Human Brand Strategies | Exploring the Ignition Between Personal Brands, Soulfulness in Action and Enterprise:
What Lies within?
And What Lies beneath?
Photo by Dawn Clark, AIA LEED AP
Every Brand is Made for Humans. Every Human Could be a Brand.
What is the story and how is it actionable?
Tell a story, tell a truth, act on authenticity?
I was a student at The Evergreen State College, and I was asked to offer a presentation at a networking event to support the school. It was during those days, decades back, that I was thinking about where to go to college, I looked for a new future in my learning — especially given my calamitous experiences in grade school, middle school, and high school — (I didn’t fit in well in any context of segmented learning…) so I applied only to “new” colleges.
My first choice, literally, New College in Sarasota, Florida. I attended for a year and moved onwards; another I studied as a potential, Antioch — and finally, The Evergreen State College, which was during that time a brand new institution. That was the 70s.
My challenges had to do with curiosity, attention and enthusiasm. I had an idea about where I wanted to go, what I hoped I could do, but I had a challenging time finding the right path to get there. It really was in late high school that I hit the mark — it was there, linking to specially attentive teachers, educators that thought differently about “ways to learn.”
I flourished in that channel of learning action.
And in that, the learning literally had to be my way.
To the end of “my way” it also meant — in my personal history — that I never had a boss,
nor did I ever really have a job, working for someone else.
I worked for myself.
My work was always about working with, for, and by myself — but I came to an early realization that the challenges of doing things alone were inherently insular, so I set about, early on, building a community of talent, and the minds that I would need to be working in partnership with me.
That strategy continues to this day.
Surely, I don’t [and can’t] do everything well,
more so, I was never truly trained as a designer.
But as in anything,
I know what I like,
and I know what I like to see.
To working solo?
That might’ve been cutting wood, digging ditches and earthen holes, moving things, teaching drawing or calligraphy, and at one point being — of all things — a youth counselor; this as a “favor” from a Jesuit who’d had me as a seminary charge for driving my German language teacher to a nervous breakdown (and being “suspended” for it.)
That idea of singularity, the single person, is coupled with the premise of cumularity, the grouped “cloud” — it is about the single one, and the atmospheric cumulation — the clustered cloud of minds and talent, that float in the drifting power of proximal intelligence.
Perpetually, in my work, I find that a brand invariably goes back to the one,
and those who follow.
Or those that don’t.
Who pays attention?
And, in the center
of the web of invention…
Here are some notes on this line of thinking,
as well as the presentation at Antioch University
on GIRVIN’s Human Brand development process:
There is a distinct link between the chromosomal code of the character of the person,
the psychical persona and the power of the enterprise —
one to one, one to many.
Ripples, it does.
There is the point to being in the center –
the passionate: the leaders, storm bringers, fire starters, the story spinners –
and there are those
embrace the storm, charge the kindling, weave the tales,
inspire the story listeners that are warmed
by the firing of the flames.
The sound, the story — it goes out to be carried and shared by others.
What story could you — one sentence — tell us about yourself, how would that be developed and examined — how could you share it?
But that story could relate to a modeling that links to a corporate modeling as well — building the framing of that legacy —
what is the story in a sentence, that could captivate a relationship?
That journey of discovery — the method that we use — is the selfsame principle that we employ in the exploration of a corporation, or its leaders; it’s a matter of listening, asking the right questions, organizing content and framing the path to actualization.
What’s the story of the brand,
human or otherwise,
and what does it,
what could it,
Powerful brands about imbued with passionate fire whether that is the person, or the business proposition — if there’s a fiery presence, it’s recognized, easily recalled, stories are built upon it, legends are told. What of attention? Focus is the path to building brands — and the intentionality of approach.
The real legacy of brand lies in the ancient nature of the word — but it’s more than merely 1000 years, it’s far beyond, to thousands of years before. But it all links to the proposition of fire.
The link to positioning — the human brand, will be about the perspective of intensity, gathering the ideas and principles, building the human (or corporate, or leadership) story and moving from there to spreading the rightly told story, ignited the empowerment of imagination.
The human brand is about art — it is, indeed, about imaginings — it is about the construct of creative, optimistic, forward-thinking actions. Anyone can be an artist, in the making of their own brand — reaching in — finding the deeper wellsprings of experience and recollection, gathering stories and seeking to illuminate them.
There is one fundamentally simplistic proposition — every brand is made by a human ( and for humans, for the most part) — and in our explorations, some of the most powerful stories we’ve undertaken have been wrapped around people; they’re the start, this is the beginning; it’s the foundation of our work. Every brand starts with a human — the sparking of stories, to be told — and it is all about listening.
People on people.
Working with the powerful mission of Art Wolfe, the miracle of his way of seeing — and photographing, telling stories — for millions to experience, it’s a wonderful legend. Working with the foundation of his presence, we built and organized a new way of experiencing his story:
The legacy of a specialized department store, a brand that extends back decades of familial leadership — starting with the family itself, building the brand story, listening for the answers to provide the clue and code of the proposition, and creating a platform that extends to nearly every aspect of the brand experience. It all starts with the person — who’s leading, family or individual, what’s the ring of passion?
The spirit of passion can be empathic: Trish May’s recovery from cancer lead her to the building of a brand story that our teams helped to orchestrate, visualize and empower — it’s never about our work alone, it’s more about the idea of how we listen, gather, and interpret that content.
Working over decades with Microsoft marketing giant Scott Oki, it’s been a string of partnerships in building powerful stories that spring from the energetic genius of his enthusiastic efforts to build brands, product offerings, charitable organizations and remarkable strategies to engender community.
Through a long association, working on the Wynn brand, it’s a story that begins at Mirage, moves to Bellagio, and extends to the Wynn and Encore brands. Steve and Elaine Wynn, visionaries:
A 125 year old brand story that began in the legacy of master shoemaker, Salvatore Capezio and continues to this day in a broadening familial legacy, we rebuilt and newly vitalized the story that boosted the heritage into the 21st century.
Lev Leviev, a man who started with virtually nothing built the most extraordinary diamond trading empire in the world and sought our skills in interpreting his story for the opening of his first retail expression: Leviev | London.
Marta Montenegro, editor, magazine foundress, financial strategist, diplomatic aide and exercise and sports guru has worked with Girvin for help in building her human brand as a story that bridged the design evolution of her magazine, South Beach insider SOBeFit and helped energize and launch her sports events, community events and fitness concept, Montenegro Method.
Working with celebrity powerhouse, Clint Eastwood, first on Unforgiven, then Malpaso Films and a string of other motion picture productions was linked to working with Eastwood’s vision for building profound storytelling captivating audiences around the world.
Wendy Liebmann was looking for a new way to rethink the holistic experience of the WSL | Strategic Retail story — a brand largely founded on her retail and strategic merchandising development, along with her partner Candace Corlett’s expertise in rethinking retail strategy — working in team workshops, Girvin built new positioning, approaches to boosting her writing and founding the “Know Shoppers Now” promise of WSL.
Working with Richard Gere lead to supporting his “Gere Foundation” for preserving and sustaining Tibetan culture, His Holiness The Dalai Lama and exiled Tibetans in India — Girvin listened, gathered, explored and visualized the story that continues to be told:
Sharon Stone — actress, producer, writer asked Girvin to support a series of personal expressions that were entirely lead by her visioning. Working at her home, building strategy and visuals for stationery, announcements, motion picture design, the story will be found in inquiry, brand-storming workshops and interviews.
Sometimes the visioning is about the individual driver, the center of the brand — and in another, it’s extends a focus that moves to a point of activation — like building the founding strategy for naming, brand positioning and visualizations for Ben Affleck’s newly created foundation.
What about you?
Applying this sequence of ideas, the question comes back to thinking through the layering of your own story — memorable character and unforgettable moments, components of extraordinary and life-changing encounters.
What might they be?
It is about heart — that sense of heart, the fullness of meaning and emotion — is an attribute of experience that lays the foundations of instinct and meaning. Exploring this ideal, the place from which inspiration comes, is profound.
The craft of business enterprise is entirely about the personal, do what you love — while any potential of building strategy will be operational and structurally resolved — it’s still got to begin in one place.
The concept of beauty in the nature of brand development can be linked to a series of expressions — but warmth and humanity are the most profound; importantly — from the bridge of enterprise to the nature of human branding, this sequence illustrates the framing of the construct.
In observing community — brands that are founded and driven by human character — one positioning might relate to the nature the distinct character of personal vision, catalyzed to story, built to the proposition of outcomes to community. From our relationship in Apple history and Steve Jobs, Chris Anderson’s evolution of TED, Tom Ford’s personal detailing of every attribute of his emerging retail empire, Katrina Markoff’s strategy with Vosges, and the legend Tony Hsieh’s Zappos — each, founded by a human with a distinct positioning and vision, concreted in mission, captivating in brand story.
That extension can be found in our community, in the Pacific Northwest — those that we’ve explored, connected with — as clients or as points of study and examination. Small can be beautiful, as well — everyone starts there.
In any self study, the beginnings of the personal brand development will be about the definition of who you are — in the authentic consideration, it’s an exploration that might be what you represent in your current state of being, and what potentials lie in the future. But the foundational question remains.
That process, as in the development of other studies links current state to dream — how would you describe yourself, what adjectives to frame the way that you could be defined —
and how others might describe you.
The nature of the story — the human brand story — can be gathered in the journal; the tablet that transcribes your collection of the content of your experiences.
The idea of drawing, assembling ideas — transitions from one moment to another — one experience to another, tying them together as in a string: for me, travel, mystery, words, the drawn letter, architecture, history, the light filled path — these are all part of the threading of creative exploration.
These gatherings are about the bridge of content — thinking about the nature of the journey, as well as finding the place of gathering. But in studying these evolutions — threaded in the context of writing about them: saving them — you can see your story, the string of your experience.
The journal is the hour recorded – the memory, recalled — the succession of days, saving the sequence. Without them, how can one find the patterning of experience?
As a person exploring the brand — consider the signature, the nature of your design. Design, signature, the sign-making of experience, these are all figures of your personality. Store them, the story.
In my experience, the idea of mixing the forum of the journal — pages built to examine the form of ideas, laying in content, imagery, handwritten notations — fast, slow, complex, simple. But get it in there, explore more, these journal spreads:
The spirit of the work — and the alignment of work to passed time — it’s about doing. And being. The issue lies in the intermingling of effort and the craft of your practice and what could be seen in the foundations of the human brand strategy that can emerge — what in the work is compelling? And how does that string to your personality?
The idea of “designing your life” is linked to this gathering — saving what’s important, marking what’s been made, excavating the patternings of your experience, finding more in that deepening, expecting the foundation to strengthen in the creative exploration — and building that tapestry.
The most compelling levels of the most extraordinary brands are about the degree of engagement and commitment; it’s never a superficial gesture, but runs far deeper.
Bear in mind that the conception of brand in relationship to yourself, it’s not only about outward appearances but as well to the depth of content that you build — presuming that this will be shared. Scrutiny explicates. Examination deepens.
The tiered treatment of message in brand storytelling presumes layers of content — it’s not only the most obvious telling, but what lies beneath — there is understanding on the surface, and comprehension that can be found in measures of symbolism, archetypes and meaningful allegories.
Working with the journal, exploring the truth of who you are, there are themes that emerge — this might be part of the patterning that suggests the alignment in strength of character, your personal attributes and points of distinction. What themes are prevalent in your experience — what are you noticing? And what is the truth, what is the responsible way of formulating your view?
Understanding might be interpreted as “standing under” — or more precisely, to the etymology, the inter-standing, a stance between, as a point of examination — looking up, examining, studying the points of experience. What to, then — what patterns reveal themselves?
Organizing the human brand might work in the positioning of other attributes of the corporate identity — the “soul of the body.” How does these figure in reflecting on the make up of your excavation?
There can’t be a story without someone to tell it to — the manifold expressions should be seamless and unwavering.
Beginning to explore a layering of message in the content that you develop will require focus on the attentionality of your vision — where are you going? Stay true to your path and keep up the pace of extending and expanding on your telling.
Bear in mind the conception of reflection — audience reflectivity — that which is told is similarly extended to others; it goes two ways, one to one — and then shared, one to many.
The more that your story is told, the more building there will be — there are rings, ripples that extend from one to another, that rippling spreads and reflects that resonance back to the teller.
Attentionality and intentionality link to the phrasing of these words — attention, from tenet, will be about principles.
As you contemplate and organize your story — the principles, power, heritage, tapestry, here’s the beginning. Tell the story, practice it, test it, shorten it, expand it — experiment. And listen to the outcomes — are you speaking the language of your listener? Or are you too self-absorbed in your own allegories and poetry?
Consider the fire — as the ultimate allegory; it’s the metaphor of you, it’s the flame of your brand, it’s what you are and what you shall be. Flame on.
Interested in learning more about the potentials of working with Girvin on your personal brand strategy? Reach, here. Case studies on human brands that Girvin’s worked on are here.
Photo by Dawn Clark, AIA LEED AP