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  • Writer's pictureAustin Mathews

Your Identity - How deep it goes and why it matters

Updated: May 19, 2023

Your Identity and how deep it goes
Your Identity and how deep it goes

In my previous post, I covered the grey areas in branding between personal and corporate. This time around, I’m going a bit deeper. They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that jazz, but frankly speaking, it’s just skin deep. Don’t get me wrong- aesthetics do count. We all love a beautiful smile and a hearty laugh, but that’s just surface level. The smile draws you in, but that’s not what makes you put a ring on it. True beauty comes from within- the essence of a being; how a person conducts themselves, their ethical and moral value system, how they engage with their peers and those older and younger. It’s a complex set of characteristics that strike a ‘connection’ in your heart, where you’re then hooked for life. Now we all know how life can randomly throw a lemon or two at you when you least expect it, but it’s this ‘connection’ that helps you navigate the sour situations, yet holding on to what’s important to you. That’s why you need to go deep.

Your Identity...

Your inner being is crucial to almost everything about you. It’s what defines you; it’s your identity. From what you believe in and what you stand for, it shapes your ‘voice’ that you carry out into the world. In today’s day and age, this identity that we speak of has developed far more layers than what we were familiar with a decade ago. Let me explain…

It’s highly probable that you’ve got a LinkedIn page that you update ever so often, because we need it to maintain our social/professional image. You may have noticed since the last year, you now can showcase ‘pronouns’ to display on your profile page. This is to tell visitors how you identify yourself, and in return, how they need to address you. Back in the day, you were either male or female, and that was that. Societal reforms took quite a while to open up to the transgender community because they didn’t conform to either gender, and slowly people realised that we just couldn’t be turning a blind eye towards other humans that were just different from us. In some third world countries till date, these often-misunderstood people are still shunned as outcasts mainly because the prevailing culture is still too archaic.

Connections between perception
Connections between perception

But as humans, we’re an amazing species when we manage to look beyond ourselves and work towards inclusions, and that’s how gender identity has become quite the layered topic. We’re not debating the morality of anything here because we’re not people of the clergy, but the point I’m making here is that there’s a whole lot more acknowledgement now of people who identify themselves differently than the original flavours. Most of the first world countries today recognise multiple gender categories, such as non-binary and a-gender folk. You may argue here, “but some of that is all just a state of mind!”, and you’d be somewhat right in stating that. Yet whether mental or physical, there is some acknowledgement of such divergence under the LGBTQ+ banner. Honestly, I’ve lost track of how many other consonants or symbols are being added onto that, and neither am I one to judge, but it does show how the newer generations are being more open-minded to a lot of previously tricky and complex issues that are now considered as stifling to their identity. Today, we’re having mass protests in Iran over compulsory wearing of the hijab, and women there are just not backing down, even if it means risking their actual lives. Pretty sure the guys in Saudi Arabia are watching nervously from around the corner. People are standing up for themselves; for an ‘updated’ version of their lives, for an ‘updated’ tomorrow. No to hijabs. No to corruption. No to abortion control. No to racism. No to bullsh*t- well sorry, that last one’s just me.

People just want to be heard. Understood. Felt. Validated. And you can only do that with empathy. We’re not born with this ability- it’s nurtured over time. It doesn’t happen by itself; you must want to build it as a characteristic of your own value system. Your own identity. So where am I going with this, you ask… patience, my dear reader; you must know about Rome.

People build brands, not the other way around
People build brands, not the other way around

Now take all this understanding about identity and apply it to the brands of today. The successful ones are those that have a clear-cut identity. You know what they stand for, what they offer, and how they resonate with you personally. It’s why you’re a regular consumer of said brand. It’s because of their on-point messaging and strategy, be it product, price, or whatever metric you’d like to factor in. It just works for you. So, it’s pretty simple right? Not nearly so, because when you suddenly widen the target audience from Gen X to Gen Z, you’ll realise that its quite complicated, given the fact that each generation has their own identities, perceptions, values, and the likes. They have uniquely different aspirations, which when it comes to brand messaging and positioning, can be quite the tedious task to ensure everyone is spoken for. If the creative team doesn’t do their job right, you as a brand will suffer losses because you’ll fall off the radar of your favourite customer base, simply because you’re no longer appealing to them for whatever reason.

As they say, you can’t please everyone, so it’s best to focus on what really matters: sustainability, but in every aspect though. If your brand is forward-thinking, you’ll be doubly conscientious in plotting out your strategy. You’ll want to be able to hear your customers. Understand them. Feel them. Connect with them. This is what is referred to as having empathy in branding.

The Four Pillars of Brand Empathy

Four Pillars of Brand Empathy
Four Pillars of Brand Empathy

If you’re hitting the 4 pillars covering foundation, cognitive, emotional and action when crafting your message, then you’ve created a personable brand that’s bound to connect with a wider range of your customers and build a relationship that resonates and lasts. I could get into further details, but at this point, I’ll pass on the opportunity of turning this into a novel. What I will tell you though, is that it’s absolutely imperative that this gets done for any brand that wants to make it into the next decade, because the generation of your customer base will have changed by then, and you can’t be sitting on the wall sounding like a dinosaur. So look within- deeper.

Because at Unmarketing, that’s where we start.

It’s one of the first steps of our process when it comes to branding - the UNM Workshops. Amazing things happen during these sessions with our clients. We take a long and deep look into your identity- your past, present and future. We dissect your brand story, your origins, stakeholder vision and sentiments, the ignition factor, the customer journey and what they have to say about you, the brand experience as a whole, and the glue that keeps it all together. But we don’t stop there. Given our breadth of experience with top tier brands across the globe covering most industries, we then challenge your game plan. You see, mulling over the marketing plans for weeks and months, there’s a high chance you’ve probably got tunnel vision already, and that puts you in a zone with a blind spot or two. Unless you’ve got a big team that has done their homework really well, so kudos to you, but in our experience, 8 out of 10 times we’ll end up discovering those blind spots. In some cases, we end up creating something brand spanking new in terms of a future business vertical or then even a realignment of stakeholders’ objectives and company direction. Sounds like a whole lot, doesn’t it? Well, that’s what you’d be paying for. We’re not interested in being ‘yes’ people just looking to bill you with typical mundane crap. That’s not how we do it. We have our own identity that’s built on a strong culture code, definably convergent as we are. Unalike. Unafraid. Unanticipated…

That’s us in a nutshell. Question is: what are you willing to challenge about yourself?

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