Branding is a science and an art … but above all it is perception.

There have been many books and articles written about branding and I’ve contributed my fair share, but simply put, your brand is the instant thought people have about you. That’s it!

Yes, word of mouth, your image and the experience people have when they get to know you all contribute … but they contribute to that instant thought. That said, each of us, as individuals, has our own brand.

When I was about 11-years-old, I started running. Not for exercise or competition, but as an escape from all of my 11-year-old worldly problems. And I ran A LOT! So much, that it became my personal brand. And that brand stuck with me through a move to a new city and through high school. I wasn’t a “jock” (ironically) and not a “nerd” (surprisingly), I was a runner.

It wasn’t until I graduated college and got into advertising that the brand started to swing from “runner” to “creative.” I still ran, though not as much, but this profession puts such a premium on looking at the world from a different angle that my persona and brand started to shift.

Even as life progressed and I became a husband, father and pit bull rescuer, the “creative” brand stayed with me.

Then something funny happened, I started running marathons and ultra-marathons – running several hours per week. I became a “runner” again with “creative” being secondary.

Do you see what happened? When you change your personal focus and emphasis, the perception of you changes too.

Even though a brand is someone else’s EXTERNAL perception, we are in control of our personal brand.

A little more than a year ago, I turned an ankle and it refuses to heal. I can’t run more than two miles at a time and can’t remember my last race. After 33 years, I am no longer a runner. I can’t be. So what the hell am I? I honestly don’t know. People still talk to me about running, I haven’t totally shaken the brand, even though I can’t run. I haven’t shown people a new image so they still think of me as a runner.

Branding is sticky! Unless you take an impactful action to change it, even if you no longer do what you’re known for, a brand (people’s perception of you) is reluctant to change.

Now, at nearly 45-years-old, I don’t run. I’ve tried several other forms of exercise, but nothing is sticking. I’ve started doing Buddhist meditation regularly and I bought a Harley … my wife calls this a mid-life crisis. I call it doing what I want and seeing what brand will fall from it. I’m hoping that the “creative” brand rises back to the top. I’d rather be defined by who I am and not what I do. This is an opportunity for me to be so much more than just “a runner.”

Your brand can be, “just a bank,” if you are defined more by what you are than what you do. You can control this perception.

        What is your brand?
A Green Bay Packers fan: Who you are
A driven entrepreneur: What you do
A father: Who you are
A selfless mother: What you do
A civil servant: What you do
A runner: Who you are

        The differences can be super-subtle. The impact of the brand can be night and day.

Now think about your bank or credit union. What would you say the public’s instant thought of you is? Has anything happened over the years to change you? Have competitive, market, technology or personnel changes been your turned ankle – making you rethink everything? Are you known for who you are or what you do? Are you comfortable with that?

It’s never too late to redefine yourself. It’s not a mid-life crisis … it’s an opportunity to be more.

Please share your story in the comments section.

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