness, singularity, essential nature

Brand is associated with external 'label' words, whereas self digs deeper into essence. And essence is the true heart of a brand. Self — used as a modifier — also has many other meanings: self-important, self-confident, self-respect, self-control, self-centered, selfish. It's a great reminder that brand (self) can have positive or negative connotations, and that self-perception may be completely different from how others perceive you.

"What is your corporate self?" What a provocative question. It circumvents every pat, rote answer that's been spewed out to customers, employees and investors about the brand. It forces a shift in thinking from externals to essence. It also wipes out the silo mentality and departmental battles. Because the word implies one body. What is in the best interest of the hand, eye or foot is usually in the best interest of the entity. All parts work together for the good of the whole.

As I play around with this idea, I'd love the thoughts of my fellow bloggers!

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