What is Branding?
The process involved in creating a unique name and image for a product in the consumers’ mind, mainly through advertising campaigns with a consistent theme. Branding aims to establish a significant and differentiated presence in the market that attracts and retains loyal customers.
That would be the official definition of branding, but in simple practical everyday examples, how can we describe branding?
Let’s take two people, each one of them owns a smartphone from a different company, the first one owns an Apple iPhone and the second one a Samsung Galaxy device.
When they want to describe their actions that are relevant to their smartphones, they will express themselves most likely differently.
The person owning the Apple iPhone would refer to his or hers phone as “iPhone”. In a phrase like: “I will note it down to my iPhone”. While the other person wont refer to his or hers device as “Galaxy” or “Samsung”. He or sher will state something like: “Ill note it down on my phone”.
So, why would the first person refer to the phone as “iPhone” and the second one with a more generic term?
Well, it’s because of Apple’s exceptionally crafted branding strategy which has managed to connect its product name (iPhone) to the word of the device itself (smartphone or phone, etc.)
When you manage to connect your company or product name with the word for which your product identifies itself, then your branding strategy is impeccable.
It’s not a “phone” anymore, it’s an “iPhone“.
It’s not “searching the internet” anymore, it’s “Googling“.
It’s not “I’ll have a soda” anymore, it’s “I’ll have a Coke“.
It’s not “I’ll wear my sports shoes” anymore, it’s “I’ll wear my Nikes“.
You get the pattern.
Obviously this can apply to a wide range of products and fields. Take a loot at this interesting article by Forbes which lists the world’s most valuable brands. The list contains some of the most recognizable global brands today: Apple, Facebook, Coca Cola, Microsoft, Google, Samsung, Toyota, Disney, Nike, etc.
So in essence branding is the method, the actions of which aim to connect a name to a product so that every time a person thinks of a product, the branded name comes to mind.
Branding inserts a mental image in your head, in order for you to associate something an item with the name of a product or a service of a company.
An effective branding strategy gives you an advantage over your competitors, creates a strong image for your product or your service in the market.
Branding is the message that the core values and the culture of a company transmit. It’s also a promise towards your audience, a promise for what to expect from your products and services, what you offer that no one else does, how your product differentiates from another of the same market.
“In this ever-changing society, the most powerful and enduring brands are built from the heart. They are real and sustainable. Their foundations are stronger because they are built with the strength of the human spirit, not an ad campaign. The companies that are lasting are those that are authentic.” – Howard Schultz
But branding goes beyond companies and products; you can brand pretty much anything, especially a person, yourself!
And it’s something you should do. Relationships are build upon people in the end. Personal branding is a strong weapon in your arsenal and most of the times is undervalued and overlooked.
With an effective personal branding strategy you can achieve much more:
- Career Advancements
- Professional Recognition
- Become an “Expert / Authority” in your Field
- Higher Earnings
- More Job Offerings
- Better Job Offerings
- Stronger Business Relationships (Through the company you work for, or yourself)
Granted, personal branding is a higher priority for entrepreneurs, freelancers and small business owners.
If you are an employee of a big firm, you might think that personal branding isn’t for you, what’s the point of branding myself if I work for a large company that’s already well known in it’s field, what’s the purpose?
Well, it can and it will help your sales, your relationships with the people you collaborate with, inside and outside the company, it will boost your customer connections and relationships. People higher in the hierarchy will notice you and depending on the working environment you may receive bonuses, raises, promotions, etc.
So even, if you are just an employee and part of a larger entity, don’t overlook personal branding thinking it’s redundant.
This guide is obviously targeted more towards the “entrepreneurial” spirit but it’s valuable for anyone.
In this guide, I will go over all the important steps and techniques in order for you to create your personal brand. As this guide is meant for everyone, there will be parts that don’t apply to everyone. When you feel that something is completely not suitable or redundant for you, feel free to skip it and apply the suitable techniques.
Find and State your Personal Vision
Companies are described by a mission statement, a target objective. Much like that, a person should also be described by his or hers vision (personal and professional).
What differentiates you from the rest of the people?
What are your core values and qualities?
Actually which do you want to be you values and qualities?
When other people think of you, how do you want to be perceived? What do you want to be the main characteristics of your personal and professional life?
As a first step, you have to decide upon your personal vision, your personal mission statement.
Your personal vision and mission statement is deeply associated with who you are, your values, your qualities, your traits, your personality in general.
You have to define all this one by one.
Find & Prioritize your Values
Values are the moving force of your life. They help you make decisions, they help you set your priorities in life. What contributes to your happiness?
Those are just some examples of different values. Take some time and assess yourself, what are the values that best describe your lifestyle, your life? – Note them down.
Now you have to prioritize them. Assuming my values are: “Family”, “Adaptability” and “Achievement”, which one comes first, which one comes second?
Which one tramps the other in case it’s needed? Would I choose more time with my family instead of allocating more time to achieve my career goals? If yes, the family comes before achievement, otherwise it’s the other way around.
There are no right and wrong answers here. Just take your time, note down all the values you think describe you and rank them.
Obviously you want to focus and feature your positive, values, the ones that make you look better in the eyes of the rest of the world.
Finding and prioritizing your values is not easy.
- Take all the time you need and note down all the values you feel describe you (Use an excel sheet if they are too many, or any other method for that matter.)
- Try to prioritize them. Apart from the obvious ones, you may find it more difficult for some others. Try to compare them 1 v 1 and choose as if you have had to select only one – which would it be?
- Your top 3 values are the most important ones
- Make sure you can communicate your selected values to people you admire and respect
- Do these values make you happy and comfortable with yourself?
In the end finding your values is a way to find your happiness. This method won’t only help you for your personal branding efforts, it’s a great way to find yourself and go a step closer to being genuinely happy and comfortable with yourself.
What makes you smile in the morning when you wake up and what are you looking forward to the rest of the day?
In psychology, trait theory (also called dispositional theory) is an approach to the study of human personality. Trait theorists are primarily interested in the measurement of traits, which can be defined as habitual patterns of behavior, thought, and emotion. According to this perspective, traits are relatively stable over time, differ across individuals (e.g. some people are outgoing whereas others are shy), and influence behavior. – Wikipedia
- Openness to experience
Here you can see the connections among different personality traits:
More information regarding the 5 big personality traits can be found here.
After you take the test you can see which of the big five traits describe you most and come back to the image above and check for sub-traits to complete your profile assessment.
Passions might be a little easier to identify. It’s the things that you want to do over and over. It’s what you love doing, what you genuinely enjoy, it’s what drives your day, what you are looking forward to all the time.
Don’t mistake passions with values. Usually there are connections but they are different. Being strongly connected to your community is a value but loving playing basketball with your peers every week is a passion.
Your passions + values allow other people to perceive you more clearly.
Apart from your personal passions, you have to identify your professional ones.
Assuming you are a graphics designer: art, design, drawing could be your passions.
If you work in the sports sector then maybe: fitness, working out, healthy nutrition could be some of your passions.
Furthermore, identifying your passions will help you in choosing or adjusting your career and your professional life more effectively. If you can make your passion your job then it’s not a job – you must have heard it. Don’t you agree?
After you note down and prioritize your values, traits and passions you are ready to set your personal vision. In essence your personal vision is the combination of all the aforementioned aspects of your personality. Create your personal vision and apply it to your career life.
Create your Personal Brand
Now you are ready to create your personal brand. The following paragraphs will guide you step by step in order to create and transmit your personal image effectively.
Keep in mind that some steps may not be for everyone since this guide applies to a wide range of people from different career sectors and fields.
If you find something that’s not for you, simply keep reading and use the ones that you feel are more appropriate for yourself.
Your personal vision and statement should be incorporated as much as possible in the following actions described.
Your actions, your appearance, your behavior (in your professional life) must be consistent and in align with your personal vision as set before.
Consistency is the key.
“A company’s logo is its shorthand, a visual cue that tells a story of the brand’s culture, behavior, and values,” – Matthews Hale
A logo is pretty much a shortcut – a mental connection – to a product or a company.
Study reveals that the human brain can achieve the remarkable feat of processing an image seen for just 13 milliseconds.
Undoubtedly visual stimuli are much more effective in communicating messages. 93% of the global communication is nonverbal.
That’s why visual media are the most important medium in the world of today.
A picture is worth a thousand words, and when it comes to capturing your audience’s attention, you want to take full advantage of every chance to communicate your message. Short attention spans have made lengthy explanations less effective – so how do you keep interest?
Show, don’t tell. – Tom More CEO and Founder of Slidely
Let’s take a simple every day example of why it is much easier to show than describe with words:
What’s working for you? The textual description or the graphic representation of the circle?
Now that we have a general idea of the power of visual media, we can start to understand the importance of the logo.
Your logo is the image of yourself, your company or your product. It has to be able to effectively transmit and communicate your personal vision as described above. It should have a little bit of your passions, values, traits, your personality.
Let’s take an example from the corporate world. A logo of an insurance company most likely will communicate: safety, credibility, dependability.
Interamerican is a worldwide insurance company. Its logo is represented by two squarish shapes interlocked. It looks like they are solid connected together one with the other. Each one can depend on the other and they are both holding tight. They are bold, strong and transmit an image of safety, certainty, and dependability.
Are those values good at describing an insurance company? – Obviously!
I guess interamerican manages to create a feeling of the aforementioned values and subconsciously we connect those values to their products and services.
The same thing applies to personal branding. Since you have completed the first step (creating your personal vision) now you can easily note down some aspects you want your logo to represent.
Are you aggressive and competitive? Make your logo bold, standing out with vibrant deep colors.
Maybe you want to look loyal, safe and trustworthy, make your logo strong, flat, use colors that calm and soothe the human mind.
Use the following infographics to help you decide the colors of your logo:
I would advise you to have your logo professionally done by a graphic designer, but if you absolutely can’t afford it, I’ll link you a couple of services that offer free logo design below.
Hint: a great place to score a great and free logo is /r/freedesign subreddit. I had a couple of logos designed by professionals for free through this subreddit.
Additional material about logos and colors here:
Free online logo design resources:
A website is absolutely necessary whether you are a freelancer, a business owner or pretty much anyone.
If you are just an individual, even a simple 2-3 page website with your CV, bio and photo will suffice.
If you are a freelancer you should include a portfolio to feature your previous work.
Creating a website today is really easy and simple and fortunately doesn’t require coding knowledge.
The best platform option for a blog is WordPress. Another popular solution is Blogger by Google.
Use wordpress.com for a completely free experience or the self-hosting wordpress.org which you can fully customize to your hearts content.
I would advise you on getting your personal domain from a service like Godaddy. It’s extremely cheap and having your own name out there is one of the most important things.
While wordpress.com and many other services offer free hosting, I would suggest you utilize wordpress.org and use a hosting service like Bluehost. It’s the hosting service I use and I am extremely satisfied. They have great customer support especially for beginners and hosting can start as low as $3,45 per month. Plus they have a one button installation for WordPress which will untie your hands especially if you are just diving into the website development world.
Assuming you do no run an online business, make sure to include in your website: your bio, CV, an image of yourself (which should be consistent throughout your social media profiles) and a portfolio section where you can showcase your previous work (where applicable).
You can take your online presence a step further by blogging about you and your career. Creating valuable content for your niche is a great way to attract more customers, build authority and generate more sales.
Business cards are an undeniably useful tool when it comes to personal branding. Business cards create an extensive network of acquaintances who can later become your customers.
It doesn’t matter if you are just a student or a manager of a multi-million dollar business, you need a personal business card.
Cards go from to hand to hand and you never know whom your card may reach. Exposing as many people as possible to your name and your services can help you build a solid ever growing customer network.
It’s one of the last physical statements of your personal brand. I know that the world of today is mainly digital and most of the networking is being held online but don’t underestimate the power of the old school business card.
In your business card you should include your: name, profession, a tag line (if applicable), your logo (if applicable), contact information (tel. number, email, linkedin profile, etc.)
Make your own business card online:
Resume Objective Statement
Ok, we all know what a resume is and how to create a successful resume should be a post of its own; here I will focus on the objective statement.
This is where you encapsulate you personal vision and upon which your personal branding success depends.
I know that not all hiring managers demand an objective statement but you should include one, unless the nature of the position doesn’t allow it.
What are the most important points when it comes to writing an objective statement?
- Keep it Short: you have to keep it short, try to fit in as few lines as possible the essence of what you want to say. I suggest thinking of it as a tweet (140 characters max.)
- Be Precise: don’t get lost in nonsense, you have to be precise, state exactly what you want and don’t go off the road.
- Try to pre-answer these questions: why are you a good fit for this position, do you have the abilities and requirements that are asked, why do you want to get this job. Obviously that’s really hard to accomplish but you should think with this concept in mind
If I could give you a most sound advice I came to understood after talking with several different hiring managers and after undergoing a few interview, is that you have to show them that you can create value for the company.
Value is the most important aspect of any position. No one cares about your double masters or your PhD if you can’t create value. It’s what they want, what they are looking for.
In your resume, you have to emphasize on how you can add value.
How can you describe value? How can you print it on a paper?
Well, with numbers and proving statements.
Take a look at these statements:
- Created the business plan of the firm and effectively adjusted the marketing strategy which yielded 3x profits within 6 months.
Do you see how value is presented? The answer is the bold parts. Everything before that is just descriptive and introductory and the people who will review your resume wont care a bit about it.
The essence is in those last words. You managed to triple the revenue of your previous job within six months, which means that you can create value which can be measured and proved and you can do this really fast.
So, try to pinpoint things like that in your past work experience and present them the right way.