To Brand or Not To Brand: You Are the Question

The art and science of personal branding has given entrepreneurs, authors, and speakers a huge advantage in connecting with audiences. When you distinguish yourself from others, it's easier for people to make decisions about how you might help them, and whether or not they relate to you.

Personal branding in the workplace has revolutionized professional advancement, human resources practices, and even the culture of a given company. 

Here's where it gets dicey

Is it a good idea to focus on branding only yourself, particularly in place of branding your company, ideas, programs, products, or services? The answer depends on asking a few more questions.

Before you spend time and money on branding or rebranding, ask yourself:

  • Do I want the focus to be on me or on my solutions, products, and services?
  • Is my personality, background, or experience the main thing I offer?
  • Is my business (or book) built around me or around solutions that others could promote?
  • Do I ever want to sell, franchise, or create a joint venture for my business?
  • What choices allow for the most flexibility and growth?
  • What choices allow for a realistic (and profitable) exit strategy?

The reasoning behind some of these questions is fairly obvious. If you want to sell your business down the road, branding it Laura Smith, Inc. might not be the best idea (no offense to all the Laura Smiths out there!). Likewise, if you're branded by your name alone, will your expertise, books, products, or services have any relevance after you're no longer promoting them?

On the other hand, if you're an entrepreneur, author, or speaker whose industry favors personalities--fashion, fitness, health, entertainment, and life coaching come quickly to mind--then your name might be your best distinguishing feature. Putting the branding focus on yourself allows you to build your recognition and reputation for as long as you need.

Best of both?

And what about co-branding? The concept has many, many iterations, but in this discussion it's expanding one brand by tying it to another, creating a de facto association in consumers' minds between the two brands. Each brand could stand alone, but each is strengthened by association with the other.  Examples in commerce, philanthropy, and sports are far too numerous to mention, but Michael Jordan/Nike or Martha Stewart/KMart are a couple of famous ones.

But more to our point, take the case of Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In book series. She used her personal brand as COO of Facebook to launch Lean In, which not only grew multiple alliances and affiliations with other women's efforts into an international support network for women, but also advanced the stature of women inside the admittedly male-favored Facebook culture. Here we see multiple levels of co-branding--based off of a personal brand--lifting all brands beyond where they'd be one their own. But without Sandberg's personal brand identity none of it would have happened!

Another example can be seen in the book graphic that accompanies this post.  My client, Jamie Broughton, is a preeminent expert on the topic of emerging leaders. He also owns a leadership consulting and training company, Footprint Leadership, but the purpose of placing himself on the front cover of his book was to co-brand him personally with the concept of The Emerging Leader. He is North America's Emerging Leader Specialist, or, said another way, he's The Emerging Leader Guy! The idea is that when people hear or see, "Jamie Broughton," they think, "Emerging Leader Expert."

You're in good company

The process of deciding whether to brand yourself, your company, products and services, or some combination of them, isn't clear-cut. Multiple factors come into play. For many, it comes down to whether they see themselves as their business, and whether or not their personal brand would be a hindrance or a help in other ventures. 

These days, of course, personal branding is becoming something of a prerequisite in the professional world. The things that make you special and set you apart--and how you promote them--are often what determine whether people "buy" into you or pass you by. The benefits of personal branding extend into all your professional relationships, and can add very powerful dimensions of credibility and appeal to how people perceive you.

As an entrepreneur, author, or speaker it's vital that you think very carefully about what you want people to focus on, and what you're offering in exchange for money. Is it all about you?

For more information, contact Write To Your Market, Inc--"Branding You as the Answer"--at info@writetoyourmarket.com or call 715-634-4120.