Personal branding isn’t really my focus. It’s something that I do because it’s part of marketing and building out the new way that social business flows. It’s something we wrote about in Trust Agents in the “Make Your Own Game” part. But I’m asked about it often. Here are my thoughts for how to move the needle with your personal brand in 2011 (and yes, you should start planning now). Oh, and Batman is going to help me illustrate along the way.
Personal Branding Basics for 2011
Decide On Your Promise
A brand is a promise. Christopher S. Penn quotes Ze Frank often, saying that it’s an “emotional aftertaste.” Think about it. You buy Apple because you know it’s well-designed. You buy Coke because you prefer the taste. You take your kids to McDonalds because you know they’ll eat it without a fuss. Whatever the promise, good or bad, that’s why you align with the brands you choose.
Brands as part of identity is even bigger. If you’re into bicycling, you’re a cyclist. You think that way. You eat accordingly. You spend your extra time accordingly.
Batman is defined by the goal to seek never-ending vengeance on criminals. That’s his promise. You’re a bad guy? It’s going to hurt. Batman is vengeance. And if someone else started being Batman, they’d pretty much have to own up to that promise, as well, or the brand would dilute.
Decide what you’re going to promise and start there.
Decide How to Best Represent that Promise
First, for everyone who calls themselves something like “The Leadership Doctor” after their name, or in lieu of their name, I challenge you to find me a very big, very successful personal brand who did the same. Richard Branson is Richard Branson. Oprah is Oprah. Madonna. Lance Armstrong. Mother Theresa.
None of them were “the something someone.”
So, now that you’re a name, how do you represent the promise of that brand? I’m turning Human Business Works into a brand that promises to help grow sustainable, relationship-minded business through helpful education and community. That’s the brand promise of HBW. By extension, my promise is that I can deliver that and that becomes part of my brand.
Batman represents his promise by executing on it, all the time. Instead of talking, he does. He executes.
Brands DO Have Symbolism, However
Don’t doubt for a moment that brands use powerful symbolism. That yellow Livestrong band shows up at quite a distance, plus echoes the Maillot Jaune (the yellow jersey) that signifies the leader and winner of the Tour De France. All good brands have symbolism. I changed the logo here at [chrisbrogan.com] to a “B” not only to represent my last name but to represent business, which is at the heart of all my projects. That “B” will show up in a lot of places coming up.
Batman’s symbol, the bat, started as a way to add to people’s fear, and then grew from there.
Promises and Symbols Require Repetition
One way that brands build and grow is by being there, and being there repeatably. When people ask me about my success and how I got to where I am now, I always answer that I was everywhere and I was helpful. Not only did I pay every dollar I could afford to show up to places, but I paid more dollars that I couldn’t afford. What was the result? (Besides ruining my credit) I was everywhere, and people started to know that I’d be there, and they knew that I’d be helpful when I was there, and that my speeches would be useful, and I built relationships that mattered. I built connections to thousands of the who’s who in my field (look at some snaps of them all here), and by that, I really mean most of the up and comers who are stars-in-the-making.
Batman showed up every time the signal was lit. He seemed to be everywhere to stop crime and to build momentum on the fact that crime wasn’t a good idea in Gotham City.
How do you repeat your promises? Live them. Be there. Be useful. Put out good media. Be at every event that you need to be at to grow your industry. Help as many up-and-comers as you can. Group and gather and cluster to build a team of helpful people. (Batman had Robin, Batgirl, and a whole cast of people you wouldn’t know the names of, unless you were as geeky as me).
Grow And Adapt
Madonna stayed on top of the heap of female musical performers for quite some time by adjusting and adapting and growing with the times. She’d morph her style but keep her Madonna-ness as she moved into new phases in her career. In every case, she’d bridge. She wouldn’t swing wildly from one style to another, but instead, she’d let her capabilities overlap into new areas, and we’d be left with the sense that she’d acquired a new style to her collection, instead of seeing her as some kind of wishy washy switcher.
Batman has been in the media since the 1930s. Back in the old days, he would slap people and use guns and do all kinds of quasi-vampire things. Then we had Adam West in the crazy 60s. Then we had Michael Keaton showing that you didn’t have to be crazy. Most recently, we have Christian Bale in the movies and all kinds of crazy stories in the comics. In all cases, the storylines get a little more modern, and keep us in the right mindset to accept that this man dresses up in personal armor and beats people all night long.
How will you grow and adapt your brand? For instance, if your branding is all around “social media” right now, what are you going to do in 2011 when that phrase starts to fall from grace? How will you vector your branding accordingly to keep it fresh and current? To quote friend Aaron Strout, “I’m in fax marketing.” See how silly that sounds? Well, in the 1990s, someone was saying that.
The Tools Are the Afterthought
Your branding isn’t a logo, the same profile pic everywhere, a catch phrase, a theme song. Your branding isn’t a clever little ploy. It’s a whole package, a whole storyline, a promise and symbols. Who cares which tools you’re using? Use the tools that let you tell that story best. If you’re looking for which tools to use, answer these questions:
- Which tools let you tell the story the best?
- Where is your audience?
- What do you want them to do with your promise?
- Are the tools you’re choosing serving this or no?
- How much effort is it to maintain your presence and your promise?
That’s a reasonable way to look at the tools, right?
Finally: Focus On Experimentation, Execution, and Storytelling
You want to crush it in branding? Focus on experimenting to improve your abilities, executing to bring your promise into the real world, and telling stories by making useful media to build relationships with your buyers and supporters. That’s the real formula. That’s where you’ll see your rewards. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
It’s the best advice I can offer you. For now.