Business Success: The Power of Branding Yourself
Thanks to Netflix, and the fact that have two young girls, I have had the privilege of watching Disney’s Moana at least twenty times this summer. Or, was it 20 times each week over the summer? Either way, it was a lot! Due to the constant replays, I was able to identify a lot of great quotes throughout the movie. There is one in particular that stands out to me more than any other, and no matter what I am doing, my ears focus on the movie when this scene is playing. The reason it stands out to me is that it talks about something every entrepreneur needs to follow: The power of branding yourself which is essential when you are growing a business.
By now, I might have you wondering, “what quote is she talking about?” I bet at least half of you are going to assume it is a quote from Maui. While he did like talking about himself and the writers did a great job branding his character, the quote did not come from him. The powerful branding quote came from a conversation between Moana and her grandmother, Gramma Tala.
Moana – Why are you acting weird?
Gramma Tala – I’m the village crazy lady. It’s my job.
While I am sure none of us want to be labeled as the village crazy lady, she is setting an example for all of us to follow. That example is knowing your personal brand and living it every day. Your personal brand is your job and strengthening your personal brand will help you grow your business.
Business Success: The Power of Branding Yourself
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What is branding?
Before we get into why it is important for you to live your brand every day, let’s make sure you understand the concept of branding for businesses.
Branding is creating the message of what people think of when they hear of or see your company’s name, products, or marketing materials. It is forming the perception of what your company offers. Your business has strong branding when the majority of people think the same thing when they hear about or see your company. While you cannot control what people think, you can influence it with every interaction your company has with current and potential customers.
You can learn more about business branding in the post Why Is Business Branding Important for A Startup?
What is a personal brand?
A personal brand is essentially the same concept of a business brand. However, instead of it being based on people’s perception of the company, it relies on who you are as an individual.
Let’s look at an example to show the difference between a personal and business brand.
Take a minute and write down what you think about when you hear the name Bill Gates. This list is your perception of the man. In other words, it is how you see his personal brand.
Now, take a minute and repeat the exercise. This time, write down what you think about when you hear the company name Microsoft.
While you might have mentioned Bill Gates on your Microsoft list and Microsoft on your Bill Gates list, I bet your lists are different. This is because Bill Gates has spent time cultivating both his personal brand and the brand of his company.
Why is a personal brand important?
Your personal brand is important for two reasons.
The first is that when you are a small business, there is little that separates your personal brand and your business’s brand. You are the one doing the networking, you are the one selling the products, you are most likely the one fulfilling the service, and you are the one asking for the investments. People’s perception of you impacts people’s perception of your company.
This is why, like Moana’s grandma, you must live your brand every day. If your personal brand does not match your company’s brand, a disconnect will form in your audience’s mind. This will lower the trust level between you and your audience, and decrease your chances of being successful.
The second reason is that mishaps in your personal brand have the power to significantly impact your business no matter how successful your company has become.
CEOs have been fired due to actions that affect their personal branding. This is because the public measures a company based on their perception of the individuals that make up that company. For example, in 2014, the CEO of American Apparel, Dov Charney, was fired due to the harm lawsuits and personal behavior were causing his personal brand. The negativity of his personal brand was causing negative opinions on the company’s brand, and the company decided they needed to part ways to repair the perception of the business.
Defining your brand
Seeing a business brand is closely connected to one’s personal brand, I believe you need to either define your business brand first or build the two simultaneously.
The first reason I suggest this is because the type of business you own impacts how you need to define your personal brand.
For example, your firm is a fitness company where you offer personal training and provide self-guided workout and meal plans. If you are always being seen in formal business attire, you will create a disconnect between you and your company. Your personal brand would make your business brand stronger if your appearance consisted more of workout appropriate attire.
It is not all about the dress, however. It is also about how you present yourself through your actions. If as a fitness coach you are always seen eating fast food or filling your shopping cart with unhealthy options, your personal brand would not be sending the right message for the type of business you run. However, if your business is not health-related, what you eat might not matter and could be ignored while building your personal brand.
Another reason it is important to set your business brand before or at the same time as your personal brand is because your target audience matters. Even when opening the same type of business, having a target audience of lawyers would require a different personal brand focus than if your target audience was college-age graphic designers. Your personal brand should connect with your audience.
Lastly, your brand personality matters. If your brand’s personality is fun and bright, your personal brand needs to be fun and bright. If your company’s branding is professional and serious, your personal brand should match. Otherwise, you might always be battling to build trust with your customers.
Defining a business brand
Establishing your business brand can be an extensive process. It includes defining your audience, selecting your color pallet, writing a mission and vision statement, creating a logo and more.
Seeing branding is something that you want to make sure you are doing right, seeking guidance and help are important. If you can afford the cost, branding companies are a good investment. These companies will do more than just create a logo. They will help define your brand’s personality and complete the entire branding package.
These companies will do more than just create a logo but will help define your brand’s personality and complete the entire branding package.
A DIY branding method is an option if your business cannot afford the cost of hiring a branding company. If you are going to attempt to brand your own business, make sure you seek the right guidance. The tool that I suggest is a course named Vine: A DIY Branding Course. I took this course myself, and it was the best investment I made for my company. I highly recommend you check out this course to learn more about branding and to be guided through the branding process.
To learn more about the Vine: A DIY Branding Course and business branding, read Why Is Business Branding Important for A Startup?
Elements of a personal brand
Once you have defined your business brand, it is time to define your personal brand. There are four main elements to a personal brand.
Appearance – Your appearance is not a measure of how attractive you are. Instead, it is defining how you will present yourself. This includes your dress, hair, and makeup. The decisions you make for your personal brand’s appearance should match the personality of your brand.
Your decision should include but might not be limited to deciding the following.
- Business formal, business casual, or casual dress?
- Are jeans or shorts allowed?
- Industry specific (ex: scrubs)?
- Vibrant or muted colors?
- Trendy or classic?
Personality – Think about your personality and how others describe you. Are you energetic and outgoing? Are you caring and always put others first? Do you enjoy taking risks?
While you might be able to think of many traits that describe you, which ones matter when it comes to your company’s brand? These are the ones you should focus on with your personal brand.
Competencies – Your competencies are your skill set. Think of the skills that you have that makes you capable of running your business. Your personal brand should let people know that you excel at these competencies.
Value Proposition – Your value proposition is what differentiates you from your competition. It is why someone should choose to work with you instead of working with someone else.
Even though you are a part of your company, this value proposition is about what you offer, not what the company offers. Making this separation between you and the company can be challenging. This is especially true when you are a one-person business. However, you need to try to make a separation. This is because one day your company will probably be more than you. Your value proposition reinforces why you are the right person to run the company. Who you are matters when you seek funding, hire a board of directors, or become a publicly traded company.
Live your brand
Remember, once you set your personal brand, you must live it every day. When running a successful business, living your brand becomes your job. While it is ok to have casual days when your brand is formal, make sure you are living your life in a way that will not hurt your personal or company brand.
Just like Moana’s grandma acted like the village crazy lady because it was her job, live your personal brand like it is your job.