Why Most Branding Conversations Are Dangerous & Harmful

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I have a lot of issue with most of the branding conversations out there.

I’ve seen literally hundreds of people come to me who’ve previously spent thousands of dollars on the gorgeous website and the perfect copy and the “well-branded” photos.

And then they have no idea how to talk about what they do. Or package it up. Or price it. Or market it. Or sell it. And they haven’t found their authentic voice. And they don’t know how the brand can allow them to become more of yourself.

And the truth is—they don’t have a brand. At best, they have disjointed manifestations of someone else’s brand. Or someone else’s projected idea of their brand.

And they’re trying to fit an image that they aren’t entirely.

I know. Because I’ve done it so many times in my life. Even when I swore I had the perfect ‘brand.’ That I finally found it. That I finally found myself.

Until it was limiting again.

The truth about branding is it’s inherently objectifying, reductive, and confining. That’s not up for debate. That’s actually a fact based on its history. And, until we start from that understanding, we can’t possibly build an authentic brand.

Etymologically, the word ‘brand’ means “to burn.” As in burning a stake into cattle. Reducing them to a mark or a number. It’s no surprise that in many other languages (including Italian), ‘brand’ translates to a “mark.”

During arguably the most objectifying recent memory in world history—the Holocaust—human beings were ‘branded’ and reduced to numbers.

Now, you may argue that this is totally removed from today’s more conceptual brands. But is it?

Brands evolved through general stores stamping products when transportation improved and craftsman signing their work, up through specialized stores and eventually specialized products, to today’s more conceptual brands that may not even include a logo or sign. But they’re a feel, an experience, an expectation.

Take Kesha for example. In a October 2016 article in The New York Times detailing Kesha and her alleged sexual assault by Dr. Luke, she mentioned that he “branded” her a the “fun girl” and told her they’d build an image around that.

She said, “I am fun, but I’m a lot of other things.” And he responded, “No, you’re fun. That’s all you are for your first record.”

That fact that that type of blatant reductionism and objectification—her “branding”—may have resulted in sexual violence is important to look at.

Branding can have—and has had many—real-world, dangerous implications.

And maybe more seemingly innocuously, I hear daily about people who feel trapped by their brands. The bubbly life coach who doesn’t know how to “put on the smile” in the middle of her divorce. The spiritual coach who’s taking on social injustices. The vulnerable warrior who doesn’t feel safe sharing this recent event. The intellectual who feels unable to share his spiritual beliefs.

Branding is typically given to us by someone else. Even when we hire someone to give us a brand, we are marked. The “slut,” the “loser,” the “good girl,” the “party animal.” All markings. All reductions of our being.

It’s important that we start there.

Because that’s exactly what Sacred Branding™ is. You may have heard about people who’ve gone through the work—either through Sacred Circle or with me one-on-one, and thought, “So what—it’s a few words? Why is it so life-changing? How could that possibly give you your purpose?”

And you’re right. Reducing someone’s purpose or brand sounds laughable. Totally implausible. How could we ever capture the essence of a person in five or six words?

Exactly. It’s through being that conscious of the history of branding that we start our work. Because we’re using its own objectification against itself. We are subverting it and making it subjectifying—or helping us step deeper into our Divinity.

We’re allowing the words themselves to be anchors or signifier of hundreds—maybe thousands—of other words that take into account all of our trauma, shame, purpose, skills, gifts, and experiences.

The truth is that branding—at least empowering branding—is life purpose. It has to be. Otherwise it will always be objectification.

And that means that businesses built on life purpose branding are literally healing containers. Your business is just a space for you to heal. Same as your relationships. And friendships. And session with your therapist.

And, since business is becoming you just being yourself, it has to be able to hold all of you. Even your deepest shame. Even your trauma. Even your perceived weaknesses and fears.

Most of us think of a brand as its physical manifestations. Like the website or the colors or the photos—or maybe even the web copy.

But a better—and more accurate—way to think of a brand is like a rosebush. It’s full of beautiful roses. And each of those roses is one of those gorgeous physical manifestations. A rose for web design and a rose for photos and a rose for copy.

But the brand itself is the roots. It’s the thing from which all else springs forth.

If we know our brand, of course we know how to package up offerings. Of course we know how to market the programs. Of course we know how to step into our authentic voice.

It’s something that grows and expands with us. It teaches us how to be more of ourselves. It teaches us how to step into our gifts and skills and purpose.

Otherwise, it’s inherently objectifying, limiting, and dangerous.

I’ve seen more damage by branding than I could ever even talk about. It’s critical that we can face it and subvert it.

That’s why we do Sacred Branding™. To understand, face, and ultimately subvert and transmute branding’s objectifying nature. To become more of ourselves and let business just be a natural extension of that.

To know our purpose.

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