Like it or not we live in a branded world.
It’s an inescapable truth and the consequences for us all as individuals are profound and far-reaching.
As consumers we have been branded all our lives from the clothes and perfume we wear to the car we drive and the drinks we drink.
Everywhere we turn brands shape our lives. We become (willing) walking advertisements for the brands we love. They represent our aspirations and our dreams.
As businesses (especially new businesses) we struggle to be noticed above all the other businesses selling the same stuff to the same customers.
Sometimes the best way to stand out from this noise is ‘to be your own brand’.
Beware the personal ‘brand’wagon
The other day I Googled ‘personal branding’ and the result was article after article preaching why we must all be our own personal brand, otherwise we are sure to fail in life.
I read one article in particular that said ‘we must all live our personal brand everyday of our lives!’
It seems we have become 7.4 billion personal brands rather than 7.4 billion human beings.
If you’re a doctor, a policeman, a nurse, a social worker, an accountant, a lawyer, a shop assistant, a mechanic or a rocket scientist, do you need a ‘personal brand’ to get through life?
Of course not!
As usual we have all become victims of a tabloid ‘buzzword’ that has lost its true meaning and purpose.
- Yes of course, we need to be aware of the consequences of our digital actions and it’s implications for our future careers
- Yes of course, we should all put our best foot forward when it comes to interacting with the world.
- Yes of course, we should all be kind, considerate of others and present ourselves in the best possible light whenever possible.
- Yes of course, we mustn’t sabotage that job interview with a poorly constructed CV and ill-prepared speech.
- Yes of course we should be aware that what we say and do on social media as it usually stays on social media and if it’s negative it might come back and bite in years to come.
Remember Google never forgets. So do take care of your reputation along the way.
“You might as well ensure that future employers find positive records of you on the internet, crafted by yourself, than dubious ones and dodgy associations”. – Seth Godin
- And yes, in our digital world, employers will increasingly check your Linkedin profile and Facebook page (if you have one) looking for clues as to who you are and why they should employ you rather than someone else.
This is not personal branding – it is simply being human in a digitally connected social media world!
What is a personal brand or ‘YOU’ brand?
For me Jamie Oliver is one perfect example of a successful ‘You” brand.
There have been many famous ones over the years from Chanel and Dior to Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey and David Beckham. Where the personality has successfully become the ‘face’ of the brand.
Jamie Oliver is a chef, restaurateur, best selling author, media personality, businessman, passionate campaigner and a brand. We all recognise his face, what he does and what he stands for and what he doesn’t.
He is the face and name of what is now a global brand.
The power of the ‘You’ brand is that it puts a real vulnerable human face (not a celebrity) to a whole range of products and services.
How do you build a ‘YOU’ brand?
If you want to build your new business idea and brand around ‘you’ instead of your product the first thing you need to do is (and I know it sounds corny but…) ‘be yourself’. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not.
Building a brand and a business around ‘you’ rather than your product is not for everyone, and that’s ok.
You’re putting yourself centre stage (in the firing line) and that can be very uncomfortable.
You’re stepping out from behind your product or idea and becoming the brand itself.
- What will people think?
- What if no-one likes me?
- What if they think I’m rubbish?
It’s okay to be the centre of attention in business. In fact there is no other way; so embrace it don’t fight it.
Here are 4 powerful rules for building your ‘you’ brand – right now!
1. Be You. The worst thing you can do is to start with a lie. It sounds obvious, I know, but many people do.
Social media is full of people trying to sell to others based on a lie. You know the ones I’m talking about. Be honest. If you want to be trusted, be honest. Brands that tell a genuine, honest story build a genuine following.
“In today’s world many brands, just like politicians and institutions, are mistrusted by default and in too many cases rightly so”.
2. It’s not all about you! (But you just said…) Yes, build your ‘YOU’ brand around you but it’s not all about “Look how impressive I am!”. It’s about serving your audience.
3. Be inclusive. We all like to be part of something (well most of us anyway).
Too many brands, like politicians, sell to us behind a mask of sincerity; they don’t walk the talk and the bigger the brand the more effective the mask.
Build your business and your brand on honesty, compassion, generosity and a common interest and you will turn followers into customers and customers into ambassadors. Your cause will become theirs.
Brands that stand for something have a better chance of creating meaningful connections with their customers and followers.
4. Build trust. It doesn’t come overnight and you can’t buy it. It takes time. We have to nurture it, grow it, build on it, stand by it. It’s the foundation of any lasting relationship.
It’s a brands most valuable asset. Don’t play with, don’t abuse it and don’t underestimate its power.