Empire BuildingToolbox

Brand Yourself as an Innovator, Not a Copycat

Brand yourself happens whether you want it to or not. For example, what do people think about when they see your social media profile?

They might think any of these combinations of traits:

  • Trustworthy, dependable, and smart
  • Dishonest, sleazy, and worthless
  • Strong, brave and innovative

Personally, I strive for my personal brand to stand for a few things, including supporting social justice, equality, and the environment. But how many other people out there are standing up for the exact same things? Head over to Twitter and there are millions of people talking about the same things I care about right this minute:


In this scenario, your choices are to copy what everyone else is doing or to be an innovator. Which would you choose?
You have to be savvy in your quest to build a brand that communicates your message. You can learn from other thought leaders, but never try to be exactly like them. Instead, start creating a brand that makes you stand out in a very crowded field. You need to brand yourself with a unique path, not following what someone else has already done what you are trying to do.

In other words, strive to be an innovator, not a copycat.

Brand Yourself or It Will Be Created For You

Your brand can be created or it can be overlooked. But that doesn’t mean you’re not building a brand. It just means you’re not controlling how that brand is managed. You’ll end up with a brand that doesn’t actually match what your business is about.

In Can You Spot The Most Expensive Plain White Tee?, readers can try to figure out which plain white t-shirt is the most expensive. The most expensive t-shirt is almost $300! That is exactly what branding is because it’s the same as all the other white t-shirts. You’re not paying for a t-shirt but your belief in the brand’s name and image.

Consciously start to brand yourself in a way that will make your business grow. Remember, everything you do and say matters. It’s the intangible aspects that draw people to a plain white t-shirt.

Because it’s not about the white t-shirt, it’s about the brand behind the t-shirt.

While I think it’s incredibly silly to buy a $300 white t-shirt, there is no denying that the branding on that product is phenomenal. If a business can somehow create a brand where consumers love that white t-shirt so much that it’s currently sold out, then their branding is effective.

That’s the power of branding. That’s the kind of magnetism you’re trying to create.

Decide What You Stand For

You are your brand.

It’s not your product, videos, services or even recommendations. It’s just you. So what do you want to brand yourself as? What makes you different from every other ambitious person trying to do the exact same thing?

I created a manifesto of sorts to communicate this exact message to my audience. In Why Human Rights Are Now My Top Business Priority, I shared this:

“I still believe that supporting controversial issues can be a bad business move. Yet, equality and human rights are everything that I want my business to stand for. There will be those that won’t support me or my vision. That think I’m making a mistake and should remain quiet. However, I can’t do that and neither should my business.”

There are very few small business owners in my area that want to jump into this fight. I teach children in an economically depressed area that are in the middle of an opioid crisis (think finding needles on the playground). I’m standing up for my students, and that’s what I want to be known for.

My brand is very personal to me, my business and my area. Write out exactly what you want to communicate with your audience and identify your top priorities.

Hint: I’d like to achieve world peace, end hunger and save all the pups that need homes. I can’t do it all and neither can you. Only list your top priorities, not every issue you care about.

Choose Your Tone

Now that you know what you want to communicate, it’s time to start creating a brand image that showcases your message.

When it comes to branding, it’s the details that count. Setting the right tone is everything. Here’s an example of a Twitter header done a few different ways. Each has a different tone and feeling. Take time to choose the graphic that’s the best visual representation of your brand message.

Fun, free, happy, joy, natural:

Adventurous, outdoorsy, nature, determination, fearless:

Smart, thoughtful, professional, wise, young:

You’ll want to create pictures of yourself that convey your tone, but you also need stock images that communicate that as well. Burst offers free stock photos for entrepreneurs that will help you choose the right visuals for any project.

Since I want my brand to stand for social justice and supporting environmentally friendly causes, I could go for angry treehugger or hippie flower child. But that’s not me. Instead, I’d like to be perceived as natural, caring, and laid back.

This picture is something that would easily convey two of those concepts.

Brand Yourself as Genuine

To become an innovative brand personality doesn’t mean that you’re inventing new and amazing products. It means that you’re choosing to be unique and become a thought leader. It means never faking it and always striving for genuine connections.

once took a writing course from a very talented writer. She’s very charming and calls her blog readers ‘darlings.’ She’s very entertaining but all the other writers in the course just tried to copy what she was doing. I couldn’t possibly write something like “listen to me sweetie, you’re scrumptious brand will drive them wild!”

I’d sound like a complete idiot.

But everyone in the course tried to be exactly like her (in her defense, she did discourage them from trying, but no one listened). It was kind of hard to see other talented women forking over money to learn how to be someone else. Don’t forget that there’s only one of you in the universe. As long as you stay true to yourself, you’ll be seen as an innovator not just another voice in the crowd.