WHAT IS A BRAND, REALLY?
By Felicia Shakespeare
Brand or branding seem to be a part of the latest lingo. Almost every time I watch television, read something online, or attend a workshop or training session, someone is consistently referencing themselves, or something connected to them, as part of a brand. Whether referring to a business or a person, the term brand can have a variety of meanings within very different scenarios. The scope or range of brand reference comes from celebrities in their own right as well as from everyday people. In almost every age group and industry, discussions of being a brand seem to be the latest of hot topics.
What is a brand? I’ve already walked through examples of what the word means in terms of identification of product as it directly relates to terms that focus on sales and marketing. The best business leaders consider these methods to be critical components in order for them to capitalise on promoting products and services. In most instances, how well this plan is implemented determines if a single product will ever make it into the hands of the general public. A great marketing campaign that signifies one’s brand is most critical to the success of any personal or business growth.
Personal Brand Defined
Recently, someone I know shared something profound with me about this topic. A movie she had seen starring actress Jacqueline Bisset as Madame Simone and Linda Hamilton as Joanna Scott, has impacted the way she organises her life. In the movie, Joanna, whose life is in flux due to a husband who has left her for a younger woman, is set to be set up by Madame Simone, who is a matchmaker to millionaires. Simone grooms young women for marriage by putting them through etiquette courses and other experiences that give them the foundation for being a good wife before pairing them with a husband who is extremely wealthy. Simone chooses whether she will take on a young woman as a client by first having her empty out whatever purse she’s carrying. The items which are spread out on a table are the deciding factor. If the items are messy, or if the purse contains crumpled up pieces of papers, or other things that should have been long-ago discarded, or if, in fact, there is entirely too much in the purse altogether, the woman is dismissed immediately. No conversation needed, no explanations given, no second chances—just take the items, your purse, and yourself out the front door and miss the opportunity of a lifetime.
The message was plainly conveyed that for a woman lining herself up to be a mate/wife to a man who already has his life together on so many levels—then you should too. To this day she only keeps a few items in her purse—keys, wallet, a small bottle of perfume, breath mints, a pen, her cell, and a tiny container of lotion. Not because she wishes to marry a millionaire (she’d rather make her own millions and have a mate appreciate the other aspects of who she is according to her), but that one scene in the movie showing it as a deciding factor in the fate of someone’s life was equally as impactful to her as the scolding I received from Doreen Dukes that day at the bank. A personal brand can be determined by the smallest of things—and in this case, it was being organised and being prepared.
This same individual also takes the same approach in other aspects of her life. She organises her finances, her home, her car, her desk at work, and projects quite the same way as she does her purse—all the result of watching a movie for entertainment purposes. Additionally, it’s also how she chooses her clients for projects for her editing business by asking to see their media kit, Web site, social media page, personal recommendation from a reliable source, then having a conversation that poses several questions related to their goals. Every element is a different key to that potential client’s personal branding and to her whether it’s worth putting in her time to develop them into national best-selling authors.
Let’s start right now with the aspect of what it means to be a personal brand. Personal branding is when an individual, instead of a business or entity, is the focus of the brand. A personal brand, in its true essence, is the way one represents himself or herself in and to the world. Though what people recognise most is the type of branding that applies to a business or entity, this book will focus on the personal side, which is the inside. The perception of how we establish ourselves in any situation as individuals represents who we are to the world and how we are received by society as a whole. These factors: character development, integrity, and knowing your purpose are only a few of the factors that constitute the creation of a personal brand.
The most suitable definition I can give for the purpose of this book is that a personal brand, defined in this context, is how you are distinguished, categorised, or perceived by people around you and the world at large. Who you are at all times will parlay into your personal, professional, and business brand. You are the reason that a brand even exists in any of these situations. In other words, you, the individual or entity, can be viewed as the actual “product.”
So, this question begs an answer . . . At this moment in time, if you had to sum “your brand” up in a word, what would it be?