Unlabel: Selling You Without Selling Out by Marc Ecko

Welcome to the second installment of “Misti’s Clip Notes,” my new monthly book review.

Marc Ecko’s Unlabel: Selling You Without Selling Out is technically a book about branding, but it’s far more about authenticity than anything else. Ecko shows how it’s not enough to simply brand a company. You must also understand that you are a brand and discover what that brand is.

Throughout the book, Ecko shares very personal stories about his journey and how he started out weaving toward and then away from the “heartbeat of his brand.” Along the way, he often found himself lost in ego, struggling to keep his dream alive. When he was able to put his ego aside and dig deep inside himself, he found the answers to his most pressing questions.

I found Ecko’s motto, “Guts to the skin, skin to the world,” particularly powerful. These words have inspired me to dig deep and experience the “flesh and bones” of Brand Misti.

Of course, releasing all the “shoulds” and listening instead to the passion in your heart is not easy, which is why so few do it. Yet, it’s through the process of getting to know yourself that you fire the engine that powers your brand.

Ecko also warns readers about the crippling effect of an “overly majestic” vision. Instead, he suggests thinking of your vision as Leggos building blocks.

Visions should start small. They’re incremental, like building Leggos:  

Snap one block to the next. 

Snap another block. 

Repeat. 

When I started with graffiti, I thought about my next 18 hours, not my next 18 years. Free yourself to do the same.

Rather than focusing all your energy on achieving some far-off, overwhelming vision, get clear about where you currently are and your next steps.

As much as I often like to think branding efforts such as redoing my website or creating nicer business cards will garner me more business, I have to agree with Ecko that this stuff doesn’t matter nearly as much as knowing and sharing brand you. As he puts it: 

No amount of slick packaging, production value, or shiny gimmicks can mask the absence of belief. In your product. In your ideas.

Of course, this is far easier said than done, but understanding yourself is a journey worth taking. Standing in front of an audience sharing someone else’s message doesn’t feel nearly as powerful as sharing my own. Yet, uncovering my own isn’t nearly as easy as copying someone else’s. I imagine the same is true in every industry.

The good (and not so good) news about uncovering your authentic voice is that the process never ends. You will always be in a position to pitch your ideas, audition for new opportunities, and deal with feeling rejected. It’s part of the game, at least for those who want the results that come from having a great brand.

When you create an authentic brand that you believe in, you need to push yourself to think about what that brand really means, and that’s not limited to a product or industry. Go deeper. Think about its values, think about how it can be tweaked, reframed, and spun into something more interesting. 

More important than what you make – whether it’s a product or service, physical or digital – is how that stuff makes people feel.

When you think of yourself as a brand, and then consider how brand you makes other people feel, it begs a few very important questions: Who am I being in the world? What values do I want brand me to exude? Where am I truthfully at this moment, and how do I get to where I want to be?

Ecko concludes by sharing where he has consistently found the answers to these questions:

It is in that quiet where I harvest and mine inspiration. It is entirely a self-directed pursuit. I gather data with my eyes and senses in the world, but I mine the inspiration by creating it from the inside out.

While meditation and journaling have certainly provided some of the quiet I need to engage all my senses, I’ve begun to discover that becoming fully present in my most agitated states helps me “harvest and mine inspiration.” How do you get yours?

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