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If you’re still reading, you’re here to learn about branding — specifically, personal branding. Of course, I’m not talking about burning your own skin, but it’s interesting to note that the word ‘brand’ actually comes from a Middle English term meaning a ‘torch or sword’ that lights the way or leaves a mark. And to this day, the purpose of a brand is to leave your mark on others. Ideally without the painful, burning part.
A brand is what you consistently see/smell/taste/hear/touch or sense about a product, service or person. You make decisions based on brands every day. You use brands to choose between a pair of jeans, a can of soda, even which bottle of water you’ll pick up off the shelf in a supermarket. Two items could be made with exactly the same ingredients, at exactly the same price but if you prefer one over the other, it’s because you like the chosen item’s brand. The ‘mark’ of that item — the packaging, advertising, and promise of the product — stands for something positive to you.
Why are brands important? Because we’re busy people. We don’t have time to think a lot about the items we purchase, or the people we meet. Instead, we make snap decisions based on very little input. If someone smiles at you, you tend to like that person even if you haven’t formally been introduced. If instead you meet someone who snarls at you, you are more likely to decide instantly that the individual is unpleasant, foul-tempered or possibly has rabies.
But just as you make a decision about others based on surface issues such as their appearance, their apparent attitude, their actions or behaviors, and their words, know that you are creating similar impressions wherever you go. And if you are looking to make a positive impression for whatever reason, it’s good to know your brand and express it to your advantage.
Well, you don’t really have a choice. Everyone has a brand whether you like it or not. You could decide to be a reclusive bohemian ukulele player who wears clothes you sew yourself, determined to flaunt the world of branding and you would still be branded as that strange woman with the small guitar. However, you only ‘need’ to have a brand that serves you well if you’re selling something.
Before you thank your lucky stars — again — that you’re not in sales, not so fast. Selling doesn’t necessarily mean you haul out the Amway case when the neighbors stop by. You sell more than you realize. That conversation with your spouse about the movie you want to see? That conversation with your boss about the raise you deserve? That conversation with the police about that ticket you want to avoid? All of these are sales situations. Essentially, if you’re standing near anyone other than your dog, your brand will impact your success. And there will be times you need to sell to Fido, too, especially if the bi-annual dog bath is involved.
The good news is, branding is easy. As I mentioned above, you have a brand already. The trick is to choose your brand consciously, and to make sure that the brand you project or show to others truly matches the brand you’ve chosen. And that is the essence of Personal Branding.
So if you’re convinced that this personal branding thing is something you should make work for you, check back next week. I’ll be adding articles every week or so until I run out of things to say about branding, which should be sometime in 2050. Next up will be: ‘Elements of Your Brand’.