An Introduction to Branding and Personal Branding Online


Personal branding isn’t very different than your typical fare of company branding and branding you see for products and services.

What is “branding” you say? Well glad you asked! The AMA (American Marketing Association) defines a brand as a “name, term, sign, symbol or combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.”

But the definition has obviously now been extended liberally into other areas and studies have shown that there’s a deep psychological and emotional component to branding as well – and those that illicit emotion are the ones that you find yourself extremely passionate about over and over and over again. This, actually, is the quality result of good branding.

Here’s another list that typically gets passed around:

  • Name: The word or words used to identify the company, product, service, concept
  • Logo: The visual trademark that identifies the brand
  • Tagline or Catchphrase: “The Quicker Picker Upper” is associated with Bounty; “Can you hear me now” is an important part of the Verizon brand.
  • Shapes: The distinctive shape of the Coca-Cola bottle or the Volkswagen Beetle are trademarked elements of those brands.
  • Graphics: The dynamic ribbon is also a trademarked part of Coca-Cola’s brand.
  • Color: Owens-Corning is the only brand of fiberglass insulation that can be pink.
  • Sounds: A unique tune or set of notes can “denote” a brand: NBC’s chimes are one of the most famous examples.
  • Movement: Lamborghini has trademarked the upward motion of its car doors.
  • Smells: Scents, such as the rose-jasmine-musk of Chanel No. 5 is trademarked.
  • Taste: KFC has trademarked its special recipe of 11 herbs and spices for fried chicken.

I know for myself that the Apple brand is one that I’m not just passionate about it’s one that I do something about: I tell other people about them, I evangelize their products, and I even create legacy with the brand as I share them with my two children. The power of branding is undeniable!

And the fact is that we encounter them all the time wherever we go and it’s been often cited that the average, everyday person encounters between 1,500-3,000 advertisements (and brands) per day.

Just think of that! That’s an incredible amount (if true) but marketers and brand experts understand that’s there’s a different between “seeing” them and “exposure” or “acknowledgement” of the actual advertising campaigns and brands.

Does all of this translate to the online space? Absolutely.

A “good” brand typically achieves the following:

  • Clearly Delivers the Mission, Vision, and/or Values of the Business
  • Confirms and Builds Credibility
  • Creates Emotion, Engages the Customer’s Emotion
  • Motivates the Customer to Buy, Purchase
  • Creates User Loyalty, Fanaticism

The question, of course, is whether you do much of this for yourself, especially in the online context? Perhaps you’ve never cared?

Why Personal Online Branding Matters:

Even as I think about this concept it baffles me that anyone would think any differently but here’s the naked truth: You have a online brand. Period. If you’ve ever done anything online it’s been captured, saved, and being regurgitated on people’s computer screens every single day.

The scary part is that it’s happening more than you could possibly imagine!

The question is whether or not you are in control; whether you are managing it at all or whether someone else is managing it for you. If you care about how you, as a person, is represented at all (we call this reputation), then you need to care about online branding!

You see it represents you, the good, the bad, and the potentially ugly. It’s your character that’s on the line or at least how it’s being represented and shared globally with others. More people will be introduced to your online brand way before they may even get to shake your hand in person.

Just think about that for a moment – your online brand is your first glimpse of who you are and what you represent to your those that you seek to connect with. Most likely these are readers to your blog and more importantly perhaps potential customers to your products, services, and solutions.

This is about reputation management, perception management, character confirmation, integrity validation, and more. It’s your virtual credibility as a person and professional. Why the heck wouldn’t you seek to manage this well and wisely?

But just as important as reactionary management is the flip-side of the coin: Proactive engagement with your customers and the differentiation and marketability of you, your blog, and your business. In two words it’s this: Competitive advantage.

There are fewer things out there that create significant competitive advantage than managing your personal brand. People and customers aren’t stupid – they are already doing research and comparing you to others. Your personal brand helps you qualify uniqueness in the market and exceptional value compared to your competitors. It’s what makes them say “Yes” to you and “No” to all the rest.

It’s an Art and Science:

Just as artists create personal portraits of themselves to distinguish themselves and to immortalize their own controlled self-image to the world you should go and do the same.

Your brand is an art, it will create emotion, and sit in the hearts and minds of your readers, customers, and passionate fans. It’s the sum total of all of those things listed above in a form that ultimately can create tangible progress, goods, and financial bottom-lines. It’s the quality and quantity of influence magnified online and there’s’ something quite mysterious about the art of doing it well.

But there’s also a science – in other words, a practical way of doing it well that seem to create patterns of success for those that employ them. That’s what I want to show you in this series. It’s explicit management of perception, the creation of your “story,” and your opportunity to rise above mediocrity.

Ready for a dip?

[This is part of the Personal Branding Series. Image via Creative Commons, YanivG.]