The Brand of YOU

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“I’M NOT A BUSINESSMAN/I’M A BUSINESS, MAN!” – Jay-Z

Jay-Z got it right. That’s what personal branding is all about. It’s not only your commercial brand that delivers a message to the marketplace; YOU do, too!

Maybe you’ve already worked on branding your business, but have you built a personal brand?  A personal brand is an aspect of branding that can often go overlooked, even though it’s incredibly important in business.

When you are competing for a job it is not just about your education and your skills, it is also about what’s unique in the way you think, the way you work and the things that you are passionate about. People hire people, not resumes.

Whether you’re looking to use your personal brand to get a job, are launching your own business, or want to strengthen your existing business, building a strong personal brand will help you to transform your passions and personality into a brand that works for you.

What is a personal brand? Personal branding describes the process by which individuals and entrepreneurs differentiate themselves and stand out from a crowd.

Having a strong personal brand can help you

  • gain more confidence
  • feel more empowered to charge a premium for your valued services
  • stand out from the competition.
  • enhance your recognition as an expert in your field

Here are three necessary key steps to begin building your personal brand:

1. Tell Your Personal Story – What Makes You Tick

A great brand is a story well told. I often relate how I am the unofficial inventor of the “Pet Rock.” Having a brother who is highly allergic to animals we were never permitted to have a pet; so I created a pet by placing a rock in a Cool Whip container. I put grass in so it could “eat” and poked holes in the lid so my rock could “breathe.” My parents were relieved to see me satisfied with my “pet”. A decade goes by and Gary Dahl is listening to friends complain about their pets getting sick, costing money and taking up their time. He jokingly mentions that a rock would make the ideal pet because it would not need care, make demands or involve emotional attachment. Out of a joke the Pet Rock is born – and he makes millions.

Relating a story like this instantly communicates several things about me and my business. It’s a memorable story which means that I, too, am more likely to be remembered. It speaks to a key tennant of my business: how innovative thinking and taking action, even on ideas we might be inclined to discard, can lead to tremendous success.

2. Link Your Personal Story to Professional Expertise

Richard Branson used his daredevil personality to create buzz around his fledging Virgin brand through stunts like crossing the Atlantic in a Virgin branded hot air balloon. Blake Mycoskie turned a passion for helping poor children in Argentina into the thriving TOM’S footwear brand. UNREAL candy started with a question from a 13-year old kid, “Why does the junk food we love have to be so bad for us?” That question became a mission and a “healthier” candy company was born.

Other well-known examples of linking personal stories with expertise are inventor Sir James Dyson who revolutionized the vacuum cleaner and created Dyson Limited. As the brand was just getting started, Dyson appeared in every advertisement together with his machines.  Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream who brought the “chunk” into ice cream and put “local” and social responsibility on everyone’s radar. They, too, are featured prominently on each ice cream carton.

These successful brands are practically inseparable from the personal brands that created them. Find your unique twist and don’t be shy about linking it with your business.

3. Use Every Touch Point for Your Brand.

Think of every point that a customer comes into contact with you as a chance to communicate your personal brand. Use those moments to make yourself and your business more memorable. Even little moments can have a big impact. The colors of my company, BrandTwist, are pink and purple. When I speak at conferences, I have a little purple bucket that people can deposit their business cards in. It’s a small touch, but goes a long way in reinforcing the brand of “me.”

The social media manager at Virgin Active SA had the following job description in his email signature: Social Media Ninja!  This makes an immediate, enjoyable impact that speaks to the whimsy of the Virgin brand and will long be remembered.

Consider other ways you can stand out besides the usual stationery and business cards. Perhaps you become known for a particular color or an accessory that  is always present in some fashion. Put a twist in your voice mail message. Create a unique salutation.

As an entrepreneur, independent contractor, artist, job seeker or corporate business executive, you are a brand.  As Richard Branson notes, “When you are running a business, the most powerful advertising asset you have is yourself.”

What’s your brand YOU story and how will you use it boost your business?

Brand School, our highly effective, premier branding program, delivers the tools and steps you need to strengthen your brand and your connection to your customers. Get our free brand-building tips and receive access to updates about Brand School’s exclusive programs when you sign up for our newsletter at BrandSchoolOnline.com.

“Brand School was engaging and helpful to me in learning more about myself and my business. Results came amazingly quick. Now, my brand name speaks my message immediately and I’ve expanded my reach.”  – Lynn Stull, Owner Arts2Thrive  

Grow your Business by Changing the Scenery

The Sanctuary at the Purple Crayon Center for Learning and Social Innovation, Westchester, NY

Most of us are creatures are habit. We’ve got a systematic way we go about our day: wake up, brew coffee, go to the office, meet with clients, work, strategize, home, dinner, TV bed. Repeat. Maybe we shake things up once in a while with a work out, dinner with friends, a movie or a show. But mostly we’re on auto-pilot always stopping at the same coffee shop, the same take out place even taking the same exact route to work each day. This kind of familiarity can be comforting – but it can also be the enemy of creativity.

Whether you’re happy with the work you do, or searching for a new creative outlet, it’s time to put some serious thought into your every day routine. I’m not telling you to move to a new apartment or completely overhaul the way you work. But shaking things up can give you big-time business breakthroughs. Seek out new environments. Even if it only means changing the layout of your office – moving your desk to another corner of the room, face the window instead of the door or vice versa. For even better results -get out of your office all together and spend a few hours every week working somewhere new. A coffee shop, shared worked space, even your local library.  When you are in this new environment take time to observe your surroundings: what interests and inspires you? What’s the lighting like, how does it feel to sit in a different chair, to look out a window at a different view? Routines can be ruts, don’t get stuck.

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 GET MOVING AND GET INSPIRED

The Purple Crayon Center in Westchester, NY is just the kind of inspiring location I am talking about. It’s an old church transformed into a center for learning and social innovation. Part shared work space and part event meeting space -it’s got beautiful vaulted ceilings, hard wood floors and amazing architectural details that will inspire you. And it’s a quick train ride from NYC along with Hudson River – and in walking distance from the train station.  I love it so much that from time-to-tme I hold workshops on branding there and participate in their business community outreach programs as well.  Keep a watch on their schedule, or sign up for the BrandTwist list for updates on all of our future events.  I can promise you will love the results and takeaways you’ll get.

Grab a Branding Buddy This Winter

The Purple Crayon Center for Learning and Social Innovation

Winter can be a tough time to get creative

During the winter you can really start to feel cooped up. (Most West Coasters need not apply.) Winter has wrapped its chill around everything, ice is prevalent and you’re feeling pretty blue. In fact, January 21st is commonly known as Blue Monday, the most depressing day of the calendar year. And if you’re anything like most people, going slightly stir-crazy in these winter months can hinder your creativity big-time. I know I struggle with it!

Have more fun and get more done

Which is why I’m telling you, right off the bat, to get outside of your head and into your life. Really. Step outside of your office into the crisp (okay, frigid) winter air and go for a midday walk. Skip out of work an hour early, sit in a coffee shop and start stirring up some conversation with the double caf soy latte at the next table over – and maybe spark some new ideas. Know a friend or even a coworker who frequents co-working spaces, networking events or happy hours with like-minded friends? Tag along!

Energy is a funny thing; the negative sort can break your business and damage company morale. But positive energy can take you to a productive place, especially in branding. I want you to think more about feeding off the energy of others. Put yourself out there for more chance encounters and revitalizing experiences. Even overhearing a conversation about, say, social media, could spark a latent business idea you didn’t even know you had.

COME PLAY WITH ME   

I’ve hosted several workshops for branding and innovation through a partnership with Inc Interactive at the Purple Crayon Center in Westchester, NY.  These are in-person sessions with me and other amazing business professionals. The feedback we’ve received has been amazing and the results and takeaways participants get last long after the session ends. One of the big bonuses to attending workshops and events like these is that you’ll meet other like-minded entrepreneurs you can learn from, and who knows, you may even set up some brainstorming sessions on your own!

Keep a watch on the Purple Crayon Center’s schedule for future workshops or sign up for the BrandTwist list for updates on all our future events.

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Twist Your Brand For New Ideas

BrandTwist: Turn on your inner lightbulb

Let’s not kid ourselves. Branding is tough.

There are so many competing brands and messages, it’s can be hard to capture a consumer’s attention (and his/her buying power). But there are some brands that consistently breakthrough and get recognized. We often fast-forward, mute or pause advertisements, for instance,, but we’ll slow down the DVR to watch especially good ones from Volkswagen, Target or Doritos.

But its not just ads. Products and services capture our attention, too. How many of you have friends that are so completely brand-loyal they’ll tell anyone who’ll listen about the virtues of their favorite brand (I’m thinking of Lululemon in particular)? I know I do. So what are these brands doing that’s helping them cut through the noise and turn consumers into brand ambassadors? More importantly, what can your brand take away from these brands?

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It’s crucial to constantly learn from well-loved brands.

Even the most skilled branders, marketers and entrepreneurs can benefit from brainstorming with others and mentally challenging themselves. But it’s really important to take these lessons from brands that are outside of your business category.What does this kind of lateral thinking have to do with great branding? In a word, everything. As entrepreneurs, business owners and marketers, we’re so concerned with what the competition is doing, we forget to look toward brands that are winning. Consumers don’t have this narrow view. They notice when a brand provides great service, and they come to expect it as standard. That’s good for you if you deliver excellence. If not, well…

BrandTwist’s foundation is built on lateral thinking, in part because it’s so effective, and in part because it helps others to be just as successful. Even if you’re a business of one, you can use best practices of brands like Apple to improve your own customer experience. The trick is to pick an inspirational brand that is as far away from your business category as possible. Let’s say you sell lingerie to women; you should twist your brand with a masculine, high-tech brand like BMW. What would BMW do to rev up your business? Think big picture. I guarantee that if you twist your business with just a few brands in other categories, you’ll come up with hundreds of actionable new ideas in a short amount of time.

COME TWIST WITH ME – AND TEST DRIVE SUCCESS

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“Julie’s active participation in Brand School and  feedback was amazing and helped a LOT. I received great value from this program.” – Leslie Hughes, PUNCHmedia          

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