More than a face

I viewed a 60-second IG reel this past week featuring a prominent agent podcaster and speaker riffing on the topic of branding. All her points led back to one main premise – your face is your brand

Given her prominence and likelihood that this unorthodox approach to branding may find its way into your strategy, let’s unpack this claim, using some fundamental laws of branding.  

Facing facts

Brand lives in the venn diagram overlap between what a company represents and what people truly desire for themselves. 

Apple is an obvious example. What the brand represents overlaps with what people truly desire for themselves, which lies in the belief that through use of Apple products, technology becomes a seamless and harmonious part of our lives. Apple customers believe the brand enhances how they live, work and connect with the world. 

The brand comes to lead the product. If Apple built a home, most people could easily imagine what that would look and feel like. They would desire it based on the intricate and personal connections they have to the brand itself, which lie well beyond the image of the founder. 

If you have a real brand, you should be able to generate a statement similar to the one above for Apple. When people hear your name, experience your service or see your face – assets that act as connectors to the brand – they should be able to recite and live that statement. 

It’s easy to get on a stage and tell the audience their face is their brand. After all, everyone has a face and they all want to build and own brands. Tell people what they want to hear, then make their desire super easy to realize. Standing ovation. 

Not so fast. 

On the face of it, a brand is…

To further express the examples above, a brand is a multifaceted concept but at its core, it’s the perceptions or sets of clear associations people have about companies and how their services or products will enhance their lives in very personal ways. 

Marlboro’s brand wasn’t a cigarette. It was built around its portrayal of rugged masculinity and individual freedom associated with the American cowboy. With every drag, the Marlboro smoker became their own embodiment of the Marlboro Man.  

Connections like this make up one aspect of brand building. Virginia Slims took a simple approach by portraying a female counterpart to the Marlboro Man —  one who was smart, successful, and had arrived in a new age. 

There are other strategies brands deploy to build their meaning and power. For example: 

Fulfillment of promises made to customers. (FedEx, Unilever)

Unique solutions to problems that improve daily experience. (Amazon, Uber)

Delivering a sense of self-esteem through their product. (LV, Porsche, Rapha)

Serving a purpose beyond sales and profit. (Ben & Jerry, Lego, Etsy, Warby Parker)

Awe inspiring innovation that captures our imagination. (Apple, Boston Dynamics, Netflix) 

Devotion and commitment to social good. (Tom’s, UNICEF, Lush, Patagonia)

Developing strategies like these with absolute consistency is what branding is all about. 

Our face? Well, unless it can trigger and deliver on deeper things like those above, it is not a brand, but something else entirely. 

So, what exactly is your face?

It’s a selfie camera, with a built-in personality filter.

It’s your physical emoji generator.  

It’s the movie trailer for your personality. 

It’s your most versatile tool for non-verbal communication, especially when words fail. 

As beautiful, handsome and expressive as your face is, the best it can be is a recognizable brand asset – one of many – no different than your logo or company name. But really, your face alone will never do anything other than be something people recognize. 

Recognition alone is not meaningful. Recognition alone is not a brand.  

A brand is a sense of pride, love, connection, understanding, aspiration, relief, or completion people have and desire for themselves. 

Can it be done in real estate, or as an individual agent? Yes it can. But I won’t be the one to tell you it’s easy.