On Rebranding

with not much more than a name.

Business School taught me a lot about being corporate and becoming part of a corporation or company — consequently all the branding lessons and studies I remember from my marketing classes were largely entrenched in that world. If my understanding of professionalism or professional identity was based solely in my education, I would understand little about functioning as a person without a company label under which to work. As it turns out, I might know very little indeed, but I’m working towards establishing myself.

I’ve recently started rebranding. Like a person working within a company can count on a company’s label on their business card as a sign of their skills, experience, and legitimacy,  I counted on my school’s name on my resume as a similar sign over my last four years. Being a student is enough, and I counted on the fact that other people believed that. But coming out of school and not venturing straight into a company has offered the challenge I didn’t fully expect: how to establish a brand based entirely on yourself?

I thought first of the corporate rebranding that was covered in school. I remember Gap and their rather failed idea that a blue box was enough consistency between old and new logos:

or various rebranding efforts focusing on font, brevity, and standalone logos:

and social media, where branding is minimized to thumbnails and single letters:

 It’s quickly clear that I’m not a company, and I can’t brand myself like one. I can’t be a logo or an acronym. The first thing I would have to do is figure out what exactly my brand is going to represent. Me as a creative? (as if “creative” is anything more than me saying, “I’m going to do something later.”) Me as a professional ________? The problem is, right now, I have nothing to really represent other than a name. I have a name and a diploma, but not much else to show people.

So, I take the one thing that corporate logos did teach me about: sans serif fonts. Armed with a helvetica family of fonts, I can type my name and make it look great in hundreds of ways —

— but that’s all I can really do right now. There will be something to represent, very soon. I promise. But right now, this is what my rebranding looks like, in the form of a business card:

on left: my business-less business card, 2012; on right: my business school business card, 2011.

It’s come into clearer focus that college had come to be my identity in most external ways — business cards, resumes, e-mail signatures. I can’t reasonably write “Ankur Sohoni – University of Michigan 2012” at the end of my e-mails anymore, nor would I want to. Without a title to present, I’m little more than a name.

But then again, the plan is to make that name more than just a name. Work to make it represent something, whether it’s under a company logo or not. Be professional without a briefcase or a desk, even if you’re not a professional just yet.

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