Coke-a-cola has an estimated brand equity value of over $67 billion, making Coke the number one brand in the world. Amazing for a company that sells sugar and water in a can. But there is actually a brand with a higher brand value than Coke. What is it? Stand up and look in the mirror the greatest brand in the world is YOU.
Why personal branding?
If you don't brand yourself, you can rest assured that others are branding you. And letting others brand you can be risky business. Instead, we should have control, as much as we can, in determining our reputation, our image, and the intangibles, the ephemerals, and the perceptions and ideas that other people have about us. Here's a partial list of what personal branding can do for you:
You know that branding is big business for companies and organizations, but when did this whole self-branding or "BrandYou" phenomenon begin? It really is not a new idea to tell you the truth, and you could argue that self-promotion and techniques for marketing yourself have been around since the days of ancient Egypt. And many of the issues that Dale Carnegie talked about in the 1930s could be applied to the development of personal branding, to be sure, though he did not call it "branding." But, of the people who have really been preaching the need for personal branding in the modern era, it is Tom Peters who has been screaming loudest. Tom's first article on personal branding came out in a 1997 issue of Fast Company. For many people, the world has not been the same since.
|| Differentiate yourself from others in similar fields
Position yourself clearly in the minds of others
Focus your message and your mission
Make emotional, visceral connections
BrandYou: A bunch of dotcom hubris?
But isn't this all just a lot of hot air? I mean come on, you still have to have skills, right? Of course. No one ever suggested that you can market or "brand" yourself to make up for short comings in your own skill-set or professional portfolio. Think of your "BrandYou" strategy as a necessary but not sufficient condition for success in today's world. Likewise, having outstanding skills is a necessary but not sufficient condition. We all know someone, for example, who is extremely intelligent, educated, and talented, yet lacks (in a big way) the necessary "soft-skills" for connecting with people and "selling" his/her ideas to the key players who could make a real difference.
Personal branding, at least to me, is not about self-promotion and marketing tactics at all. Promotion and marketing are often short-term endeavors which focus you on short-term results. Branding is more fundamental than that. Branding comes first. Branding is what you build your self-promotion and identity program on. The main outcome of personal branding should be a clear, deep, and profound understanding of who you are and what you stand for, and what you want to be known for. It is not enough to be known for what you do you must be know for what you do different(ly). You do not merely want to be known as another player in a category. You want people to believe that you are the BEST (perhaps ONLY) solution to their problem. For example, there are plenty of people who cut hair for a living. It's a huge category. But I have been with my same barber for nearly ten years. And although there may be cheaper stylists, more conveniently located, my stylist (Keiji-san) is the ONLY person I will go to. I trust his "brand." And when it comes to the category of barber/hair stylist, the brand promise of "trust" is everything.
I believe there are three areas you need to focus on when assembling your "BrandYou" strategy (my inspiration for this three-prong approach came from a very good book on the topic called Brand Yourself by David Andusia and Rick Haskins): (1) Develop your brand. (2) Package your brand. (3) Communicate your brand. I'll look at these briefly below.
(1) Developing your brand
During the development of "BrandYou" you need to ask yourself some basic questions. For example: What are your values? What do you love? What do you hate? What are you insanely great at doing? What are you most proud of? What do you want to be? What is important and valuable to you? What do you want to be known for? Basic, fundamental questions, yes. And yet, sometimes these are the most difficult to answer. But they must be answered and must be true.
Once you formulate your brand, it will serve as the basis for everything that connects people to your brand, both logically and emotionally. Brand is soul deep. Your image is important, of course, but an image is just a reflection of your brand and your core values. Remember: the idea of branding yourself goes far beyond promotion and marketing yourself to others.
Dr. Seamus Phan says in his book, DotZen, "...the core of branding, beyond telling truth, is to be true to yourself." I couldn't agree more. The development stage of your brand-building strategy is the most important. This is where you determine who you are and what you stand for. When we strip you down to the most basic elements of what you're all about, what do we have? This requires a lot of self-reflection and naval gazing in the beginning. But you don't have to do this alone entirely. In fact, you should check with others to see if they see you in similar ways that you see yourself.
The three pillars of a good brand are authenticity, consistency, and clarity. This holds true for your personal brand as well. Use these three pillars as your guide when evaluating your brand. By delving deep into yourself during this process and working hard to define who you are and what you stand for, your brand message will become clear. It will be clear to others precisely because it is clear to you. A clear message is a message people can trust. Personal brands do evolve overtime somewhat, but they remain essentially consistent at the core. Madonna is a good example. She is certainly not the same "Like a Virgin" pop-star of the 1980s. But the brand promise of today's Madonna (now a mother of two) remains the same: independent, sexy, and slightly in-your-face.
(2) Packaging your brand
Companies spend tons of money on the packaging of their goods and services. Why? After all, it is the actual product or service that is important; the packaging is superfluous, right? Wrong. Like it or not, superficial or not, people judge products (and people too) based in part on appearances. First impressions, as we have all been told, are huge. Packaging for a new shampoo or an iPod Mini certainly makes sense. We can understand that. A package for a physical product has to attract, inform, and persuade the customer to buy. But the package of a brand even a physical product is much more than the wrapper. So what makes up the package of a person's brand? Here are a few items of your personal brand identity portfolio:
|| Your name
Your office space (does it reflect who you are?)
Your business card
Your personal style
Your speaking style
Your presentations (including your PowerPoint visuals)
Your website (got to have one)
If you are an independent business person (such as a consultant), then you may want to have a logo and a company name. But this is not done lightly. Your company name, and then logo visual attributes, will be based on the results of what you learned in the development process. Logo development is fundamental and the critical component of a brand identity program. But for most of us, a logo per se will not be necessary since we are employed full-time by a corporation. Even if you do work for a corporation, it is perfectly alright (in fact, desirable) to create a brand identity that is separate from your employer. For example, a friend of mine works for a large agency in Tokyo, but she has her own brand outside of her important work responsibilities. And, she did in fact come up with a logo that is consistent with her personal brand as a creative, intelligent, avant-garde photographer. The packaging of her personal brand appears on her website and on her business card.
(3) Communicating your brand
"If you're not appearing, you're disappearing," said legendary jazz musician, Art Blakey. Absolutely true. No matter what your "thing" is engineer, marketing exec, or French Literature professor, whatever! standing on the merits of your great work alone is not (usually) enough. People have got to know about you and your great work. They have got to meet you, see you. If you want people to talk about the wonderful things you do, then you must give them the opportunity to experience you. This means attending networking meetings (both social and professional) and getting involved in external organizations in your field. But do not limit your involvement only to organizations in your direct field. Some of the best contacts may come from quite unexpected places, but you will never know unless you get out there and mix it up.
One way to "get out there" and "appear" is to volunteer to make presentations. Organizations and professional associations are always looking for great guest speakers why don't you volunteer? Even if it is not a paying gig, the contacts you make from one of your presentations might be very valuable and may even lead to paid speaking engagements down the line. Who knows? When you share what you know, and "give it away," so to speak, you will in the end always reap far more than you sow. If you are not now a great public speaker, then get a coach or take a seminar or two. It is a fact: people will judge you by the way you present yourself (and your message) to an audience. If you get this skill down, it could make all the difference in your career.
Presentations are not the only way to "get out there" however. Writing articles for magazines is another. Depending on your area of expertise, editors are usually looking hard for content. Trying to get something in the New York Times or other major publication may be shooting too high (at least at first). Try to publish in local or regional newspapers and magazines, and in trade journals. This is a great opportunity to share your expertise and generate some free exposure for yourself as well.
And, of course, your website is not only part of your package, it is one of the key ways you communicate your brand message. With your own website you have the freedom and the power to tell your unique story, reaching out and connecting with people who share your interests or who may be seeking what you have to offer. The design of your site must be consistent with your brand and your brand identity. The look and feel and the ease of use of your website reflect strongly on your brand, so take time with your website and think it through.
BrandYou now more than ever
Personal branding may have been a cool idea in the '90s when Tom Peters first wrote the article for Fast Company. Today, personal branding is essential. The market place is crowded and the labor market as competitive as ever. To make your mark and rise above the noise, you need to have a clear idea what you're all about and what you have to offer (and to whom). What makes you different? What do you have to offer that is demonstrably different, better, cooler? Dig deep inside yourself and find out. Once you have your message down, clear and concise, make the opportunities to tell your little piece of the world what you're all about and how you can help.
Take a look at Tom's latest article on personal branding:
BrandYou survival kit June, 2004 (Tom Peters)
Copyright © 2004 GarrReynolds.Com