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The Art of Personal Branding

According to Gerry McGovern, author of Killer Web Content, “This is an age in which we need to brand ourselves, an age in which professionals have become—to a lesser or greater degree—an organization of self-dependence!” Branding is, after all, about differentiation. The origin of the word stems from the mark given to cattle so that they could be recognized by their owners. Thus, being recognized is the first step. However, personality is the key element behind your brand and what it stands for. Branding is your story.

There is a lot of noise out there. How are you going to get people’s attention? How can you apply the lessons of branding to yourself? What’s in it for you?

What does a brand mean?

A brand holds many associations. Think about Citibank, for instance: “Citi never sleeps”. The association created with this brand is that it is possible to do your banking 24/7. In another field, take Audi’s “Vorspung durch Technik” (roughly translated as “Advancement through technology,”), meaning that Audi has technical superiority and the association being that Audi cars are indeed technically advanced. A brand is usually associated with a logo and typical brand colors and slogans. Citi, for example, is associated with the well-known Citi blue, while HSBC uses red and white, ING uses orange, and so on. These colours become quickly identifiable with their respective brands. Individual colors have a variety of cultural associations such as national colors and are associated with emotion and activity. The same is valid for logos that represent a brand. Think about the new logo of Starbucks. It does not highlight what the company is selling, just shows a Fairy in a green circle calling for an association with a moment

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of peace, a moment for you, a bit of magic in the middle of a hectic world. Words are no longer needed as we just know what it stands for.

The design of a solid logo is partly the graphic designer’s concern, but is the company behind the logo professional? Is the action of branding about design or about the quality that is behind that design? Is it about selling wind or selling substance? Is it merely a logo, or is it about the search for excellence? Factually, a brand equals a promise and should match expectations. Think about the brands of perfume which sell much more than perfume—some also sell a lifestyle, a personality. To take a great example, think of the enduring success of Chanel—its print

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ads, videos and more sell more than a fragrance. They sell the idea of a pleasure, a luxurious lifestyle, a moment for you. It means doing something special for you.

Using Branding to Your Advantage

Today, more than ever, the professional has a double challenge: first, being recognized, as there is tough competition in every field; and secondly, being seen as not just different, but better than the competition. Even if you are a real professional, you still have to ascertain that others know it. One might think that with new media this is easier than it was before, but keep in mind that not all of us use the same channels. Your voice is quickly lost in the noise.

Your challenge is selling yourself as a brand by all possible means in a coherent, systematic manner using all the tools of classical marketing. Look at yourself as a product. Most successful products are successful because of their quality but even more so because they are sold using all the tools of pure marketing as described in the marketing books, about fifty years ago. Think about yourself not just as a marketable product, but as an augmented product which has its own unique, sellable features. There are a lot of excellent singers out there, but Lady Gaga has over 58 million Facebook “likes” mainly because of

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raw marketing techniques! She uses every single available marketing tool. Harvard University introduced a course covering the ingredients of her marketing success.

Tips for Personal Branding

The following is a short list of things you can do on a day-to-day basis in order to be branded. Many of the items on the list are also key features of a successful corporate culture, as one might expect. To effectively brand yourself, try to:

  • Be a person open to learning.
  • Create a disciplined environment.
  • Possess a strong code of conduct.
  • Have a team spirit when working with others.
  • Be people-oriented and deepen your relationships with others over time.
  • Be conscious that people pay for added value only.
  • Stay involved.
  • Have an audience mentality.
  • Write the way you talk to convince someone.
  • Chat, even when there is nothing really that dramatic to say.
  • Be highly motivated.
  • Have the capacity to listen.
  • Be on a permanent search for excellence.

Why is your personal branding so important?

Scott W. Ventrella, in his book Me, Inc., writes, “Remember you are the CEO of yourself. If you were an employee of your company, would you follow you? Taking control of our lives has never been as challenging or as important as it is today as we can no longer depend on our employers or even partners to provide for us. We must be self-reliant.”

Through branding, you will first and foremost get a reputation. Your reputation will precede you. The remaining challenge will be to keep up with your reputation, which is much more fun and rewarding than the first phase of branding! You will achieve this by applying above tips as a matter of routine, without thinking about it. True, it will require an unwavering discipline day after day but that is what success requires. Getting “there” is difficult but staying “there” is even more difficult!

Finally, remember this sentence from Jeff Bezos, founder of ”Branding is what people say about you when you leave the room” and a very last thing by Gerry McGovern, something to really keep in mind: “People read everything in the way they read road signs as they are driving down the motorway – if it is not obvious they won’t see it!”. You can stand out.