The Authenticity of Branding : Steps to Remaining Relevant Beyond Five Years

Karate teacher and students

As the economic kung fu superstar Bruce Lee flashes through the screen beating down, bullying and disgracing his people- his brand would affect directions to come. Much after his death, his brand remains relevant today. A brand that has inspired a six year old kid living in the violent projects, an experience to become a great escape and dream for this young kid. One that would ignite such a burning desire that after thirty something years that kid would achieve almost all of his dreams: a successful business, an author of multiple works, publisher of magazines, film director, fashion designer, producer of straight to DVD productions, a martial arts pioneer, and so much more.

Everyone is a brand- but they just don't realize it. All big brands start as a personal brand company like Coca Cola, Mc'Donalds, and Starbucks; then they place great importance in marketing and promoting their brands as well as protecting them- and from that they make billions of dollars. People can do the same thing by emulating what the big boys do, and the authenticity is based on what your destiny is, what dreams you have, what skills you have developed and what values you live by and bring to your job. People should get a positive emotional response when they think about and hear your name. In other words, your brand should build and inspire memories that last a lifetime. When statements like that come from your customer, but in person or even those who have been inspired in photos that deliver these same emotions, you have a powerful brand. It is all about your reputation 24-7 and that is the only way you're going to be a successful entrepreneur. You see, when you're not a brand you're just a commodity... a faceless product. In the industry of martial arts, many entrepreneurs are doing just that. As a matter of fact, more enforcement is placed on the style and the system and less on the individual brand. Why spend your life on building a business and fail because you did not build up your brand? And that brand starts with your story; the reason why you chose the field you're in and started the business you run. The obstacles that you had to overcome and how they began to defame your love and commitment to raise the bar. Through this process you learn to turn your obstacles to learning empowerment curves in order to have a brake through. What you continue to bring to the world to empower others, solve problems and provide solutions will determine the worth your customer feels your brand is. Your brand experience is worth more than your entire business; and that is what I learned to do in one of my defining moments which was to grow to another level beyond my violent upbringing. I often tell people that God saved me from drug abuse, drug dealing, hustling, homelessness and incarceration... into a seven time world champion and black hall of fame award winner. Because of this level of honesty, it has allowed me to run a successful school and establish a strong personal brand that extends far beyond my industry- one that has allowed the development of a multicultural brand. Enlisted below are steps that you can take in order to establish an authentic brand.

1. Authenticity 

This is all about being true to yourself; being honest and respected for what you bring to the world based on your experiences and values. This focus brings life to whatever system of martial arts you teach. For example, the Gracie legacy is defined by the Gracie family experience, and that is what makes their brand powerful. Bruce Lee also once said "The individual is more important than the system." That is just another way to show you the value of your personal branding. So "do you" as the hip hop believer brand founder Russell Simmons once said.

2. Leadership not Management

We live in the age of leadership which is all about leading by example not cracking the whip to demand that people do things. People move faster and are empowered by our actions they naturally want to emulate that example as Stephen Covey said in his book Principle Centered Leadership.

Individuals and organizations survive, thrive and transform by holding onto principles just like those your reading. Principles are the tools that teach others how to function well beyond their leaders. They learn to take ownership for all they do running your business like it is theirs because their own personal unique brand adds power to our own brand.

3. Thinking Out of the Box

Creative and innovative thinking is the only way for any progress to grow beyond its own industry. It must transcend into the pop culture and beyond. It has to satisfy and desire the need for invisible form all walks of life even if they cannot enter your doors. And once again, the root cause of being your brand that really is your mission statement should provide solutions to societal problems. For example, I created the kung fu hip hop curriculum. It was created to help the next generation of kids and teens avoid my previous path. Along with that, my family and I have created street combat to deal with the violence that plague our worlds. And finally, our diva empowerment program was created. It is based on my wife's tragic experience of being attacked and sexually abused in college, so all of our moms can learn to be tough but tender. With all these curriculums used to empower others outside our core curriculum, it's nothing to stay relevant as a brand.

4. Services

Service is all about sacrificing personal desire for the benefit of others and it has to go beyond the dollar sign. Don't get me wrong, we must be money conscious like it states in the book "Think and Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill. My instructor, Grand Master Dennis Brown is a powerful example of this- which was first put into motion when he came to pick me up at the age of seventeen. I had no money; just a dream and a desire to achieve my goals. He showed the power of focusing on the harvest and not the seed and he never thought I would fail regardless of how low I fell. He always expected me to produce greatness while paying it forward. This is what we do for all our customers that walk through our doors- by positively impacting their lives through every encounter. And always, showing them that the $207.00 you pay monthly is nothing compared to what you get in exchange for our services.

5. Learning from All

Daymond John is the star of the hit TV show Shark Tank and the founder of Believers Clothing Brand. He once said "The street detractive what is next and what is hot." That is so true learning from others on all levels: those on top as well as those down low.

If you don't, it fails because as a champion you know that underdog awareness will cost you your first loss. And let's be real, what goes up must come down. I learned first hand from the streets that as long as you show respect, respect will be given back. As martial artists, everything we do begins and ends with respect, and by showing to all, maybe we can have that next innovated creator on our team to help us keep our own brands growing.

6. Telling Your Story 

Behind every great brand is a heartfelt story, and as a matter of fact without that story, you are virtually nothing. This is your authentic Dr. Huffman, and no one can tell it like you can. And once you find gratitude within your own story, you find power. And through this discovery you learn to structure it in a way that transforms other people's lives and sets them on their own path of self discovery. So, if your story makes up your brand, then there could be no authenticity in just sharing past major stories. It is all about traditional references and modern ones as well and it is yours that makes the biggest impact on customers that can relate to you. We aim our stories towards that target awareness, so we can achieve results.

7. Branching Back 

In life there will always be setbacks; but we must be prepared to immediately bounce back. For any effective technique, there is also effective counters and if you stay relaxed and in rhythm you will flow. That is what bouncing back is all about- especially when you keep God first, and grasp his scripture- Isaiah 54:17: No weapon formed against you shall prosper. This is what my parents always preach. Truth will always prevail and that is our authenticity, and it is the only way to reward relevant as such a rollercoaster ride of an economy.

Introducing Martial Arts School Listings on Black Belt Mag!
Sign Up Now To Be One Of The First School Listed In Our Database.
Don't miss a single issue of the worlds largest magazine of martial arts.