Pause the Curation: Building More than a Brand Image
One of the biggest lies in branding is that you need to have everything figured out at once. It can become very easy to be product-focused instead process-driven. As soon as the business idea or creative concept floats through our minds, we’re immediately claiming Instagram accounts, website domains, and curating feeds. We focus on looking good before we’re doing good.
This is not an entirely bad phenomenon, but this framework can lead us straight into cycles of imposter syndrome and creative paralysis. Trust me, I’ve been there. Over the past five years, I couldn’t count on two hands how many startup ideas I’ve had. I was managing six instagram accounts at one point and was only getting paid to schedule for one of them, and only because it was one of my responsibilities as a salaried employee. While it wasn’t unwise for me to stake claim on corners of the internet to incubate ideas, I can acknowledge that I used my time unwisely because I was too focused on building a brand image rather than building a brand.
BRAND VS. BRAND IMAGE
I like to define the Brand as the creative residue that is left in the room when the creator is not present. Your Brand is kind of like an agent that speaks up on your behalf. It shows the process of your work. It is a narrative tool that helps the crowd decide to trust you to nourish them or provide a product that serves their greater good.
The Brand Image is how the brand looks and behaves in a space. It projects the creator’s ideas onto the consumer's senses to inform them of the quality of the creator’s tools, breadth of knowledge, and command of the space. The Brand Image is important, because it releases the story of the brand by engaging the audience through their senses.
The Brand and Brand Image are essential to a creator’s success, depending on their goal. It's important to establish how necessary they both are to the creator’s process. It’s also important to note that one cannot work without the other. If the creator’s brand image is spectacular, but the story is off, the process will suffer. If the creator’s story is on point, but the brand image is lacking, it will fail to land correctly on the audience’s senses.
What we often see in social media is the phenomenon of a Brand Image without a Brand Story. What we often see offline is the Brand Story without the Brand Image. The two work together to build value overtime, however, because of the lie—that we as creators need to have everything figured out at once—we miss a beautiful opportunity to tell the stories of where we are.
Instead of showing up honest, we make it appear as if we are where we’re not in our brand stories. That’s where the disconnect comes from. We spend too much time curating social feeds that are aesthetically sound rather than engaging in a work process that supports our vision. We wonder why people aren’t connecting with our content—or songs, or poetry—but we neglect to ask the question: is the brand that we’re selling promoting the true stories of where we are? Or are we selling a mirage, hoping that likes, followers, and views will validate the vision that we’re trying to create for ourselves? Are we hoping that an immaculate Brand Image will make up for a lack of story, context, and depth within our brands—a lack that is the direct result of us lying to our audiences because we’re too scared of being discovered as frauds?
I’d like to propose that we as artists, especially performing artists, approach branding differently. No more lying to our audiences. We can do both the Brand and the Brand Image well by showing up with what we have and telling the true stories of where we are in our processes and what we have to offer. Not only may we find more capacity to create freely in this kind of framework, but the key is that we’ll be creating and not just curating for the ‘gram.