Should you brand yourself or your business? The short answer is both. The better question is what should you brand first — your business or yourself?
Every brand, be it a personal brand or a business brand, needs to have a clear road map of the future. You must know where your brand wants to go, and how it’s going to go there. This starts with a brand strategy. From there, you need to understand the major differences between building a business brand and building a personal brand.
Building a Business Brand – An Attractive One
Business brands and personal brands both need to have a mission, vision and core values. They both need to serve an audience, and listen to the desires of said audience. The fundamental difference between a personal and a business brand is that in one case the customer falls in love with a person and in the other with an idea.
Using the example of Gary Vaynerchuk, watch any of his YouTube episodes and the first thing you will notice is his raw personality and energy. Instantly, you either love him or hate him. It doesn’t matter if he is talking about wine, social media, building a business, or the New York Jets.
You decide if you like Gary V. first — and then if you like the ideas he represents.
Statistically you have about three seconds to make a first impression. In three seconds people will either love or hate your brand. That’s the power of a personal brand. You use the natural tendencies of snap judgement to your advantage. The message is loud and clear and we decide if we like the person saying the message.
Conversely, if you like an idea but not the delivery — you won’t join the tribe. You won’t buy the products. So it’s important that you talk to the people who are actually listening. For instance, do you know who Blake Mycoskie is? Probably not. But I can guarantee you know his company. A company where, when you buy a pair of shoes, his company gives a pair to a child in need. Blake Mycoskie is the CEO of Tom’s Shoes. Tom’s Shoes is a brand that reflects the idea that every child in the world deserves proper footwear.
Blake is a smart leader. He had a vision that was extremely tangible. In his mind’s eye, he could see the problem and the solution. Blake wanted to create a movement bigger than himself, because he couldn’t take on this herculean task alone. He had to rally the world behind an idea. Thus, Tom’s Shoes was born. Blake didn’t need to be the one in the spotlight. His idea, the movement and it’s cause, became the spotlight.
So before you start trying to brand yourself or your company ask yourself: what will the customer fall in love with first? Me or the idea that I am representing — or both?
How to Build a Personal Brand and Business Brand
Building a personal brand is easier than building a business brand. It is easier to become known for something than it is to build a huge business. This is because people buy from other people. It is easier to connect with someone and say, “Hey, they are just like me!” It’s easier than, “Hey, I like what this company represents.”
Building a personal brand takes a simple three step process:
Step 1: Say Something Countercultural
A personal brand is built when you take a stand against the status quo. You as a person still have to represent something unique. Chef Jamie Oliver believes food should be healthy in our schools. Gary Vaynerchuk addresses the tendency of snobbiness in the wine world. You are not a brand until you are leading a cause.
And figuring out what cause to lead is half the battle.
Step 2: Become a TV Personality
A TV personality doesn’t mean you have to get on TV to have an effect, but if you can, that definitely helps. You have to find a medium to be your platform and start talking. The platform can be TV, podcasts, Periscope, blogging, etc.
The goal here is to start rallying people around you and your idea.
You must educate people about the problem and talk about how to fix it. Basically, your brand has to become a media company around the niche you are in.
Step 3: Make Results Happen
Words are wind — for all you “Game of Thrones” fans. Actions speak louder than words. If you want to build a personal brand, you must create results. Don’t just say “this is wrong” and do nothing. Take action, and make something happen.
The best time to do this is when nobody’s watching — when you have no brand, and nothing to leverage. Then when results happen, people will start paying attention. That’s when you earn the attention. The concepts to build a personal brand are simple. The execution of these concepts is what really matters.
Building a business brand isn’t that different.
First you must follow your brand’s strategy. Without a strategy, you’ll wander like Alice in “Alice in Wonderland.” “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat. “I don’t much care where,” said Alice. “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat. “So long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation. “Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat. “If you only walk long enough.”
From there it is a matter of building a business. Honestly, there isn’t one right way to do it. The only thing that is consistent to all successful businesses is that they take a tremendous amount of work. The benefits though are tremendous. You can create a movement and make massive change as a business. You can harness the power of your community or tribe to create a global shift and change people’s lives.
You must turn your business into an idea or movement and then become the spokesperson for that idea.
Take for example, Scott Harrison of Charity Water. Scott Harrison branded Charity Water to represent an idea, and then became the biggest spokesperson for that idea. He empowered others to take up the cause. In becoming the spokesperson he not only branded the business, but he built his own personal brand. It is the perfect synergy of a personal brand and a business brand.
Branding yourself allows you to build relationships faster, and give you flexibility to pivot as you grow and adopt. It gives you the speed to create a community you can leverage. Branding a business gives you the power of a business, a huge radical differentiation and the ability to step away from the cause and pass the torch so to speak.
Image: Gary Vaynerchuk/YouTube
I think that more than saying something cultural, it is better to stand up for something. This will really differentiate you from the crowd and make you more memorable.
I love that you have Gary Vaynerchuk at the picture. He is the person who got branding right. He doesn’t aim to please everyone and he has that ‘take it or leave it’ attitude which I love.
You got me at Gary Vaynerchuck. He is one of the first people who taught me about business. And now more than ever, branding has become incredibly important.
Building a brand seem easy but it is not. You have to have a clear message to send to the world before you start any of your marketing efforts.
As someone suddenly faced with needing a personal brand, (in the business world) this is incredibly helpful. Thank you.
Robert M. Donnelly
Anyone who needs help developing their personal brand should get: Personal Brand Planning for life, available on Amazon.