Everyone has a vague idea of what a corporate brand is. Disney has its swoopy signature logo. Apple is about innovative thinking. State Farm has its catchy jingle. And Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups come encased in that iconic orange wrapper. Fun fact: Hershey Co. trademarked Reese orange to protect its brand from crafty, conniving, confectionery competitors.
These are only facets of a brand, though. In total, a brand is a corporation’s personality, its image, and its reputation in society.
A corporation presents its brand across its operation. You’ll find a corporation’s brand in the quality of its output. In the colors adorning its logos. In its tone of voice and relationships with consumers. Even in whether the company donates to charities or rakes in tax credits.
And if business brands have personality, then you—business person that you are—have a personal brand.
That may seem like an intimidating or even dehumanizing prospect. After all, you aren’t a deconstructed collection of symbols, color combinations, and PR campaigns designed for mass appeal. You are you.
If that’s your concern, listen to what Guy Kawasaki, former Apple brand evangelist and founding partner of Garage Technology Ventures, has to say on the subject.
We like Kawasaki’s approach because it leaves room for the personal in “personal branding.” It doesn’t reduce us to something less than human—Homo iconicus if you will. It doesn’t attempt to make us something we aren’t. Underlining Kawasaki’s story is a belief that a personal brand, if done right, helps us live the life we want to live and present that to the world.
Now, let’s quash some common misconceptions about personal branding. No, you don’t have to order your life by the rules of a corporate boardroom. No, you don’t have to be a young Twitch streamer to develop a personal brand. Our conversation with Kawasaki proves both of those points.
Corporations and celebrities may have drafted the modern branding playbook, and millennials may have adapted that playbook in the online world, but anyone can foster a personal brand to benefit their career and reputation. We can all work to reinvent and revitalize it.
6 guiding principles for your personal brand
People prefer influencers who come across as authentic, who love what they do. Keep that mental note. Don’t try to shape your brand to fit what’s trendy. Remember the qualities that differentiate you and make those the core of your message.
As Rafe Offer, founder of Sofar Sounds, once said: “Stay true to your values. That’s why you were a success in the first place, and that’s how you make incredible things happen.”
Focus on the niche, subject, industry, or purpose that drives you. Trying to make your personal brand everything for everybody drains your mental resources and prevents high-level output. Since you can’t make everybody happy anyway, it’s not worth the struggle.
Warren Buffet said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
Remember these sage words—preferably before you write that churlish social media post. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to review and clean up your online presence. Delete posts, pages, and projects that no longer reflect your current person and skillset.
Look for opportunities to share your expertise and connect with others. These can be speaking engagements, community events, charity drives, you name it.
Don’t think you must be present on every social media platform. Target the platforms that have the largest concentration of people interested in your expertise. For example, the Instagram user base leans heavily toward young women. LinkedIn users are professionals, while Facebook users tend to be older.
Use your personal brand to improve lives, build people up, and promote a message of affirmation. Okay, okay. You don’t technically have to follow this one—jerks and halfwits have been known to garner followers. But there’s already enough negativity out there, right?
Be a failure.
You will fall, fail, and stumble. A strategy you are proud of will break apart before your eyes. A video or article you worked hard on will find few views. A speaking engagement will become a desert of empty chairs.
It happens to the best of us. Learn what lessons you can, accept the things you cannot change, and push ahead. You are on your way!
Start brainstorming your personal brand today and master the skills to strengthen it with video lessons ‘For You’ and ‘For Business’ from Big Think+. You can sign up for yourself right now, or request a demo for your organization.