When I was younger, Saturday morning cable TV in Saint Lucia shared with us the story of Saint Jude’s Children Hospital and the work it was doing toward helping children fight rare cancers. When I watched these segments, it wasn’t the Saint Jude Children’s Hospital brand that stood out to me. Instead, individual stories stood out to me.

I saw kids who laughed and played despite their suffering. The faith and hope that they displayed when losing limbs and body parts, or when being told that they had to try to fight ONE more time cannot be explained with the limitation of words. Some of them knew that they were dying and were at peace with it, even encouraging others to live bold lives in the face of their possible departures. Some lived and some died.

I realized that whether they lived or they died all of these children left indelible marks. I realized that whether they lived or died, all these children had huge personal brands simply because they existed.

Now, a trip to the dictionary give you a definition similar to this:

“a distinguishing symbol, mark, logo name, word, sentence or combination of these items that companies or people use to distinguish their product, services and even talents from others in the market.”

for the word brand. But this definition can be limited in helping you understand what a brand is.

My interactions with companies and people have forced me to render this definition outdated and inadequate. I believe that a definition that truly captures the essence of the word “brand” must take account for the factors of purpose, story and evolution. For this, I define the word brand, simply and adequately as:

“anything which exists or existed”

Think about it for a moment. If it exists, it is a brand. The question of whether it is a good brand remains to be answered. But if it exists it’s a brand.

Your mother is a brand. There is something about her as a woman, mother, wife or partner that makes her distinguishable from all other women. Your father is a brand in and of himself because there is something about him as a man, father, husband or partner that makes him uniquely him; something which distinguishes him from every other man on the planet.

Wood is a brand. It is hard, durable and elemental to the construction of many things. It is the things that constitute its “brand” that causes us to opt for its use over other materials. We can even go further to see the brands enmeshed in the category of wood. For example we can probably distinguish mahogany from pine due to factors such as color, strength, duration or price.

Your personal brand was created the moment you took your first breath. Were you loud or were you quiet? Did you have to be prompted to cry or did you bawl down the hospital? Were you a fighter? Were you a premie who fought to stay alive?

Your existence accounts for your personal brand because it also accounts for the evolution of you. How did you react to certain situations. What things are responsible for converting you from extroversion to introversion?

In its most basic sense, a  brand is “anything which exists”.