Oxford Dictionaries just named the word “selfie” the word of the year.

I think that’s appropriate.

These self-portraits have become as ubiquitous in our world as socks. Just about every online profile has one – typically a headshot trying to evoke some kind of emotion. They are taken at parties or with friends or celebrities with the photographers arm in full view as if to say, “See. I was here doing this thing and I am taking a picture of myself just to prove it.”

131119093552-01-celeb-selfie-horizontal-galleryThe act of taking one’s own picture in this manner and on this scale is strictly a 21st century phenomena. Sure, artists painted, drew or took photos of themselves before the dawn of the selfie. But those were artistic pursuits. Today, millions of selfies are taken and profile pictures are changed like, well, socks.

And this is where a brand learning comes in.

The selfie is a picture taken of oneself from the perspective of oneself. We are trying to show ourselves as we think of ourselves, not how others actually view us.

We hope that the way we see ourselves is actually the way others see us. But that’s not the case. Brands have this problem as well. Most brands have become so wrapped up in what they think they do, they lose sight of what their customers and, more importantly, those prospects who don’t know them actually think.

Brands take selfies all the time. Most of the time, they only talk about themselves. “We have the friendliest people.” “We have the best gizmo.” “We are the most innovative.” Those are selfies.

The reality is that, in most cases, prospects simply see companies for what they are, a producer of something that is really not a lot different than the rest. Brands need to take advantage of the prospects’ desire to show people how they aspire to be seen by creating brands that identify who the prospects want to be.

Brands must metaphorically take pictures of those they wish to influence and wave them in the air saying, “Hey, we are for you” – because most consumers love a good selfie of themselves.