Personal Brand Versus Corporate Brand: Which is More Effective?

personal brand versus corporate brand

A friend forwarded a post to me penned by digital superstar Neil Patel. I like and respect Neil a lot, and generally I agree with him, but in this case, I don’t — and I think his post provides a great lesson in the value of personal branding.

Which works better? Today we’ll examine the business value of the personal brand versus corporate brand.

Personal brand versus corporate brand

Neil’s post goes through a detailed analysis of the number of followers on his personal and corporate accounts. He does his best to attribute revenue streams to his personal brand versus corporate brand, to determine which might be the most important effort. The corporate brand drove more revenue and he came to this conclusion:

If you look at the biggest companies in the world… Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Pepsi, Proctor and Gamble, etc… they are all corporate brands.

Sure, you can build a big personal brand like a Kardashian, which is great, but they don’t generate anywhere near the revenue a strong corporate brand can generate.

This doesn’t mean a personal brand isn’t effective.

I’ve used it to kick-start my corporate brand.

A lot of corporations like Beats by Dre used a lot of personal brands (celebrities) to create something amazing, and then they eventually sold it to Apple.

So ideally, you should leverage both to their maximum potential.

I think Neil is missing a few important points.

Neil is the brand

So Neil’s conclusion is to focus on corporate brand — like Apple or Microsoft. The corporate brand drives more revenue for him.

First, let’s take a little test. What is the name of Neil Patel’s company?

Think hard now. If Neil’s corporate brand is working so well, driving more revenue, and meaning more to his customers, obviously it should be a well-known name, right?

I’ve followed Neil for more than a decade and have no idea what the name of his company is. I assumed it was Neil Patel. (It’s NP Digital).

My point is, how do you separate the two? My guess is that no matter how many referrals Neil gets, a new customer is going to do business with him because it is Neil freaking Patel, one of the best-known digital gurus in the world.

Similarly, do you know the name of my business? Nope. Nobody really cares that I lead Schaefer Marketing Solutions. People hire me for me.

What is a brand?

The second problem with Neil’s analysis is that he is attempting the Sysphian task of attributing revenue to brand marketing efforts.

There are two kinds of marketing, and confusing them causes problems.

The first kind is direct (or performance) marketing. This is easy to measure and is directed at revenue generation. Examples would be advertising, SEO, and, to some extent, content marketing. If you spend money on ads, for example, you can generally measure how much revenue comes in.

personal brand versus corporate brandBrand marketing helps distance yourself from the direct marketing battle. Your image and reputation create the expectation of a feeling you have toward a brand. The words Disney, Nike, or Coca-Cola mean something to you because of the tremendous effort they put into brand marketing. This moves them above commodity status.

Brand marketing delivers loyalty, preference, and, often, the ability to charge more.

But here’s the problem. It’s almost impossible to measure brand marketing. Most people associate Coca-Cola with their whimsical polar bears. How many cans of Coke does a polar bear sell? Who knows? But the brand image creates meaning that separates it from the competition.

My point is, when Neil compares the personal brand versus the corporate brand, he’s mashing together direct marketing with brand marketing. He’s trying to provide direct attribution to how well he is known, and that’s very difficult, or impossible, to do.

The personal brand is everything

Last year, I whined to a friend about my book sales. “I’m writing great books,” I said. “Why don’t I sell as many books as Seth Godin?”

“Because you’re not Seth Godin,” my friend replied.


In many ways, Seth, Neil, and I are in the same business. We speak, we write, we consult.

But Seth Godin can sell more books, charge more for his speaking fees, and attract bigger consulting engagements than me because he’s at the top of the marketing influence scale. It doesn’t matter if my books are better, cheaper, or more beautiful. His personal brand is bigger than mine, and that trumps everything.

For the same reason, I don’t think Neil even has a “corporate brand.” Neil is able to drive crazy revenue streams because he’s known, loved, and trusted. Sure, he does a great job with SEO, ads, and content. But the real key to his success is the reputation, authority, and presence that makes his personal brand soar.

Putting this into action for you

I don’t want to dismiss the power of corporate branding. If you can afford an ad on the Super Bowl, go do it. But most of the people reading this article will never have that opportunity.

Remember that branding is about creating an emotional expectation that leads to awareness and loyalty. It’s hard for people to fall in love with an ad, a logo, or your SEO scheme. But they can fall in love with you.

Neil is an SEO and advertising wizard. He might be able to trick people into clicking a link or an ad, but he can’t trick them into buying. That decision is made because of his reputation, his body of work, and the social proof coming from reviews and testimonies.

I hope you take a simple lesson from this tale. Your personal brand is everything.

What do you want to do in this world? Make more sales? Write a book? Sell a course? Speak on the biggest industry stage?

All worthy goals, but the only way that will happen is if you are KNOWN.

In Neil’s article, he said he brings in about $20 million a year. Could he have done that 10 years ago? No. Five years ago? No. His revenue grows and his opportunities expand the longer he works on his personal brand.

That’s why you need to be working on your personal brand now.

Need a keynote speaker? Mark Schaefer is the most trusted voice in marketing. Your conference guests will buzz about his insights long after your event! Mark is the author of some of the world’s bestselling marketing books, a college educator, and an advisor to many of the world’s largest brands. Contact Mark to have him bring a fun, meaningful, and memorable presentation to your company event or conference.

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Image courtesy Midjourney

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