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Identity vs. Brand

I love everything about Geno’s tattoo — the design, the colors and the meaning: As I breathe, I hope.

Our roots as a company are in what a lot of marketing people would call “branding.” Brand is one those words that corporations love to hide behind. “It’s not ‘on brand,” is one of our least favorite terms on the planet.


We’ve always used the word  “identity,” because we feel that in finding your purpose in the world as a company – you unearth your soul. And when you put your very soul out there, you protect it, you value it and you draw kindred spirits near.

Your organization’s identity is so much more personal than a brand.

So what makes someone adopt an identity? Design and identity is part of what helps us make sense of the world we live in. It gives order to chaos. We are the collections of beliefs and values we are passionate about. Passionate people wear their beliefs on their sleeves.

Have you ever seen one of those cars that are literally covered with bumper stickers? It’s like the driver of that vehicle is an open book. Those bumper stickers shout out that the person inside is proud to be things like a lover of peace, goodwill and gay and animal rights.  You can feel the pride of these beliefs in the space of a short stoplight.

What makes us long to tell and show (in the case of a visual identity) the world about our passions?

A friend of ours left arm is completely filled with tattoos. Frankly, they are so beautiful and each element clearly stands for something he is passionate about that some people are, well, quite jealous.

When someone asked him about them one day, he in turn asked them this simple question: “What are you willing to commit to?” Don’t you love that? It’s true – ink on skin is a pretty big commitment.

So. What as a brand or a person are you will to commit to?

  • James Dalman

    Love these thoughts Robbin! Discovering your purpose and unearthing your soul is important as a company – and as an individual. Because of your writings and The Passion Conversation I have found my purpose in launching a new non-profit business that I believe will make a huge impact for U.S. Veterans. I hope that it will be the kind of story like the ones you have shared throughout the BOF books. :)

    I appreciate the “fire” you and your team bring to the world. It truly has made a difference!

    • Robbin Phillips

      Thanks James. I’d love to hear more about your new adventure!

      • James Dalman

        I’d love to share! I am learning from your works on how to make the best organization I can! I could post a link to my latest post or email you directly.

        • Robbin Phillips

          Great. Either is fine!

          • James Dalman

            Here’s the overall idea: Thank you for allowing me to share!!!

          • Robbin Phillips

            Oh my goodness. I can’t wait to dig into this post. I might also be able to connect you to some folks who can guide and inspire and help. Give me a day or so. Shoot me an email too.

          • James Dalman

            Thank you so much Robbin. I am forever grateful and appreciative. I will send you an email for sure. Keep lighting those fires! :D