Branding is a big deal. Companies pay tens of thousands to millions of dollars on improving their brand, communicating their brand, and developing their brand. But most people don’t fully understand what all the fuss is about. Some people think a brand is a logo or style. Others say it’s a vibe. But a brand is so much more than both of those things and if you haven’t faced your personal brand face-to-face, you’re in for a rude awakening. Take your career, business, and life to the next level by examining your personal brand.
A brand is not just what you see, but what you feel and what you expect. It transcends the physical and breaches the emotional, mental, and sometimes spiritual.
Every personal and organization has a brand; some more recognizable than others. According to iMPACT, these are the most recognized brands of ALL TIME (though published early 2017).
- World Wildlife Fund
When you scanned the list…were any notable to you? Let’s start at the bottom first to drive the point home.
Starbucks. What happens when you consider the word…Starbucks. Do you visualize a trendy, indie scene, with dim lights and cozy nooks? Do you feel a warm beverage between your palms? Has a robust aroma of productivity entered your nostrils? Do you feel pleasant based off your experienced dealing with Starbucks baristas or irritated by the hustle and bustle? Do you know you’ll get the perfect drink at every Starbucks location? Do you feel confident the quality will be high? Does the high price tag come to mind? How about the customers…do they seem sophisticated? Free spirited? OK, now how about the physical…what logo comes to mind? What colors? Are the seats and tables nice to you? Do you wish you were sitting there right now taking this all in for real?
That…is a brand. And every brand is different. Some make you think and feel good while others make you cringe and run in the opposite direction.
McDonald’s holds a special place in my heart. For a fitness fanatic, that seems odd. But let me tell you why I am such a fan. When I was younger, I had major chest reconstructive surgery. I was in the hospital for weeks and my young self did not want to eat any of the hospital food. I know, that you know, exactly where this is going!
My dad brought me McDonald’s. A juicy burger, salty fries, and maybe a soda with those famously large straws (though my memory of the drink is sketchy). I chowed down and was out of the hospital in a jiffy…but not out of the woods just yet.
Post operation, I was to stay in a Ronald McDonald house near the hospital. Just to make sure everything was OK.
Fast forward a few years. My best friend and I worked this horrible, horrible job in a shipping warehouse. We would escape on our lunch breaks to…you guessed it…a nearby McDonald’s. That one hour escape was incredible. So good, in fact, we spent much of the money we were making on our lunch break!
Fast forward another few years, and that same best friend and I would hang out late into the night at our local McDonald’s. We were growing boys after all. Countless hours were spend on those dinner-style seats with near endless supplies of crispy, salty fries and double-quarter pounders.
Many, many years later, I can still see, feel, and taste those wonderful memories. Sometimes my order has been messed up, so I certainly don’t expect consistent quality. But the combination of good and bad thoughts is the McDonald’s brand to me.
Rise of Personal Branding
Like businesses, people also have brands. Think of your best friend. What are some things that come to mind? Honesty? Work ethic? Loyalty? Compassion? Leadership? Tenacity? Frugality? Selfish? Are they on time or always late?
If you were to ask one of five friends for help…their personal brand would come into play. If you needed help making it to an important meeting or appointment, you certainly wouldn’t ask the really fun but always late friend. Or if you needed help planning a party, the frugal, too-serious lawyer wouldn’t come to mind. These are their personal brands in action.
Now, consider yourself. What is your brand?
Have you let your brand just happen to you rather than cultivating it and telling it what to become? Illustrator Abi Cushman highlighted her personal branding in our interview together and she made a tremendous point. She carefully ensures that how she comes across to people is consistent every time, whether it’s font used on a business card to the way she reaches out to prospective clients. Her brand matters to her.
And your brand should matter to you.
What is Your Personal Brand?
Consider these questions and answer them. Don’t answer them with some idealistic answer. Be honest. What is your brand…today.
- How would friends describe my strengths? My weaknesses?
- How am I different depending on what social circle I am with?
- If I bumped into a stranger, how would I come across to them?
- Do other people talk highly of me in my absence? If so, or if not, what do they say about me?
- Am I someone that I would call upon for help? For advice?
- What about my past decisions would cause people to want to team up with me?
And now, here’s your homework. Take a good look at your answers to those questions and decide what you want to be different. What about your brand today is not what you want to be your brand tomorrow. Make a few, simple, goals to create that personal brand for yourself.
There are many high-rated books on the subject of personal branding, like Chris Ducker’s Rise of the Youpreneur, Dorie Clark’s Entrepreneurial You, and Brand You! to Land Your Dream Job by Diane Huth. Now that personal branding is becoming such a trending topic, many experts are beginning to weigh in on it around the world. The tools you need are readily available if you’ll simply look in the rhetorical mirror and grab a pen and paper.
If personal branding or corporate branding resonated with you, I’d be honored if you gave it a social like or share and left some thoughts in the comment section below. I bet you know a lot more about branding than meets the eye, even if you haven’t considered it until today.