I’ve never been known as a conventional person. It’s obvious.
I once had a friend, Joanne, who fit the stereotype of the perfect female corporate executive. She knew how to dress, how to talk and how to act professionally in every situation. I’m now sure how we became friends, but we did.
But the difference between us — maverick vs conventional — was always the elephant in the room. We were defined by our differences in “fitting in” just as we were defined by demographics like race, religion or nationality.
One day I was saying to Joanne, “This guy told me he knew I was a maverick. How could he tell?”
Joanne said bluntly, “I knew just five minutes after I met you.” Since we’d met on an airplane, in rigidly defined space, I had to admire her insight.
So why don’t I brand as a maverick?
So every so often a well-meaning advisor will say, “You describe yourself as a maverick. Why not build your brand on that?”
Here’s why that is a very bad idea. But before I start, I know you’re going to tell me that some very successful people have branded themselves as renegades.
They’re outliers. They succeeded in spite of the name they chose. They’re not renegades; they’re pack leaders. They’re kind of giving us the wink when they call themselves mavericks. They fit in beautifully. They’ve succeeded in corporate life. They know what works and what doesn’t.
As a storyteller and sometimes a branding consultant, I will tell you not to brand yourself as a maverick, renegade or lone ranger. Here’s why.
Reason #1 – Real mavericks don’t know they’re mavericks. They are surprised when someone says, “You’re different.”
Pseudo-mavericks love being called mavericks. Many of them secretly fear they’re boring and conventional. In movies, the conventional guy becomes a foil to the maverick — the boring, white bread, steady influence. Think of Chris in the movie Obvious Child, a bland grayscale character who was brought in to contrast with Donna, the dysfunctional, colorful heroine.
An online quiz invites you to summarize yourself in one word. I suspect a large number of those who take this quiz will end up as mavericks. In fact, someone wrote an article that introduced the quiz with, “I got Maverick. What’s yours?”
Here’s my quiz.
Do you brag about breaking the rules? You’re a pseudo-maverick.
Are you frequently surprised by people telling you, “You’re breaking the rules?” You’re a real maverick. You think you’re just being true to yourself.
Reason #2: Violates the “show, don’t tell” guideline.
Real mavericks don’t have to tell you they’re maverick. You know … even if you are a maverick yourself.
You don’t say, “I’m brilliant at what I do. You show.”
Reason #3: Doesn’t convey a benefit…the “so what” rule.
There’s no special reason to hire someone because they’re a maverick or renegade. Some mavericks are creatives who can help you think outside the box. Some are just different (and not always in a good way). Brand on your client’s benefits, not your weirdness.
This reason also applies when someone tells you to brand based on your curly hair. Yes, it happens.
Reason #4:You’re not unique.
Lots of people call themselves mavericks. You’ll be one of a pack of … mavericks. Why would you want to do that?
Here’s a funny thing. The word “renegade” has been embraced by successful companies, such as This Renegade Love (which seems to celebrate people doing things well). In the automotive world, you’ll find a Jeep Renegade.
Dan Kennedy used to describe himself as “The Renegade Millionaire.” In the original sales letter, he wrote, “Who else wants to defy all normal, common, ordinary, customary boundaries on making money — on the speed, the ease and the independence?” Does that really sound radical to a business owner?
The real definition of renegade isn’t so positive. Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary shares this definition of renegade:
: a deserter from one faith, cause, or allegiance to another
: an individual who rejects lawful or conventional behavior
Reason #5: Lots of people think they’re renegades and mavericks even if they’ve thrived in the corporate world, served with distinction in the military, or fit into a suburban setting with ease. They will feel they own the right to call themselves mavericks and will resent your claiming the title for yourself.
Real mavericks don’t particularly feel pride in their offbeat status. They want to blend in with the crowd. They know they’re … different. In their next life they want to be boring. Well, not that boring…
So what can you do instead?
When you’re a service-based business, your best branding strategy reflects your story archetype (sometimes known as your persona or pattern). You’re aligned with a message that doesn’t just communicate a personal quality. You stand out because of the way you work with clients and you attract clients who will like the way you work. No need to spell out your differences. Your prospects will sense them immediately; that’s why they’re drawn to you in the first place.
You can learn more when you check out this short program: Bragging 101: Build Your Stand-Out Personal Brand One Story At A Time/
And if you’d like to find your own story archetype, let’s get together for a 90-minute Story Consultation. One client said, “I’ve been to two branding consultants — and this is the first time I understand what my brand should be.”
Michael LaRocca, Business Editor says
But what if I’m a curly-haired maverick?
Same thought as Kimberly – I loved that line!
Lisa Rothstein says
Most important — in the story of any great brand, the client is (and wants to be) the hero, not you. If they want to see THEMSELVES as a maverick, you can’t be one too. Be Tonto, not the Lone Ranger.
That’s a great point I hadn’t thought of … you can’t have “maverick, meet the misfit.” Thanks, Lisa!
Kimberly McGraw says
“Brand on your client’s benefits, not your weirdness.” Love it! Haha
Thanks, Kimberly – I had fun with this one!
Love it, Chris! And I agree. Maggie Thatcher was one tough cookie.
Chris Bailey says
I like reason #2. It reminds me of this quote from Maggie Thatcher:
“Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.”