Branding: A Tagline Is Not A Brand — How to Build a Positive Brand in 3 Steps

Your Unique Brand Identity

Personal Branding logo

People talk to other people about other people, products, and companies.

What we say to each other about what we like —

  • the other people, products, and companies we champion and warn folks about,
  • the other people, products, and companies we hold up as models and that we boycott
  • the other people, products, and companies we don’t ever mention, i.e. that we make invisible,

— becomes the brands that define the other people, products, and companies we talk about. Not one voice, but many voices form a brand. The branding voices come not from the ones who wear the brand from the ones who interact with them.

Everyone has brand.

Your brand may be as simple as You are unknown.

Not everyone has a unique and positive brand identity.

A Tagline Is Not a Brand

Some folks seem to think that putting a tagline on their business, their product, or their blog establishes their brand. Would that it were so easy.

A unique and positive brand identity is a concise, consistent, compelling message that conveys your unique value. It arrives before you and lingers after you’re gone. It describes you, defines you, and develops positive interest in you. It’s very definition of you weeds out people with whom you prefer not to interact.

This following statement is key.

A tagline is not a brand. It’s a suggestion for folks to start thinking about your brand.

These key assumptions underpin the ability to establish a positive brand.

  1. Start by knowing that other people decide what they think about you.
  2. Realize that their perceptions will be their reality.
  3. Know that most people fit you into THEIR world view.

Knowing that our role in a branding strategy is to provide the unique and compelling reasons and the outstanding examples folks need to naturally want to share. In other words, as Seth would say, “It’s about being remarkable.”

A tagline is just words. A brand is actions that people talk about.

How to Build a Positive Brand in 3 Steps

Because customers are the branders, it makes sense that they should be the center of any branding effort. Customers at the center means that they get to talk. We get to actively listen. If we’re fixing a broken brand, we get to spend even more time with them while we’re listening, because they’ll need to hear our apology.

Step 1 — Listen to Your Branders

The first step is to find out what folks already think. Focus on the people — to know their needs, desires, and pains — and to find the one thing you might do to serve them better than anyone else can. Here’s how to do that.

  • Find your branders. Find the folks who talk about you. Find those who say both positive and negative things. Find the folks who don’t know who you are. Ask permission to talk to them.
  • Talk to them as much and as often as you can. Be a learner. Explore their thinking with them. Use it all to identify what skills you have to offer.
  • Listen actively to what they are not saying as well. Find their unexpressed needs and desires. Look for their points of pain. Look for solutions that you might be able to offer.

Gather all you’ve learned from your branders. Reflect on how it matches your unique skill set and your personal passions.

Step 2 — A Promise that You Put Others First

Use what you’ve gathered to write a customer-centered tagline to say you . . .

Do what you love in service to those who love what you do Steve Farber says.

Think of your tagline as a promise.

Not: The oldest bank in the Western Hemisphere.
But: Your bank, when you’re available, with your interest at heart.

Step 3 — Live Your Promise

Live your promise. Be your brand 100%. Actions speak. People tell more stories about what happens than they do about what they’ve read. Positive actions that meet people’s needs speak loudly and are shared with friends.

Have you heard stories about the great things that these two do? I’ve told a few myself.

  1. Phil Gerbyshak IS a Relationship Geek, who Makes it Great!
  2. Wendy Piersall is a successful home-based e-business mom.

Phil or Wendy live their unique brands. No need to try to live theirs, yours is just as uniquely compelling and just as important to the world.

Successful-Blog is where you’re only a stranger once.
After that, you’re a friend.
–ME “Liz” Strauss”
To have Liz help get your brand just right, click on the Work with Liz!! page in the sidebar.

Branding, Self-Promotion, Selling: Are You OverDoing?


  1. says

    Deftly written post today, Liz. I like the fine point you’ve put on the topic: Think of your tagline as a promise. Think of your brand as the actions people talk about.

    Marketing, self-promotion, branding, and selling (and everything in between) are all tricky territories for newcomers, and it can be difficult for newbies to see where the line between each falls and to understand why. And, certainly, it’s hard for some to be pithy when they’re promoting themselves and their businesses.

    Maybe, in the beginning of all new ventures, EVERYONE has had difficulty with achieving this succinctness, this precision of purpose — but I have a hard time believing that folks like Seth Godin, Tom Peters, or Guy Kawaski ever did.

  2. says

    Hi Whitney,

    Learning how to talk about what we do without being self-conscious is part of the art and the science of business. It’s a little like any other skills it takes a certain amount of finesse and a certain amount of practice.

    As far as Seth, Tom, and Guy go I’m think they had to learn to walk just as we did. So I bet they had to learn this too. But as, Tom often used to say, “Fail faster.” I bet they “Failed faster.” than we do and got with succeeeding sooner. :)

  3. says

    This is a great topic, applicable to pretty much everyone these days.
    I love your comment about ” talk about what we do without being self-conscious is part of the art and science of business”. I agree completely, but that still doesn’t explain why I often have trouble doing just that. Guess, I need more paractice!

  4. says

    Hi Francie,
    It really is a case of “self” consciousness, if you think about it. We have to learn how to talk about our work without thinking about ourselves.

  5. says

    Another point that’s worth calling out — or at least I think so — is “Look for their points of pain.” It’s very effective at drawing out what people need, and very helpful (as Liz says) at helping one position themselves to help.

    If a “newbie” is unsure of what specific questions to ask a potential client, asking questions that prompt them to talk about their “pain points” is successful at getting them to open up. The more preoccupied a person is by their pain points, the more apt they are to spill over with the kind of information that will help you figure out how you can help them.

    The pitfall to avoid with this, however, is to not get caught up in commiserating with the potential client. You want them to know you understand and can empathize from your own experience, but if you’re not careful, this well-meaning attempt to establish common ground could cause the meeting to disintegrate into a gripe session…without either party really realizing it.

  6. says

    Great advice, Whitney!
    Finding out about their pain is a way to find how you might solve their problems. If they want to talk about pains that are out of your range, then you need to know how to steer.

    Sometimes it’s great for a relationship to listen and let people talk. Some people just want to talk about their pain and never get past it. You’re right,Whitney, it’s important to know when you’re establishing common ground and when you’re letting them just gripe. . . . Gripers can take the fun out of anyone’s work.

    We don’t need them. We work hard enough already. Working hard isn’t bad as long as it’s fun!

  7. says

    Great post and very timely for me. Ireally like the idea that your tagline is your promise.Ifyou claim it you must live it and your actions will prove how much you believe your tagline. Phil is the best example of this. He absolutely lives what he says. The other important point you make is to listen to your customers. I think we often try to tell the customer what they want rather than really listening to them and finding out what they really want and/or need. As phil would say, You made this post great! Thanks.

  8. says

    Hi Rocky!
    How great to see you!

    If you claim it, you must live it,

    That is also a great line — about a tagline, about life itself.

    I so agree with what you say about listening to customers and not telling them what they want . . . I often say “Don’t configure your customers. Frasier’s dad doessn’t want a new chair.”

    Thanks, Rocky for your support. I had a good start, but these comments by everyone took what you call great and made it Great + + !!

    That’s why the conversation is so important! :)

  9. says

    “Live your promise.”

    That wonderful line from you keyboard cuts through all the fog around branding.

    You demonstrate a brand. You don’t explain it or argue for it. You don’t convince others about your brand.

    You demonstrate it.

    Every day.

    And your brand grows. One day and one fulfilled promise at a time.

    Great thoughts…love the way you put them into words.

    Keep creating…and stirring the pot,

  10. says

    Hi Mike!
    My words are just words out there until folks like you stand up and say, “Yep, that’s it!” Then together the words have power.

    Thank you for the fuel . . . :)

  11. says

    Hi Liz,

    Great to c a few clear statements about how to brand yourself. Thank you!

    One small thing… If you want to link to the website of
    1.Phil Gerbyshak IS a Relationship Geek, who Makes it Great!
    You probably have to look at the underlying link. It doesn’t work.

    Always glad to be of service.


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