Foliotek Blog

What is Your Brand?

Whether we like it or not, every decision we make affects our brand. From the words we use, or the clothes we wear, to the content we publish in social media, all of it speaks to your personal identity. Your Brand.

So what is your brand? You can find out by asking this question:

"What is the word or phrase people think of when they think of you?"

That can be a pretty scary question to answer. But that, in essence, is your brand. Let’s look at a more comprehensive definition from Tim O’Brien.

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BREAKING IT DOWN

PART 01 -

“Stimulates a meaningful emotional response in your target audience.”

This means that your actions, on and off the web, are going to affect other people. In many cases, people will decide what your brand is within 15 seconds of meeting you. Obviously 15 seconds is not enough time for them to draw a logical conclusion about what makes you tick without having any tangible evidence, but sadly, this is the case. People are going to have an emotional response to … "You." This meaningful, emotional response could be positive or negative; regardless, it will mean something to them and in turn have an effect on you.

The second part of this statement, "Target Audience," adds a layer of intentionality. Who is your target audience? Interestingly, your brand is going to impact both your "target audience" and your non-target audience. The difference is that your brand cares about, or is more focused on, a defined group of people. While everyone is going to make their own decision about what your brand is, your focus should be on the group of people whose opinions you care most about. How do you want to be perceived?

For example, if I wear a suit every day (HA), no matter the temperature, and you always see me in my suit, it conveys a certain message. That would be a part of my brand. Some might see me and think, "That's guys got swag" others might see me and think, "what a pompous jerk." My attire is a part of my brand, and it can conveys both a positive and negative message. You just need to be certain the message you are conveying is the right message for the right audience.

PART 02 -

“About the values and qualities for which you stand”

Clearly your brand is focused on soliciting an emotional response from a group of people. Now you need to decide what values and qualities you want your brand to state. My colleague has a post about How to Create a Personal Brand. It's a great post. If you have a few minutes, give it a read. However, whether you read it or not, remember this:

You have already built your brand.

CONCLUSION

That bit of truth is about as scary as answering the question that defines your brand. But there is good news, you can still shape your brand and refine it to be more intentional and focused on the values and qualities for which you stand. Just because you may have a brand that means “x” today doesn’t mean you can’t begin the process of refining that brand to be more intentional tomorrow.

So start to work out your plan and make the necessary changes for “stimulating the meaningful emotional responses” you have purposefully defined.

If you have some time, check out this Personal Brand video by Tim O'Brien. It will make you think more carefully about the emotional impact of your brand.

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How to Create a Personal Brand

alt If Michael Jordan pops up on the screen your mind does not think of Apple Inc., Google, or anything tech related for that matter. Because of successful branding, you will most likely visualize NIKE, Air Jordan, basketball dunk, and think of the Chicago Bulls. If you are a Michael Jordan fan, your mind will immediately dig up emotions tied to some of his heroic last-second championship wins, and you will see Jordan as a leader with courage, discipline, determination, and talent. How does Branding encompass all of this? Let’s first define it.

PERSONAL BRAND IS WHAT PEOPLE SAY ABOUT YOU WHEN YOU LEAVE THE ROOM - Jeff Bezos, Founder, Amazon.com

BRANDING: DEFINED

The definition of Personal Branding is "the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands." To put it simply, “Personal Branding is the means by which people remember you” The term branding does encompass a logo, identity, and all the visual components you can think of when you try to visualize a company with successful marketing strategies (i.e. Nike swoosh, JUST DO IT). But branding also includes other areas that are not just strictly design and marketing. These areas can include emotions and any other perceptions that come to mind when a customer thinks about a company or potential employee. Today, let’s focus on these other areas like values, character traits, and leadership roles.

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BRANDING: DEVELOPED

The first step to building a personal brand that is complete with your character traits is to consider what you want your audience, or potential employers, to think of when they come across your online identity. Here are three questions you must ask yourself as you develop your personal brand:

What type of skills, character traits, values, and leadership roles do you want to have associated with you?
For this first question, go ahead and dream big! It’s ok to desire traits that you haven’t yet developed because it will help you get direction on where you want to go. See where your heart is and then work towards it. Perhaps you really want to be known as someone who is very hard working and humble. Or maybe it’s more important in your field to be efficient and artistic. Whatever the case is, write it all down.

Are these traits true to yourself and something you can deliver?
Ok, now that you’ve dreamed big, let’s get back to reality. Now you have to look at these ideal skills, values, character traits, and leadership roles and truly ask yourself whether you can provide these to your fan base or a potential employer. It’s really important to be able to deliver on the promises you make, otherwise your entire personal brand will become nonexistent. Steve Jobs wouldn’t have been able to pull off the ‘Air Jordan’ marketing strategy, but he had something just as powerful and intriguing. He was an innovator, always pursuing excellence and diversity in his work.

Is there consistency across traits that pertain to one market area?
One of the biggest mistakes people make when building a personal brand is trying to cover different market areas. The problem is that without a specific market audience, your personal brand can’t exist. Jayson DeMers from Forbes.com explains that “The best brands have a thorough understanding of the demographics of their target market, what their interests are, and how they communicate.” As you look at what skills, values, character traits, and leadership roles you can provide, funnel them down to a specific market area. If you are already in a career and plan to stick with it, then this step should be pretty easy.

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