A bar of soap, a cartoon character, and a movie star.† What do these three things have to do with managing your own personal brand?† Each one holds a branding lesson on how to give you and your business a defining edge. For years, companies have profited from crafting compelling BRAND IMAGES to sell products or services, ranging from soap to cartoons to entertainers.† So what lessons can be carried over to you, the business person, and how you brand yourself?† Letís take a closer look.
YOU BELIEVE WHAT YOU SEE
The business of image making the world over was fueled some thirty years ago, when social psychologist, Dr. Albert Merabian, found that 55% of a first impression is based on APPEARANCE, i.e. visual cues.† (Incidentally, only 7% of a first impression is based on what is said.)† Since that time, the world has become increasingly VISUAL in the way we receive information and make decisions.† Just look at how the Internet is transforming how we learn, how we buy, how we form images and impressions of others -- and how quickly!
PLAN YOUR PERSONAL BRAND
One of the most overlooked and underutilized branding tools for professionals happens to be highly visual as well.† Arguably, this tool has been around longer than any other, is available to anyone, doesnít cost an arm and a leg, and is your exclusive right to manage.† Iím referring of course to your physical SELF, including the CHOICES you make in presenting yourself to others. Each of us is a walking billboard for our talents and what we have to offer -- our own personal brand.† As a walking billboard, we communicate visually even when we donít intend to.† The key then to managing a personal brand is to ACTIVELY manage the impressions that weíre serving up to others.†
IT DOESN'T JUST HAPPEN
Letís start with a bar of soap.† Your appreciation for a bar of soap is likely limited to your daily personal hygiene.† But a bar of soap is so much more.† Every bar of soap on the store shelf has a marketing plan behind it, a plan that addresses how it will be promoted, to whom, touting which UNIQUE FEATURES, and to achieve what goal -- in total, a plan.† Planning is nothing new to conducting smart business.† Businesses have business plans, products have product plans.† If a bar of soap gets its own plan, you certainly merit one too.
CONSISTENCY IN BRANDING IS KEY
Even with a plan in mind, if personal branding were only about one-time window-dressing or having the ďright packageĒ, we could stop here.† But itís not.† Personal branding has both a visual component and a BEHAVIORAL component, and both should reinforce your desired message, not just one time, but every time.
EARLY LESSONS LAST A LIFETIME
As professionals seeking to manage our personal brands, we have much to learn from cartoon characters.† When you think of your favorite cartoon or comic strip character, whether itís a beeping bird, a friendly mouse, or a blockhead, each has one important trait in common.† That trait is consistency.† Whether itís been weeks, months, or even years since you saw the cartoon, rest assured that if you tune in tomorrow, the characterís behaviors are consistent with what youíve experienced before and its appearance is immediately RECOGNIZABLE.
BRANDING WITHOUT SUBSTANCE IS RISKY BUSINESS
The bar of soap, for example, scrubs tough dirt, leaves a fresh scent, or somehow makes you better for having used it.† Personal branding promotes a resident TALENT or character TRAIT that you, the individual, bring to the table.† For a lesson in what not to do when developing your personal brand image, we turn to Hollywood.†
A LESSON FROM TINSELTOWN
Hurray for Hollywood...where a carefully constructed brand image can transform a person over night.† But be careful in taking your brand lesson from Hollywood.† Too often, the star image that is created has nothing to do with the person inside -- and that can set you up for a hard fall, as evidenced by all too many breakdowns by all too many stars trying to be all too many things that theyíre not.† If you canít DELIVER the goods, donít play the part -- in business youíll be discovered, and I donít mean in a good way.
A SMART INVESTMENT
When you manage your personal brand through careful planning, attention to consistency, and with substance behind it, you are effectively building EQUITY in yourself, your name, and in whatever company, product, or service with which you choose to align.† So each time you use a bar of soap, read the funnies, or watch an on-screen legend -- think about the lesson each holds on creating a defining brand image and ask yourself what youíve done today to actively manage your personal brand.
Linda Travis, Personal Branding Strategist, works with individuals and organizations to extend the power of branding to and through people. She can be reached at or at (404) 325-7959.
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