Kara’s Korner: Take a Stand, It’s Your Brand!

“Take a Stand, It’s Your Brand” was originally posted by hint Founder & CEO, Kara Goldin, on LinkedIn here

The people you associate with are a lens that determines how people see you, as a brand and as a businessperson. The question I am often asked: When you’re starting out…when you’re reinventing yourself…when you are becoming more “you,” how do you associate with the right kind of people?

Here are a few ways:

Use your voice at every opportunity. Know what a powerful gift that is. Part of the reason I write, whether it’s on LinkedIn or elsewhere, is to help people understand what Hint stands for. Ideally, they will have a positive affiliation with us. But that’s not the reason to do it. The world happens in communication; that’s how affinity is built. I’ve learned over time that whatever you say is right. The caveat to that: it must be true for you and reflect who you are. And it must be honest. One of my best lessons as a CEO has been to stand for what I believe in—as a brand and as a person. Speak! Then step back and see who comes.

Listen to your fans—and find out who is actually paying attention (that you might not be deeply connected with now).  It’s not just about speaking. It’s also about listening and connecting. That’s why we just started working with the number-one site for cancer patients, cancer.org. We discovered that when you find out you have cancer, you can navigate cancer.org  and find out a lot about what it means to have cancer and how to care for yourself during the process.

We also discovered that there are lots of people using Hint to help mask the metallic taste you get in your mouth during chemotherapy. When we found this out, it became a natural decision to associate with the organization. It is about doing good in the world, certainly. More importantly, it is about being more connected to the audience who is already using our products—a group of people we are already deeply tied to…but just didn’t know it!  Building on real affiliations – for us, that has been what builds credibility.

Be exactly as you are in all contexts, as a brand or a person. When you are simply yourself, people have the freedom to choose whether or not to connect with you. Not everyone will like you, but the people who do will love you — for your honesty, your courage, and because you’re simply being you. That’s how we first partnered with John Legend. He was in Starbucks and he bought a Blackberry Hint. He hadn’t seen any other product that didn’t have sweeteners, and that is something he believes in strongly as well. So he picked up the phone and said, “I want to be affiliated with your product.” He actually invested in us! That was 5 years ago. I tell this story because it shows how being ourselves attracted someone PHENOMENAL to partner with us. It wasn’t about outreach. Or star-seeking. Or product placement. It was about true alignment of beliefs. That is the most powerful kind of association.