Perhaps your company’s branding strategy is YOU.


branding strategy

Personal branding strategy is simply a fact of business life these days. In fact, as traditional PR and advertising becomes less relevant (who is seeing these ads any more?), I could argue that increasingly, the personal brand IS the company brand, especially in smaller companies.

Branding strategy is about creating an emotional connection to your product or service. It’s a lot easier building a connection to a person compared to an ad or a piece of company content.

Personal branding will undeniably have a more important role in marketing strategy because it can create a permanent and sustainable competitive advantage based on emotion. There is only one you. That can be a legitimate point of business differentiation!

For the love of Jeni

Here’s an example of how a personal brand can become an integral component of a corporate branding strategy.

branding strategy

Jeni Britton Bauer

Ice cream is basically a commodity. You can tweak the ingredients and the flavors but there are only so many ways to make and sell ice cream, right?

How is Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams breaking from the pack to become one of the fastest-growing retailers in America? Because people love the company’s founder, Jeni Britton Bauer.

They love her never-say-die founder’s story, passion, commitment to the environment, and honest business partnerships. The love of a real person like Jeni turns the act of buying ice cream into an act of devotion.

Of course she creates a delicious product. But lots of companies do that. Compare the growth opportunity for Jeni’s stores with Baskin Robbins (also yummy and expensive by the way) — the largest ice cream retailer on the planet. How do you grow Baskin Robbins? More ads that nobody sees? More flavors? Lower your price? Tweak the logo?

Jeni is growing her company through love. That can’t be copied by competitors. Who do you love at Baskin Robbins?

To a large extent, Jeni is the brand.

The time is now

This is a historically important trend — and one that is overlooked by much of the corporate world — because it could only be happening now.

I started out in business more than 30 years ago, pre-internet days! Back then, how would I become known? How would it even be possible for a nobody like me to build a personal brand?

Back then, becoming “known” was in the hands of a gatekeeper like a newspaper or trade journal editor, or perhaps an executive in the publishing industry.

But today, the opportunity to become known in your industry is up to you. Everybody has the opportunity to publish content and be heard, to build an audience and establish the presence, reputation, and authority to have a meaningful competitive advantage.

The advantage goes to those with the vision and tenacity to do build that personal brand.

Advantage: Small businesses

For the most part, large companies can’t take advantage of this trend. I can only think of a handful of examples where the emotional tie to a company is based primarily on the devotion to an individual — Oprah, Elon Musk, and Richard Branson come to mind.

However, it’s so much easier for a small business to establish a meaningful emotional connection based on a personal brand.

In a small business, the owner has a relatable founder’s story. The owner of a small business can still be out with customers and show their smile, their heart, their passion. They can be out in the community showing they care. And most important, they can be part of the content story — the blogs, videos, photos and podcasts — in a personal and intimate way.

If you’re an entrepreneur or small business owner, establishing a personal brand could be your most important branding strategy.

Personal branding strategy requires a new mindset

A branding strategy based on an individual can be uncomfortable. I’m speaking from experience!

When I started my company, I did not want to be the focus of attention. I wanted the focus to be on our work and the amazing results we were getting with our consulting engagements.

However, my consistent and helpful content — published through this blog, The Marketing Companion podcast, and my marketing books — helped create a worldwide audience of true fans.

I started my company in 2008 and finally by 2016 I reluctantly admitted to myself that my company brand was … me. It took me eight years to actually feature my face on the landing page of my website!

I’m an introvert. I’m uncomfortable with self-promotion and being the center of attention. But I also realized that the only way to stand out is to have the courage to show myself and tell my unique and honest stories to you.

I stand out in a very crowded field of digital marketing because there is only one me. You can stand out in your industry, too … because there is only one you, too!

The key is having the plan, courage, and resilience to go for it.

Personal branding is a process

If you take one idea from this article, I hope it is this: Creating a personal brand isn’t about luck. It is a systematic process.

The biggest thing I learned when researching my book KNOWN: The handbook for building and unleashing your personal brand in the digital age is that nobody becomes known in their industry through luck.

You can become famous through luck. But becoming known and a trusted a personal brand requires consistent work over many months, and perhaps even years.

It is a process, and it is within reach of anyone. In the process of writing the book, I interviewed 97 people who have become known in a wide variety of professions all over the world And they all did the same four things to become known:

  1. They identified a rational idea they wanted to be known for (this may be different from your “passion”)
  2. They found a unique way to tell their story
  3. They produced quality content consistently without fail
  4. They actively engaged with an audience to nurture an emotional connection

Today, every person reading this blog post has the opportunity to build a personal brand that leads to business benefits. In many cases, this can be more powerful and effective than any ad you could ever devise.

By the way, over the last eleven years, I have never taken out a paid ad to promote my business.

And here is a stunning opportunity — chances are, your competitors have no idea this is even a thing. This branding strategy is still under the radar.

Is it your time to shine?

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world.  Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

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