Primal Branding Series #6 – Sacred Words. What do you say?

Continuing with my series on Primal Branding by Patrick Hanlon. I have discussed in previous posts the creation story, the creed, the icon, the rituals, and the pagans / nonbelievers. This week, I’ll be focusing on the sacred words.

What are sacred words? I believe the best example is Apples’ “i”s. iPhone, iPod, iMac, etc. Apple has created a language all their own for their products.

Smaller businesses have sacred words too! Remember that bake shop / candle shop / soap shop that has really smart names for their flavors? That’s sacred words in action.

Have you ever heard the following phrase just roll off of somebody’s tongue? “A grande non-fat sugar-free vanilla latte, extra hot, no foam, please.” That’s sacred words in action.

Allow me to share with you a story. My co-workers and I regularly visit this sandwich shop for lunch. They have many options for the sandwiches. What size? What kind of bread? Cheese? So, we challenge ourselves to go through the entire ordering process without them having to ask us one single question. This is us learning their language, their sacred words. That’s sacred words in action.

Why are sacred words important? Because every culture has a language of their own. To have your own culture, your own cult, your own following, you must create the language your culture / cult / following will use.

As I have done in previous weeks, I’d like to take these primal branding principles to the next level. I’d like to see how scared words are leveraged not only by businesses, but by people. What works for corporate branding should work for personal branding too.

What does sacred words mean for personal branding?

There are two fronts to this question. Are you a follower or are you the leader? At any given time, you are both.

First, you’re a follower in your industry. You must know the sacred words in your industry to fit into that cult. This is to know the jargons. This has obvious implications if you’re looking for a job. Your resume needs to reflect the right jargon. You need to be on the same page, speaking the same lingo, with your interviewer.

Second, you’re a leader in your industry and in your own personal brand. In your industry / company, you define the words your people would use.

Allow me to share another story. A boss of mine used to use the term “EEC”. Always act and speak with EEC. What’s EEC? Energy, Enthusiasm, and Conviction. EEC was his term. This was his scared word.

As a leader of my own personal brand, I have built a reputation of being a good worker with a good attitude. When was the last time you heard someone say “spiffy”? I used to say that all the time when people ask “how’s it going?” In fact, once I didn’t say “spiffy”, I said something along the line of “great”… my co-worker called me out! “Oh, not spiffy?” This was how I knew that “spiffy” was my scared word.

As I grew in my career, I’ve retired “spiffy”. Currently, my default answer is “can’t complain”. Simple enough right? But it’s actually quite powerful when it’s integrated with other aspects of my personal brand. Consider the following conversation that actually happened:

Marketing Director: How’s it going?
Me: Can’t complain.
Marketing Director: Well, you wouldn’t even if you can.

My simple “can’t complain” reinforces my personal brand of being a good worker with a good attitude.

How do you answer “How’s it going?” What are your scared words?


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