Personal branding: A how-to guide for a saturated market

David Beckham. Beyonce. Oprah. Reece Witherspoon.

They are all people who have carefully crafted a personal brand which is well known and well monetised.

If you want to have a personal brand that works for you, there are a few things you need to understand:

1) What is a brand?

2) How does a brand work?

3) How do companies use them commercially?

4) How can you use the same strategies for yourself?

The word “brand” comes from “brandr”, the ancient norse word meaning "to burn".

1552: To mark by burning.

1665: A mark made on cattle.

1827: First trademark made on a product.

1958: The impression of a product in the mind of consumers.

We are still in business of “burning” our brand (personal or business) into the consciousness of the consumer and keeping it top of mind.

What are the different attributes and stages of a brand?

Brand version 1: Marking ownership.

Brand version 2: Guaranteeing quality.

Brand version 3: Promising pleasure.

Brand version 4: Inviting belonging.

Brand version 5: Enabling action.

I spoke to Keith Cox, Creative Consultant at MacPark Creative about people as brands.

“It’s interesting to look at David Beckham and how he became ‘Brand Beckham,” Keith said.

“He was a decent footballer but certainly not a top, top player.

“So how did he become so famous? Well, by making the most of his assets. He’s a good-looking guy so that led him into contracts outside of football in modelling and fashion (Brand Version 1 – marking ownership).

“He upped the ante by marrying a Spice Girl (Brand Version 2 – guaranteeing quality). They were soon seen at parties of the rich and famous as the glamour couple Posh and Becks.

“He traded one famous football club (Manchester United) for another (Real Madrid) (Brand Version 3 – promising rewards/pleasure).

“He changed his haircuts every five minutes. He had a huge social media presence (Brand Version 4 – inviting longing). And to cap it all, at the end of his football career, he moved to LA Galaxy and ‘cracked America’.

“In 2019, a website reported that Beckham generates $335,000 per post and estimated earnings annually from Instagram were $10 million. He has a lifetime contract with Adidas worth over $160 million and endorsements and licensing that has netted him over $450 million. (Brand Version 5 – enabling action)

“Every step of the way he has carefully cultivated his image so that to many of the younger generation who never saw him play he’s now more famous for being Beckham than he is for being a footballer.”

How do companies create a brand?

There are many systems that companies use to create the brand that will work for them. Ultimately, however, they start by trying to define what makes them different from the competition; by establishing DNA and defining their USP (Unique Selling Proposition).

This starts with the What? Why? and How? These translate into the three Ps:

Proposition, Purpose and Personality.

If you think about the evolving versions of brand, it’s clear to see how going through each of these steps can create a distinct identity. What is vital is that the brand promise matches the reality.

For example, if a business advertises itself as innovative, but it’s using the same standard methodology as its competitors – that’s false. Therefore, it’s important that this stage is 100% honest.

It’s common to find a different USP than what you thought you had. It’s a bit of a soul searching practise.

“Why” you do something is at the core of what you do. It’s not wanting to make a profit that creates a successful brand. It is the “why”!

Why are they doing what they do? What is the motivation behind it? What are they trying to achieve? This is where the eventual buy-in to the brand manifests itself. Not the logo.

This is well documented by Simon Sinek and if you haven’t seen it you should watch it here.

The “why” is where companies start and then they build in the “what” and “how” to create the unique brand.

The next step is Positioning.

Below is an example of how you would map this out. It’s very standard example, just comparing price and quality on the matrix. However, you can use many other more relevant variables to determine where you are positioned.

More importantly, how you are positioned against your competitors. From this stage, it could be that your competition is not your competition! You’re aiming to attract different people with a different agenda and offering.

Once this is complete you then need to build your brand out. There is a golden rule here. It's not simply about getting your logo, website and various mediums out there so that everyone knows who you are. If you do that you will have dismissed the previous stages.

The rule is to use “search based targeting”. In short, this is the mindset of being easier to find by the right people.

This is the trick, and this is how you use all the research into yourself, your “why” and subsequent USP.

A very good trick for this is via association. To give your brand propulsion, try to link up with a company or individual that your target market is associated with. A company that has credibility, security and other strong brand traits.

Brands can go to extreme lengths to coin their identity. This is how important individuality is.

A famous example of this is Cadbury’s. They tried to secure the shade of purple as exclusively theirs. It took 20 years of legal dispute … but they eventually lost their battle.

Maybe my company Purple Patch Consulting could have a better chance of trademarking the colour purple?

These are some of the steps that are made in creating brands in the business world.

It figures to use these steps for yourself. To know and understand your offering and what makes you different.

What is your “why”?

“Who” is your target audience?

Everything can, and should, be applied to how you market yourself.

What companies and roles do you look for?

What is your social media presence? How do you carry yourself?

Who should you surround yourself with?

Beyonce is a perfect example of a personal brand. She started out as the lead singer in the pop band Destiny’s Child, belting out songs like “Survivor” and “Independent Women”, appealing to the new girl power generation of the late '90s.

Her solo career has been even more astronomical, dropping hit record after hit record, winning both commercial and critical acclaim, as well as a stack of awards.

She is constantly taking on new challenges, so now she's renowned not just as an exceptional singer, but as a songwriter, actress, dancer and record producer.

Each new direction, each new achievement, has added to the aura of the Beyonce brand. Now, her fanatical following in the Beyhive actually does a lot of the marketing for her (“Run The World”, for example, sold 828,773 copies in three days with absolutely no marketing).

Today, Beyonce is a multi-talented brand powerhouse: a musical diva, style goddess, multi-tasking mamma, fashion designer and business mogul. She has transcended her pop star status to become a true cultural icon.

How about you?

How do you stack up?

If your core USP clear in your messaging and look?

Don’t forget to Google yourself every now and then to see if you like what you see. Potential clients and employers do this.

You may have many different social media profiles, each with a different perspective of your life. Great on their own platform, but are they hindering you on Google Search?

Look at consistent messaging which portrays the message and the person that you want.

Personal branding is a massive step in building tribes and using your particular message to find clients – and importantly, let them find you.

We are giving away a free tool to help you follow these processes to create your personal brand. Purple Patch Consulting are experts in helping you stand out and have helped our clients and customers build their branding to get the deal, the job and the exposure.

About Tom Hitchcock:

Tom Hitchcock is passionate about people and helping them to achieve their business and career goals. This passion has translated into a career in coaching, mentoring and recruitment with Purple Patch Consulting and The-Write-CV. Tom is serious about helping people invest in themselves and get the job and career that they want.

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