Creating your authentic personal brand
Whether you like it or not, you are a brand! Your very own, which no one else can change. This post is inspired by John Purkiss and his recent presentation on personal branding. First, I’ll say a little a bit how the presentation went and then why the concept is so imporant to young entrepreneurs. The presentation introduced the concept of personal branding and a series of exercises that John included in his book (which I recommend putting on your Christmas list by the way). The workshop lead us in several exercises based on what was important to us and the activities we enjoyed. Left with a hopeless array of objects, people and a feeble attempt at self-insight scrawled all over our piece of paper, ‘personal branding’ seemed like the holy grail of self insight that was really hard to achieve.. However it was far simpler! We were expertly assisted in tying the meaning of these emotions together, leaving a clear understanding of not only your personal ‘brand’ but the person you really are and what matters to you. The person that you are is the foundation, but it is how you chose to show it that becomes your authentic brand.
The concept of personal branding is so important for young business minds. We often don’t realise that our brand follows us throughout our lives in whatever venture or role we undertake. This personal attribute is going to reflect in absolutely everything that you have done, and will ever do. Further understanding your brand enables you to harness all the positive aspects of your identity, and actively translate it into what you do by consciously evoking certain archetypes and portraying yourself in the way that best suits you.
Age 20, I have a rough idea of what person I want to be: I like being around people, performing though both music and speaking, being creative in whatever I do. I also enjoy looking back and having real satisfaction from something I have done. Now that is all you need to start a brand! I have no idea what I want to do in the future, but it’s not about what you want to do, it’s about who you want to be! I haven’t got a clue about what job I’d like to do but I know roughly who I want to be, which, as an entrepreneur, will naturally translate into what I do. So ultimately, really it doesn’t matter!
The aim of a brand is to align somenthing non-human with people’s values, in order for them to relate to a product. This then essentially becomes an extension of their identity. Think of super markets for example, where do you shop? In many cases, it can be traced back to you as person. A successful brand can become an extension of the customer’s identity, reinforcing the way they view themselves. Many brands can become confused, perhaps by offering a cheap luxury object? This concept of ‘stuck in the middle’ by not choosing exclusively differentiation or cost efficiency is whole subject in itself, put forward by Michael Porter, in his theory of competitive advantage.. but we’ll save that for another rainy day.. If we can identify our own personal brand and apply it to our businesses, it can never become confused. This is because the aim of brands personifying business will be absolutely genuine and be a true extension of you!
Having recently pitched to various people, along with starting this blog, I have begun to see how important it is to understand, reflect on and project your brand into everything. Be it web design, personal appearance, hair style, tone of voice, the values that you hold are or the people spend time with. I think that if you try to attempt ventures on which you can’t (or don’t) apply your own personal brand; you will never reach the full potential of that project. Nothing can replicate putting your heart and soul into something, and nothing will ever truly mask whether you’re actually enjoying it. We are growing up in an age where it is increasingly socially acceptable to be truly unique with fewer pressures pressing us into archetypes that people feel we should be. Building your very own clear, authentic brand from an early age is easier and more important that ever. If you don’t, you’re missing out on the focus that it can give you, and will give people confused or mixed reaction to you and your business. Either be hated, or loved. Being vanilla in business will never allow you to push boundries. It is certainly hard for me to accept, but realising the fact that not everyone can like you is an incredibly important part of developing as an entrepreneur.
I will reiterate my suggestion that you have a look at John’s book; it will direct you in a methodical way to achieve what I have been commenting on. I do hope however that this short insight may persuade some of you to think a little about the ‘brand’ you are, based on what you stand for, which, I’m sure will be further reflected in the companies that you go onto start-up and work with.