The world of personal branding is a big deal lately – everyone wants to be visible, unique in their own not-so-far-from-the-box way, but at the end of the day, differentiation counts for more than global recognition. Branding – in the big picture sense – is better for recognition than differentiation.
Look at a business – in fact, look at many businesses – whose entire customer base resides within a fifty kilometre area. They’re all around you. Corner stores are perfect examples. Go check one out, if you haven’t for a while – the closer to being a prototypical hole in the wall the better.
Look at the merchandising theory in small businesses.
What’s near the front of the store? What’s at the back? What do you walk past to get to the staples, like milk and flour? What’s on their counters – other than lottery tickets, cigarettes (depending on location) and a few small snacks as impulse items?
Is merchandising theory branding? No. It’s merchandising theory. Is a unique set of hours branding? What about the shirt the cashier wears, uniform or not? These are all elements of branding, but they are not The Brand. The ways one business does these things (if, and only if they’re intentional) compared to another is differentiation – but it’s not branding.
Branding is a theoretical promise. It says “this, and this, and all of this I/we am/are – these things are our core, and that’s what we deliver to our clients.”
Is a good blog theme branding? It’s probably closer to merchandising theory, especially if you’re selling services, products, or affiliate items.
Are the posts you publish on your blog branding? Maybe – but I’d guess that even if you plan very far ahead (in the scale of years), you’re still just process-communicating, which isn’t in and of itself branding. It’s a component, but not the entirety of branding.
Is your demeanour on a social network branding? It might be – but it’s far more likely that, unless you’re highly intentional about how you present to others, you’re just being yourself. Transparency and authenticity may be big buzz words these days, but it amounts to Know Thyself – and that’s not branding.
So what, then, is personal branding?
It’s all of these things. All put together. Communicated in a way that’s cohesive, consistent, creative way that clearly differentiates you and your business at a fundamental level from others in your area – whether that’s geographic area, service area, or global business vertical.
The key thing to remember about branding is that it’s a puzzle – the picture only comes together if the pieces fit together cleanly, the message is transmitted clearly, and remains consistent over a long period of time.
Stop worrying about your personal brand. Produce the best work you can, over and over again, and communicate the qualities of that work as a promise to do the same for all future clients.
Image by Kevin Dooley.