Like the character in one of Moliere’s plays who suddenly discovered that he had been speaking prose all his life, we might suddenly discover that we are marketing ourselves all the time. Not very effectively, because we hardly give any thought to it. Understandably we do not think of ourselves as brands as well as brand managers to market that brand. Is a professional approach needed?
Personal branding is apparently a growth industry in the United States. Persons like Charles Schwab and Oprah Winfrey are as powerful brands as Pepsi and Kodak. Tom Peters is a one man brand. They have a vision of where they want to go and an understanding of what it takes to develop brand power.
Marketing theory has however no formal approach to personal branding. There is one book by Peter Montoya“ The Brand called You” that deals with this subject. Montoya runs the only agency in the world exclusively devoted to personal branding and has helped scores of individuals and small firms to develop and implement a branding programme. This book is the result of his experiences and is offered as a Reference Manual to individual service providers and small businesses who wish to turn themselves into brands.
Montoya defines personal branding as ” the process that takes your skills, personality and unique characteristics and packages them into a powerful identity that lifts you above the crowd of anonymous competitors.” It influences other people’s perceptions of you.
The Personal Brand does not have to be a one person business. It could be the proprietor of an auto shop, a cleaner or a bakery. If you have a small business, your personal brand should be your company brand because people trust people more than corporations. In a fiercely competitive society where attention spans are short and information overload makes it difficult to get the message through, branding allows people to form instant impressions . Out there in the market your personal brand is your weapon in the visibility battle.
Celebrities are not necessarily brands. Bill Gates is a celebrity but not a Personal Brand. Are celebrities like Sachin Tendulkar and Amitabh Bachan brands? Not in terms of Montoya’s definition They are celebrities used by commercial advertisers for product endorsements.
Personal branding has to be viewed in strategic terms. Montoya spells out that strategy in terms of four basic components: Target Marketing, Positioning, Branding Channels and Customer service. The essence of target marketing is Specialization, packaging yourself in a precise range of offerings. It helps you to relate to your target markets and tailor your product according to its needs. Positioning helps you to communicate who you are , what you do and how you can deliver a unique value proposition. Branding Channels take you to your market- for a Management Guru the channels will be his ad agency, event manager and ghost writer to take care of his writings and seminars, website and distributor to market his expertise. Customer Service is the “last mile” in personal branding and will support the promises you make in your branding campaign.
As a Personal Brand, you could achieve the status of an Advocate, a Trend Setter or an Icon. You are an Advocate if you do not shape a trend or culture but use its popularity to increase awareness, a Trend Setter if your personal brand shapes a culture and an Icon if the personal brand is etched into the culture.
We also need the power tools that would translate strategy into action – the personal logo, personal postcards, advertising, catalogues, CD Roms and networking and a short term one year branding and marketing plan that can be implementd.
Familiar stuff ? Elections in the US have elevated personal branding to a sophisticated art. Today, with the widespread use of networking, businesses and individuals can widen direct reach and build credibility into their messages through conversations with loyal followers.
Actors, musicians, management consultants, dress designers, real estate developers and a whole host of service providers would find parts of this book relevant to their own need for branding. They can benefit a great deal from a local Montoya, if there is one, in converting themselves into personal brands.
Personal Branding will soon be a growth business in India too. I find great scope for personal branding through the use of social media- a combination Linkedin, Facebook, Twiiter and the blog.