The three ways your brand matures (and the part you might be missing)

Your company is a lot like your Self. (The capitalization is purposeful. We’re talking about your whole person here, body and soul in the world.) I’m going to oversimplify the analogy, but for the purpose of making a point about your brand, hang with me just a second.

Startups are like babies. They’re new, they demand attention 24×7, and even though they don’t have a ton of deep personality yet, they’re still really interesting.

Come a little farther on the journey, and you have your mid-sized companies – the teenagers. They have proven their ability to exist, they have some pocket money, a community and a sense of what to do with their life. While they are doing interesting things, they may not generate as much attention as the fresh faced babies.

And then you have your grownups. The Fortune XXX brands. They’ve been around the block and they know who they are. So do other people. They can tell people what to do and most of the time, people listen. They’re probably pretty flush. The babies and teenagers use them as examples when they’re dreaming and scheming.

As we mature as people, we work to control what others think of us, how we look, what we do, and who we are deep down inside. Your brand is no different. It matures from the outside, on the surface and – most importantly – from within. Let’s break it down.

To an extent, your brand depends on what others say about you. No brand exists in a void, so you better be more interesting than the competition. What others say about you (especially the crowd you want to impress most) can have a tangible impact on your bottom line. Know your crowd and make friends with the right people.

A brand isn’t just an image, and it isn’t just a story. It’s everything you are, say and do. How and what you deliver is where you ‘put your money where your mouth is.’

Your people are the soul of your brand. If they understand the mission, believe in the vision and work willingly for the purpose, it’ll shine through and be your greatest source of differentiation and strength.

When we get wrapped up in working on delivering our ‘thing’ and focusing on what others are saying about us, it’s easy to forget that our people are the power behind our brand. A couple of recent events brought this point to light.

A couple weeks ago, I helped put on a team picnic at the company founder’s home. His employees came with dates, spouses and children. It was personal and human, and they all expressed belief in what the company is doing and excitement about their role. That brand heart and it shows in these advocates who so willingly and clearly represent it in the world.

This week, one of my clients unveiled their new brand internally. After months of naming strategy, visuals and messaging, it was ready to use. But before they started putting it on business cards and social profiles, they gathered their team. For an hour, we spoke to a packed room about purpose and process. We shared the outcome and listened to the feedback. Cakes with the new logo were served to celebrate. Everyone got a chance to feel like an important part of the new brand – because they are. They are the most important part of the brand, and allowing them to share in it gives it soul so it can really live in the world.

Is your brand superficial or deep? If it’s living from the outside in, it’s time to bring your people to the table and equip them to be your best advocates.