What is a Personal Brand and Why Do You Need One?
Personal branding is the idea of creating a brand around a person rather than a business or product. It’s useful as it helps you become more memorable and identifiable just as a business brand helps the business attract the right kind of clients and sell their products. Whether you are wanting to further your career in the workforce or are the face of your own business, you need to ensure that your personal brand represents the best version of you so that you can have the greatest impact. It can help you position yourself as an expert in your industry, grow your social following and secure better jobs or clients and sell more products (no matter what you think of them personally, the Kardashians are experts at using their personal brands to sell their own and other companies products).
If you want more credibility or want to get noticed more for the right reasons, then making a conscious effort to build a personal brand that is authentic is a worthwhile thing to do. As Amazon founder Jeff Bezos says “A personal brand is what others say about you when you’re not in the room.” Its an impression others form of you from experiences they have of you plus your reputation and how you present yourself (both in person and online). The mental picture people have of you when you leave the room is something you have some control over.
Building your personal brand won’t happen overnight, but if you remain consistent and congruent with your image and your message your personal brand will become identifiable with you. It’s easy to think about examples like Oprah or Richard Branson as strong personal brands that are easily identifiable and we know something about their values, vision, and mission.
What’s a Personal Brand Image
This is the visual representation of your vision, mission and values, those elements that go into making up your personal brand. It’s how you present yourself through your image, what you wear, what you carry, how you behave. Both verbal and non-verbal (body language, grooming, clothing etc.) form part of your personal brand image. This is where your style comes in as it’s a silent form of communication, but has great power to help or hinder you in life.
Your personal brand image is one of the ways you market yourself, your skills, and your expertise. It helps you have control over crafting how others perceive you and how accurate the picture is of who you are, what you represent, and how you want to be known.
What you wear is a key part of your personal brand, it helps to tell the story of who you are and backs up what you say.
Consistency is Key to a Strong Brand Image
Way back in 2012 I went to an AICI conference at The Peabody Hotel in Orlando Florida (no longer a Peabody hotel, but the original Peabody in Memphis Tennesee still has its local duck residents). The Peabody’s brand icon is ducks (you can read about the history of how the ducks became such a part of the hotel’s image here) and it really is consistent with its branding, from the signage to the soap, bathmats, and butter pats (yep, they’re shaped like a duck). Each room has at least 2 artworks containing ducks, and each day, at 11am and 5pm the Peabody ducks walk the red carpet to and from the fountain in the hotel, where they spend their days.
What does this have to do with personal style or fashion? The Peabody is very very consistent with their branding message and it flows through the entire hotel experience, you know that if there is going to be an animal motif, it’s a duck one, not a giraffe in one room and a lion in the next.
Consistency is really important when thinking about your personal brand. We all have a personal brand, it’s those 5 or 6 words that others tend to use to describe us. Luckily, to a certain extent we can control how we’re perceived as we choose the clothes we wear, the hairstyles we sport, the makeup application (drag queen, natural girl etc.) and also can control our behavioral and communication styles.
What you also know is that the Peabody is known for ducks, it’s memorable because of its brand image which has helped it become more widely known.
Consistency builds trust which is why it’s such a key part of building a positive personal brand image.
How do you translate this idea to your personal brand image and style?
If I want to be perceived as lazy, all I have to do is consistently wear clothes that are rumpled and crumpled, stained or worn. If I want to be perceived as in control I’ll make sure that I always do my hair and makeup and wear clothes that are well put-together rather than sometimes bothering to do my grooming and other days not being bothered about it.
When you choose your clothing and grooming you are making a decision about how you want to be perceived and what your personal brand is. It’s worth taking the time to think about what you want to achieve, your goals in life, and aligning them with your appearance, behavior and communication so that you more easily achieve what you want out of life.
I’m not saying you have to wear exactly the same outfit every day (though that works for some, think Steve Jobs) or a very similar outfit every day (think Anna Wintour), but your style and image need to be identifiable to you and consistent in some way. If you dress like a pirate one day and a princess the next, unless your personal brand is all about storybook characters, you won’t be seen as consistent and you’re making your message confusing and incongruent.
Authenticity is Imperative
Building a personal brand image that is inauthentic is usually something that backfires quickly. Trying to be someone you are not will have you seen as a fraud rather than trustworthy. It’s very easy to want to present a perfect image, yet nobody is perfect. It’s time to come to grips with your quirks. It’s what makes you different that makes you memorable rather than trying to clone yourself on someone else’s style. As they say, “be you, everyone else is taken”. It’s the originals that we remember (cos cover bands don’t change the world).
Being genuine is something we all admire and when you are genuine, you’re not having to manage your image in the way you would have to if you were trying to be someone you are not at your core. Just because you admire someone else’s image, doesn’t mean it’s right for you. It usually works for them because it’s authentic and genuine for them, but if you tried to copy it you would come across as a poor imitation. Even something as simple as the colours you wear in your outfits can express this, for example, the other day a friend said “I love your outfit, I’d love to have all of that, those colours look great together and I would love to wear it”.
Now, this friend of mine has very opposite colouring to me – she is warm and dark, I’m cool and light, so if she put on my outfit, it wouldn’t look good on her. The reason she enjoyed seeing it on me (and wanted it) is that it works for my colouring and was a good representation of my personal style and brand image. If she put it on she’d looked washed out and it would be jarring instead of flattering. But when she wears her best colours, she looks great and it really paints her own beauty in a better light.
Building a positive and authentic personal brand image can help you elevate yourself, your career, your business to new heights and increase your chances of success. You or I may never be as big a brand as Oprah or any of the Kardashians, but in our own worlds, a strong personal brand image will help open doors to opportunities that may otherwise not arise for you.
Where Your Personal Brand Shows Up
In this digital age, you don’t just need to worry about your image when you meet people in person, all those video conferences and any social media are places people can experience you (even if they have never met you) and form opinions about you and what you stand for. This is why how you present yourself everywhere matters. You want yours to be seen as positive and also to help you differentiate yourself from others (which is why you need to embrace your quirks rather than try and hide them). From your LinkedIn profile photo to your Instagram feed, people who want to know more about you and your talents will be checking ou out online often before they meet you. If what you present in these spheres is different from how you are in the real world, you’ll find it much harder to build trust and gain the opportunities you want to come your way.
Start Building Your Personal Brand Image
If you’re keen to really get to grips with your personal brand image, to start building one that authentically represents who you are and allows you to communicate your values and vision, then find out more about my Level Up in Style program that helps expert women create a powerfully aligned personal brand image.