On my recent flight from Gran Canaria to Madrid, my meal box came with this:
A wooden fork, knife, and spoon with a napkin wrapped in plastic.
Seemingly innocuous, but it's a message. Depending on how conscious you are of the environment, it could be loud, or subtle. Nevertheless, it is a message that this airline does not really care about the environment. The utensils are made out of more ecologically friendly wood. Perhaps, in response to the increasing external pressure to demonstrate commitment to the ESG (environment, sustainability, and corporate governance), or to fulfil an internal goal to reduce waste to landfill. Should we celebrate this action? If you are of the school that “every little bit helps”, then maybe. But, if you take the plastic packaging into account, may be not. Why? Because in an attempt to save a cent or perhaps because of the lack of intentionality in the ESG efforts, the airline risks communicating to their customers: "We don’t really care that much about the environment, but we’ve made a token effort". After all, what would it take to go paper instead of plastic?
If you want to communicate that something really matters to you, commit to it 100%. Anything less dilutes your message, and in doing so, corrodes your brand.
To show that you deeply care about something, you sweat the small stuff. Because if you slip on just one thing, others start wondering, "What else don’t they care about?"
This applies equally to your personal brand. If you want to be recognized as an authoritative thought leader, research your topic beyond what's expected. If creativity is your differentiator, be cautious with recycling designs and solutions.
And then apply the 80/20 principle. Focus on the 20% that matters and know there’s much that's not important. And if you spend time there, it will gnaw at your success, as others observe the half-hearted efforts. The challenge? Knowing what’s your 20%. That is your leverage point.
A strong personal brand gives you a career edge. A brand that appeals to your target audience helps you succeed. Best personal brands stand out. Be ruthlessly selective in choosing your points of differentiation. Being consistently true to your brand amplifies its impact. Don't fall into the trap of wooden utensils with a plastic wrap.