Here it is. The post we said would be coming up soon in the article we wrote last week about branding misconceptions, where we will discuss branding a little more in-depth. We will also discuss the differences between personal and professional branding, and when you might want to use each to benefit your company. Visibility is one of the most significant factors that can determine a company’s success or failure in the market. Developing and growing your brand is one of the best ways you can increase that visibility to your consumers.
What is a brand?
Branding is an all encompassing process for building the way your company is perceived by everyone. It is a big concept. It is viewed differently by different audiences and the way your brand will be perceived will be different depending on who is “consuming” or “perceiving” it. Branding is the process of developing a corporate identity and developing a corporate identity (or CI) guide. A whole branding process includes developing the following elements:
- A mission statement;
- A vision;
- A strategy;
- The CI guide, which will include:
- The company name,
- The persona of the company (i.e. if the company were likened to a person, how old would they be? how would they speak? what language would they use? what language would they NOT use?).
The CI guide will also includes rules for how the logo should be used, what voice the company uses for its messaging, all in an effort to make sure that the company stays aligned with its vision and mission in everything that it does. This ensures that the company remains relatable and does not become unrecognizable to its consumers. If you have a core belief, and work from that core belief, or mission, from the beginning, you communicate a sense of relatability and authenticity to your consumers. Staying true to those convictions is remaining authentically aligned. This is another very important way for a business to relate to its customers through its branding and messaging and it is a topic we will discuss in another post. The CI guide is like your company bible and anyone who works at the company should be able to understand exactly who the company is and what the messaging is by reading this guide.
How Are Personal and Professional Brands Different?
A personal brand is not exactly what you might think. It is a brand of a person, but it is not just a person’s brand. Let me give you an example – Oprah is a personal brand, she is an individual who speaks her mind and is well-known by the public as a brand, not just an individual. Her company is Harpo, or the OWN Network, or the several other endeavors she has. But, her personal brand, what she has become known as, is simply herself, Oprah. We know her last name, but we don’t even have to say it, that’s how well her personal brand works. As a business person, who has a company in their own name, as a dentist, for example, you might want to build a personal brand. If you are not in a partnership situation, or involved in a business that has many owners or primary named individuals, and you are branding the whole business name (which would be a professional brand), you should consider branding the business as a personal brand. This way, you become synonymous with the work you do, and you become the brand. Another example of this is Martha Stewart. Her name is synonymous with entertaining. Her business is housewares and many other endeavors, but her name is her brand, and the all-encompassing theme is entertaining – The Hostess with the Mostest. If you brand yourself properly, make yourself visible, and provide great services, you can be “Dr. John Doe” a dentist that becomes synonymous with providing the whitest teeth or the most pain-free crown procedures, whatever that skill is that you want to market. The key is to follow the exact same steps to set-up a personal or a profession brand. You must go through the same process either way, because even as a personal brand, you are still a brand, with a consumer audience, and you are still a business, just possibly a sole-proprietor or just a business of one. A personal brand is also different from a professional brand in a couple other key ways. As an individual, you can make statements or have views about politics or religion or certain social issues. Oprah uses her personal brand to support causes she believes in and political candidates she feels strongly about. The extremely important thing to remember with this is caution. You need to remember in the first part we discussed remaining true to your vision and mission. If publicizing political or religious beliefs ostracizes a large portion of your consumers, it may directly conflict with the vision or mission of your company. If that is the case, you should NOT be using your personal brand as a platform to discuss those sentiments. Remember that when you are a brand as a person, your messages carry more power and more weight, so that if you make a mistake, it is seen on a much larger scale. That is not to say you cannot be a personal brand that discusses beliefs, many people do it very well. Just be cautious and in all things be true to your mission and vision. Also, as an individual, consumers will relate more to you. It is sometimes easier to grow a following on social media as a personal brand. People want to “follow,” “like,” and “join the circle” of other people. They like to associate a name and a face with a brand. Personal branding is designed to create this familiarity and to generate the sense that the consumer “knows” you. There is a trust or rapport that can be earned as a person that is much more difficult for a company to earn. On the flip side of that coin is reputation. A lot of times, if a company is large and has many people working there, and has many other names or brands associated with it, there is a built-in reputation that it can be harder for a personal brand to build. Trust and rapport can be easier, but sometimes reputation can be more difficult.
Professional brands are much like you would imagine. They are generally more for companies with several principles. They are for a business that wants to function with a specific business name, rather that just under the name of its owner, founder, or CEO. They can become very well-known and carry a lot of weight with decision making, authority, and reputation in the public. Many consumers look to certain brands to make recommendations to them on certain purchases or before they make their own decisions. Brands are VERY important, and professional brands, like personal brands, go through the same branding process we discussed above. It is important especially for a professional brand to remain very clear and focused about their vision and mission, so that employees and the consumers do not become confused by the messaging. Professional brands have a more difficult time communicating messaging, because their voice has to be relayed through a logo and font, rather than the face of a person. This is more difficult for a consumer to relate to and trust. This goes back to the differences we discussed above, where reputation and authority are easier to build for a good professional brand, but trust and rapport is more difficult. This is why the messaging is so important. The first time you contradict yourself, or stray from your mission, you lose trust, and without a face they know and relate to, consumers are much more easily disenchanted with professional brands. Stay clear, focused, and remain authentically aligned to your mission.
When Can You Have Both?
If you have developed a great professional brand and there are a few leaders or one main leader of your company that is also strongly aligned with your brand and makes a great brand ambassador (someone who represents your brand well – another topic we will discuss in an upcoming post), there is a good case for that person or those people to develop a strong personal brand to work along with the professional brand. A great example of this is Apple and Steve Jobs. Apple is an amazing company with a powerful and strong professional brand. Steve Jobs developed a personal brand as the face of Apple and also became synonymous with the brand. When you have a company with a great professional brand and a dynamic leader to be the face of the brand, it is likely that having both with work strongly in your favor. Building the trust on the personal side and the reputation on the professional side will give the company an upper hand in visibility that is difficult to find. This balance is difficult to maintain, because the leader has to have a strong enough developed personal brand on their own and in conjunction with the professional brand in order to make this work effectively. Unless the plan is put together strategically, the personal brand can also detract from the professional brand if it pulls too much attention away by not staying on point, by straying from the mission, and not aligning properly. Branding is much, much more than just a logo. This confusion is one of the misconceptions we discussed last week. The process of branding is important. Deciding which type of branding is right for your company and your situation is equally important. Which will get you the most visibility? How will you best become known for what your corporate objectives are with your mission statement? What is the best way to accomplish that, now that you know what you can do with a personal and a professional brand? This should have given you some insight to help you make those decisions when you are starting to put your business together. Let us know if you have any questions.