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Branding has been my world for more than thirty years. I spent twenty years at Darden Restaurants, mostly at Red Lobster, where we spent more than $100 million per year on branding. We spent a total of more than $1 billion while I was there.

As part of that expense, we got to hire some of the most brilliant branding people in the world. My favorite influencer/mentor became Stan Richards, founder of the Richards Group. He who was responsible for the Cow Campaign for Chick-fil-A, as well as branding for Home Depot, Motel 6, and many other companies. I learned many branding secrets from him.

In 2008, I set out on my own and decided to start Brand Catalyst Partners, a brand consultancy firm committed to helping CEOs and their teams align with their highest compelling truths. With the support of Stan Richards and a well-developed branding process, I’ve now helped more than one hundred organizations. My vision is “inspiring brands to live their highest promise.” That guides every decision I make.

The word “brand” is rich with many meanings. And, while it is usually associated with a product or service, it also applies to individuals. Let’s explore how it applies to you and me.

What’s in a name? Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Oprah Winfrey, Winston Churchill, Gandhi, Walter Cronkite. Each name brings about certain thoughts and impressions in our minds, right?

A few more: Matt Lauer, Lori Laughlin, Bill Hybels, Kevin Spacey, Lance Armstrong, O. J. Simpson. Yikes! Hmmm…at one time, these people and their names were known for their talent and influence. Now it’s a much different story. Our paradigms about these people have been forever changed because of their poor decisions. A simple mention of their names brings up immediate thoughts. Reputations are fragile.

Warren Buffet said, “It takes twenty years to build a reputation and only five minutes to lose it.” How true is that!

What comes to people’s minds when they think of you? Maybe you know; maybe you don’t. But either way, from this point on, be intentional about who you want to be and how you want to be known.

When interviewing people, I love to ask the question, “Who are you?” Most people’s first response is, “My name is….” Then, most struggle to find the right words to describe who they are. Of course they can rattle off their basic roles in life like father, mother, husband, wife, etc. But beyond basic labels, many struggle. Then many even say, “No one has ever asked me that question before.”

If you struggle at all to express “who you are,” give yourself three minutes to answer the questions below:

Whose hero were you created to be?

What promise did God make the world when He made you?

You can’t be everything to everyone. But you can be something to someone. The answer to these questions will help you find meaning.

Here is another set of “fog-cutting questions” along the same lines:

Who do you want to help?

How do you want to help them?

Answering these questions will help you focus all decision making in your life. Each daily decision you make will help you build the reputation that supports your true identity, not some manufactured identity that you struggle to maintain because others think you should.

This exercise is more important now than ever. Why? Because social media has created a whole new world of false identity and comparison the world has never seen before. Does it really matter what all your Facebook friends think about you? Are they coming to your funeral? Do they really matter? If you find yourself posting things to intentionally support an identity what may not be true, why are you doing it? Sooner or later, you’ll have an identity crisis.

Conversely, if you can use social media to help reach people you want to help, go for it! Social media can be a great amplifier of your identity and your message. The new world is full of people who created a personal brand using social media. The opportunity has never been greater. Ever heard of Michael Hyatt ( He used the internet and social media to build a thriving empire to help authors and business leaders!

I’ll leave you with this personal story…

In the late summer of 1980, I can distinctly remember getting in my car to leave for college. As I sat in the driver’s seat, looking out the open window at my father, he was at a loss for words and started getting a little emotional. He realized my days of childhood were coming to an end. He was looking for some parting words. He finally said, “Remember, you are a Burch.” It’s as if he was summarizing almost twenty years of training and upbringing in one word—our last name, Burch.

He was summarizing everything he taught me by mentioning that one thing, our last name. What does your last name mean? Better yet, what does your full name mean?

If you have never written your own obituary, maybe now is the time. These two questions should help you:

Who do you want to speak on your behalf at your funeral?

What would you like them to say?

What would you like them not to say?

“A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”

King Solomon


Brand is written by Kennan Burch