You – The Great Brand Manager
What personal branding teaches us about brand management overall
The last thing you need is another article on personal branding. Literally. You don’t need it. You successfully manage what others think about you and your abilities every single day. Otherwise you’d be looking for a job, not an article on personal branding.
Remarkably, most of us are quite good at managing our personal brands.
We follow the rules to building our personal brand. We dress the part. We act the part. We play the part. Consistently. Day in and day out. We know what we want others to think about us and we make sure our behavior comports with the perception we want to cultivate.
It’s branding 101, and we excel at it.
Why, then, do so many business owners and executives struggle to brand our own companies or products? Why can we tell a consistent professional story about ourselves but fail to tell a unique story about a product we created?
Here are 4 lessons from personal brand management that are applicable to brand management overall.
1 – Cover up the quirks
Do your clients know about your soft spot for Dynamite Hack’s cover of Boyz in the Hood? Here’s a better question: Do you want them to?
There is nothing more complex than us. Save for the few frightening automatons among us, we all have our own quirks, moments of silliness, rebellious streak, and outright stupidity.
But the fellow playing air drums on the steering wheel to the Scorpions at 7 am (you) isn’t the same guy pitching a million dollar account later that day (still you). You know that in most cases your quirks, rebellion, and encyclopedic knowledge of early 90’s punk rock won’t help land the account, so you check your home persona at the door when you arrive at work. You know what your business contacts need to know about you and you focus on conveying it in every interaction. You are deliberate in your behavior. Your company’s brand should be managed no differently.
What’s the one thing your customers need to remember about your product? Everything else — the specs, the quality, the history — is just nuance. When it comes to your product, don’t tell ten complex personal stories, just tell the one relevant one.
2 – It’s hard to stop being “that guy”
Every office has one. That guy. The one who knows how to troubleshoot the printer. The one who will always eat the leftovers. Once saddled with a reputation, that reputation is hard to shake.
In branding you’ll almost always be stuck with the perception you initially create. You not only have to be deliberate in creating the perception (see lesson #1) you must make sure that the perception aligns with what your company will be in the future.
Just as the guy who always shows up late to meetings won’t soon be thought of as the first to arrive, you can’t successfully get everyone to perceive you as a value product and then transition to luxury. You sleep in the bed you make. If the old perception doesn’t suit you, you quit and start fresh somewhere else (i.e. rebrand).
This is a hard rule to follow though everyone must. Google will always be perceived as search. No amount of new Google products will ever unseat this firmly established perception. They are that search guy.
The good news is that this lesson provides your product ample opportunity to be successful. If you know where the voids are in collective thinking you can find a new niche. Facebook was “that personal friend guy,” which allowed LinkedIn to be “that professional friend guy,” and create a brand new perception.
Just as you have forged your unique perception among coworkers and clients, you must do the same with your product. If you have a perception already, you’ll have to make being “that guy” work.
3 – You have to maintain
How much latitude for failure do you think you have at work? A month or so of utter fail? Maybe if you have a 20 year track record of success you’ll be afforded a full blown meltdown and attendant 6 month personal leave to get right. But even then, you’re on thin ice, always.
Like your personal brand, your company’s brand can be shattered at anytime. A new product offering that doesn’t align with the perception people have of your brand can create mistrust and dissolve the loyalty customers built over time. You may be forgiven, but they won’t forget.
4 – Only the smartest guy in the room can ignore the rules
Mark Zuckerberg didn’t dress up for investor meetings. You probably do, as you well should. He could get away with it. You can’t.
We’d all like to be ourselves in interviews. To drop the professional act and say “This is me. Take me as I am.” But that doesn’t work. Hiring managers don’t want you as you are, they want you for what you can be – an asset with valuable skills that contributes to the growth of the organization. They want you for how you’ll position the company for success.
The same applies to your product. It can’t just be a really great product for the sake of itself. It has to be intentionally positioned with the right message, the right presentation and the right delivery – just like you intentionally position yourself in business meetings and interviews.
The privileged few who can show up and be the acknowledged by merits alone can do so only because of successful positioning. They’ve proven themselves, developed consistency, and their brand now stands on its own. Your product needs validation, and that’s developed through positioning.
You’ve developed a personal brand by emphasizing your strengths, playing to your audience, smoothing the rough edges and positioning for success. It’s not “who you are,” it’s “who you can be.” It’s this very same tactical approach that makes product and corporate branding successful. Know your audience, know what they want, know how your product satisfies their need, and mold your message to match that need. Then, and only then, should you hop back in your Camaro and crank it up, because there really is no one like you.
About the Author
Eric Mineart is an idea guy and brand builder. Writing about better branding and sometimes other things. Sunny outlook. First initial, last name, at gmail.com
Punch Digital Strategies is a creative agency for bold brands. We provide digital marketing strategy that helps clients brand for growth and engage with customers online. We design websites that inspire action, and help clients generate leads through content marketing and social media. With services tailored to meet the needs of start-ups, B2C, B2B and non-profit organizations, we make bold brands stand out. Learn more at AddSomePunch.com.