Whether you are watching the tube, listening to the radio, or surfing the web, you’d be hard-pressed not to have heard the word, “brand.” With the rise of our celebrity/realty TV/look-at-me culture comes the need for individuals as well as businesses (sometimes one and the same) to stand out from the crowd.
If you’re a part of the “selfie generation,” then you or your peers may already be showcasing what you think may be your brand. If you’re a small business owner, you’re already familiar with competition. However, knowing is sometimes a completely different story from doing.
Do you have a solid, easily identifiable brand? How do you define it? Better, yet. How does your audience define you? Let’s discuss how to brand yourself and your company.
A Brand Is A Logo … Right? Wrong!
First things first! Please stop the insanity. A brand is not your logo. As lovely as those little marks are, a logo is just a representation of your brand. Please note the use of my RAW BRANDED™ stamp throughout this blog. It is a visual cue that jogs people’s memory and makes them think about you and/or your business. What comes to the brain from this stimulus is a whole other ballgame.
Hopefully, when you see my personal stamp you think of the writer, marketer, educator, mentor, and RAW Brandednista. When you see the RAW BRANDED™ stamp, you should think about the heart of a brand and its use to connect authentically with an audience.
Open your textbooks, er iPads, class and take notes. The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines a brand as a “name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of these items that is intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.” The marketing industry further defines this as your Unique Selling Proposition (USP).
Now for the RAW BRANDED™ definition. In case the text still skims the surface, note that your brand is your secret ingredient. It is a service, promise, personality, and belief system that you share with your audience. Your brand should create a solution to your audience’s problems and connect with their personality and beliefs … or the ones they aspire to attain.
Case in point: Apple Inc. There are seemingly endless cults of Apple followers who are ready to spend hours on a line in anticipation of receiving the latest Apple products. It’s not just the sleek design of Apple’s products that makes the company stand out. It is the promise or belief that by buying an Apple product, you are now a part of a current, high tech, and innovative group. You possess the latest and greatest from the tech industry, which makes you know more than most laypeople and therefore, in essence, are cool. Not only are you and your product cool, but Apple’s founder, Steve Jobs, is the father of tech coolness.
Steve Jobs was truly his brand, and this image lives on even after his unfortunate passing. Dressed in his signature black turtleneck (another part of his brand, which I may or may not have unconsciously mirrored for my website image!), Steve Jobs put a face to his products and connected personally with his audience in an authentic way. He bypassed the usual press release to film his announcements of new products and encourage people to “think different.” Now that’s RAW BRANDED™!
Case in point: Kim Khardashian. If you haven’t heard of “Kim K” and her family’s antics then you must really disconnect from the world. How’d you do that?? Regardless of your personal opinions about Kim Khardashian, you cannot deny her clever use of personal branding. Since part of her brand is about celebrating women’s curvy physiques, she definitely walks the talk. Barely a week can pass without photos circulating of Kim K showcasing her own curves. Ironically, when the media first discovered her, reporters and citizen journalists began to define her. However, she took the reins and redefined her brand for herself … and makes millions doing so.
Why Should I Care?
Going back to the example of Kim Khardashian and Steve Jobs, please note that you are your brand. People’s perceptions of you and your actions help to formulate your brand. Although I believe that what people say about you after you leave the room is none of your business, I think that’s up to a point, particularly where business is concerned. If you do not define your brand, other people will define it for you. Yikes!
Case in point: Quiznos. Do you recall those ubiquitous commercials featuring Quiznos’ singing Spongmonkeys? Some people found the commercials annoying, while others loved them. I dug the music but found the Spongmonkeys jarring to look at. While you might remember the scary monkeys and catchy jingle, it was easy to forget the actual brand. To this day I still don’t know what Quiznos is all about. It’s promise, essence (other than a bit strange), and benefits hasn’t been defined in comparison to other brands like Subway, which has branded itself as a healthy sandwich option. Without defining your brand, companies and individuals sadly fail.
Just for kicks and because I care, I bring to you Quiznos’ Spongmonkeys!
How Can I Find My Brand?
Let’s begin by getting to your core. For those of you who need to fine-tune their personal brand, this takes self-anaylsis. For business owners, you’ll have to hone in on your company’s promise and culture. This is where those famous elevator speaches come into play. Not familiar? Here we go.
Picture yourself riding up or down an elevator with someone, and you have 30 seconds to pitch your brand to them. What would you say that makes your brand oh, so special? Yes, I have done this with students and clients, and the results are always fun. There’s nothing more nerve-wracking than someone putting you on the spot for a critical moment. Some people are amazing pros at this, but that’s not all of us. This is where practice makes perfect. When thinking about your brand, picture the famous part in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland when Alice meets the Caterpillar.
“… I can’t explain myself, I’m afraid, sir,” said Alice. “Because I’m not myself, you see.”
“I don’t see,” said the Caterpillar.
Author, Alice in Wonderland
If you still need a guide, download the RAW BRANDED Branding Audit Checklist to help you keep your brand solidly aligned with your audience.
How Can I Make My Mark?
Once you’ve defined your brand, the world is your oyster. There are endless ways in which you can share your story thanks to social media. Yes, I mentioned storytelling. Just knowing your brand is not enough. Now, you need to tell the story behind your brand. You need to tell people why they should trust you. You can begin by detailing how and why you found your business. For personal branders, this is your chance to make your introductions. Highlight the roads that have taken you to where you are today. You’d be surprised by how many people are willing to grab some popcorn and listen to you. Even better is when they can connect to you.
Ultimately, you want to earn your audiences’ trust. Storytelling is the start of this. Once your story is written, let’s play! I’ll walk through the social media and traditional marketing and communications ins and outs. This includes, finding your audience and packaging your message. As long as your message is aligned with your brand, and you’re walking the talk, then you’re golden. Now you can think about creating a logo, tagline, and visual identity that distinguishes you from others. This will come easier to you since you’ve already thought through all the little details that make you unique.
What If I’m An Introvert?
Introverts unite! Count me in this club. Fortunately, technology is making it easier every day to connect with others. Introverts—not to be confused with shy folks—are typically the ones who look before they leap. Social media is your friend, since you can easily feel out a platform and its members to see if they connect with you and your brand. You will have to take that leap, but at least you can see what you’re diving into first!I’ll share more introvert-friendly strategies here at ReneeWalker.me.
Did I miss any tips? Got questions? Leave a comment below or Tweet me your thoughts.
© 2015 – 2017, Renee A. Walker. All rights reserved.