Last weekend I ran a session on Personal Branding at MediaCamp Nottingham. This question came up and prompted a bit of debate. Even into the pub at lunch! Should our brand be our business or ourselves? Or both? And how do they fit together?
One point that I am very fussy about in this debate is the need to understand what your goals and objectives are before embarking on finding the solution. If you don’t know what you’re trying to achieve you can’t possibly make a judgement as to what the most appropriate route may be. Think of Alice in Wonderland asking the Cheshire Cat for directions. If you don’t know where you’re heading, you can take any route you want.
What do you want?
So, how does your business fit in with your overall goals and objectives? Is your business a vehicle for you to achieve your own goals? (i.e. sell up and sit on a beach) Or is it just a way for you to carry on doing what you love? Depending on the answer, these two businesses could be very different. The first could be a unique service that you’ve identified that fulfils a gap and you think could be incredibly viable. The second could be an extension of you and your expertise. So, how we approach branding the two will be very different depending on your own goals and ambitions.
How do businesses do it?
In any business where a parent brand exists over a number of other brands, the parent brand, like human parents, have things in common with their offspring. They don’t have everything in common, but there are key themes. For example, parent brands such as Mars, Audi have key values that set them apart. And, these values are present in their offspring, but new ones may be brought in depending on the product or category. For Audi, it’s sportiness and performance. We could think of these as settings on your sound system. So, within the Audi family, the TT’s branding has turned the sportiness setting up to max even though performance is still important. For the A4 it’s the performance that’s been turned up.
I don’t want to get too trapped into business thinking though because we’re humans and we’re very different from businesses. But there’s a lot for us to borrow and learn from business.
As people, we have many interests and experiences. As time goes on, our experiences increase and our interests may change. But the constant is our essence. The bit about us that is us. And this bit, our essence, undoubtedly encapsulates our values and beliefs. So when trying to work out your personal brand, you will need to make a decision about which bits about you you’re going to use to enhance your personal brand. The stuff that adds the fizz. Developing your personal brand is an exciting process. One where you need to think about all your past experiences, skills, competencies, talents and interests and work out what it is about you that can be packaged together to add value to the world.
Any business you start is an extension of you and so you need to be clear about your own values and beliefs and how they fit with your business because ultimately, if there is a gap, the brand YOU will be threatened. Think of some well-known personal brands in business and how they managed the dynamic.
What was the relationship between their personal branding and their business branding?
So, how does this help us with our question? You are the parent brand, and any offspring you have in terms of brands or projects will reflect or emphasise certain relevant aspects you, the parent brand. You may choose create a public link between the two brands, in the way the Richard Branson and Anita Roddick did. In these cases, there was synergy and a win-win situation was created. Or there was until Body Shop was sold to L’Oreal.
But back to the question about how you decide…
Let’s say for a minute that you are a business owner, but your business is essentially you. You sell your time and your expertise to other businesses, and you love what you do. You don’t want to grow it because that might mean that you have to manage people, which would get in the way of the DOING. In this situation, it is worth noting that your business is currently fulfilling a role for you that fits with your current circumstances. But should your circumstances change (or the world around you), then your business might need to change. And, it follows that what you want from your business might change. So how do you brand?
The brand as servant
In this situation, it is worth thinking about how branding can serve you. If you choose to develop separate brands for you and the business, then brand YOU can act as the pull to your business. Brand YOU is engaged with the people that you deal with directly among your clients. But, for these people to work with you, they may need to get the project signed off at a senior level. So, unless brand YOU is significant and you are well known, your business branding is going to be key. For some reason a lot of senior business execs prefer to do business with businesses rather than individuals. So, if you’re clever, you can play tag team with your branding. So that your personal brand acts as a pull, and your business branding gets you over the line. Or vice versa.
So, what is it that you want from your business? After all, that is where the answer is probably hidden.