A Brand Called You

Lesson 2/22 - Defining Brand


A Brand Called You


Lesson Info

Defining Brand

The class is called, "A Brand Called You". So there's this big elephant in the room, at least I think there is, and that is, what is branding? What is branding? What does it mean to brand? And so I wanna talk a little bit about branding. Let's talk, just get some definitions out of the way so that we're literally and figuratively all on the same page about what the notion of branding is. Because branding is not a result. So branding is a result, not a journey. It's a result, it is what you are left with. You don't start out as a brand, you create a brand through specific ways of working and I'm gonna talk very, very seriously about ways in which you create and build a brand but you don't just have a brand. A brand isn't just born, you have to create that brand so my definition of branding is a very simple one and I've done a lot of research in branding and in my book, "Brand Thinking And Other Noble Pursuits" I speak with some of the world's greatest brand thinkers. Malcolm Gladwell, S...

eth Godin, Dan Pink, Virginia Postrel, amazing, amazing thinkers and I asked them all, "What is your definition of branding?" and not surprising, everyone had a very specific opinion about what branding is and they had their own definition. However, they were all different so it's this really squishy, amorphous thing but it isn't really. So I wanted to come up with a definition that I felt was sort of, foundation. Take everything else away, take all the other words, a promise, an experience, all that other stuff and give you a definition, create a definition that succinctly describes this process of branding and so my definition of branding is "deliberate differentiation". That's it. No promises, no experiences. Deliberate differentiation. You want to create something that's different from everything else. If you're not creating something that's different for everything else, why do you need it? There's plenty of brands out there. Over a hundred brands of nationally marketed water. So unless there's something different about whatever it is that you're making, creating, why? Don't need it. So that's the bench mark. So you start with something that's different from everything else and we'll talk about how to get to that and then you very deliberately create that. Intentional differentiation. Thoughtful differentiation. Differentiation with meaning. One of my my partners that's growing brands wrote a book a couple of years ago called "Brand Is A Four Letter Word", brilliant, brilliant man named Austin McGhie and in that book, he talks about what truly great brands are and do and this is a quote from his book. And this was based on thinking about products, thinking about brands that you buy but I actually think that this is a wonderful quote about what brands can do in general because I believe now, that almost everything is a brand and I don't mean that in an overly consumerous kind of way. Brands are doing more than they ever have before and are our history as a species, they define our belief, they telegraph who we are, they allow us to create a sense of who we are that we can project to others and so the most authentic way of doing that, whether it be for a person or a thing, is from the inside out and so if a branded product in a super market is built from the inside out, then how amazing that who you are is built from the inside out, who you are in your heart that you then build from the inside out and so that's one of the things that I'd like us to keep in mind today as we think about how to create a persona that we share with others, the most important thing is that it come from the inside out. It's not an outside-in construction because then it's not based on anything that's real and it's really not being something, it's not able to be something that other people can connect to so branding is the result of sound, strategic positioning. It is the result of sound, strategic positioning. Positioning is what you are, not what you say so in order to be able to understand how to position yourself in the marketplace, you need to be able to understand what you are, who you are and then you build and a great position sits at the heart of either an organization or a being and it drives everything that you do including your communication and for a person, a great position is in your heart and drives everything you do, especially your communication so your communication is essentially how you talk about your unique beliefs and benefits and you state those with stature and sincerity. And that is how you develop a way to talk about yourself and don't worry, we're gonna go through this, literally word by word in the next session where we are going to deconstruct this statement and talk about every single word so that you understand how you can begin to position yourself for the marketplace. When I ask people, when I ask young people, what do they think makes them different from someone else, what is your unique benefit that you will bring to any work environment, the first thing they tend to say is that they're a people-person, they're a good people-person. I'm really not joking. I wanna tell you something, no one cares if you are a people-person, no one cares if you are a people-person, no one. There is no real benefit to being a people-person and I don't even know that there's a definition we could all agree on about what a people-person actually means. This is the bottom line, literally and figuratively, people are going to be hiring you to provide a benefit, they're going to be giving you money to do the thing that you say you love to do or that you want to do because you love it. They're giving you money. You have to give them something back. They're paying you to do something that is going to benefit that organization. I often joke that someone out there in the marketplace must love peach-flavored powdered ice tea. Why? Because it's on the market. Companies don't put products out in the market for very long that people don't buy. If it's out there and it's been out there for a while, it's because people buy it. Companies aren't altruistically putting products into the marketplace thinking, "Oh, this is something they're gonna love, maybe they'll buy it and maybe they'll give us money and then maybe if we're profitable, we'll give some of that money back to our shareholders. That doesn't work that way. Doesn't work that way. There's profit and loss statements that need to be maintained, there's all sorts of fiduciary responsibilities that brand-makers have to their shareholders and so they are providing products in a marketplace that they hope people will love and buy and buy again and buy often. So if you are going to be working and you are going to be hired, you need to be able to communicate what it is that you do that is going to provide a return on the investment that they make for giving you that money. So no one will ever care or want to hear that you are a people-person.

Class Description

It takes work to get the work you love. It takes knowing how to interview well, how to communicate flawlessly, how to articulate your own purpose and to simultaneously do this while facing tremendous rejection. Debbie Millman is one of the most influential design minds of our time; an author, educator, brand strategist, and founder and host of the acclaimed podcast Design Matters. In her class you'll learn how to:

  • Create a meaningful philosophy that will guide your career
  • Present yourself in meetings and interviews
  • Network and standout from your competition
  • Find discipline in your approach to work
  • Sell yourself with more confidence

Are you spending enough time on looking for, finding and working towards winning a great job? Are you doing everything you can—every single day—to stay in “career shape”? What else should you be doing?

Join Debbie and answer these questions you should be asking yourself...



this class was a wonderful combination of personal values translating in a business context, plus very VERY practical advice on how to "win" jobs. Super practical while also incorporating big picture thinking. Debbie is just a gem, multifaceted, and such an authentic speaker who deeply cares about her students.

Annet Katan

This is life changing course! And not just for designers but for EVERYONE who is going to WIN the dream job! Debbie is an amazing and inspiring educator. Her energy and excitement for the material is remarkable.