Who are you? (Or should that be, who do people THINK you are?)

I was really honoured to be asked to speak at the careers day at my local secondary school recently. The subject? The importance of personal brand.

When you think of the word ‘Brand’, I imagine that brands such as Apple, McDonald’s, Nike and Cadbury’s come to mind. At least, that’s what I expected  to come to the mind of the 100 year 12 students I was talking to, and as it turns out, I was right! *smug face* .That is because these companies are really amazing examples of how powerful and influential brands can be.

The power of brands is actually quite terrifying. Studies have looked into how well 3-5 year old’s are able to recognise “child orientated” brands. The answer – very well! Disney, McDonald’s, Cbeebies and Peppa Pig will have already infiltrated the mind of a 3 year old, and that is pretty shocking. But the reality is, that their ability to make judgements on products based on their perception of a brand is important in their development.
As adults, we use our knowledge of brands to help us shortcut our decision making. It allows us to narrow our choices. This process stops us becoming overwhelmed by the endless choices we face on a daily basis, and the same applies to children.

So what makes up a brand? Well the simple answer is lots of things! The logo, tag line, graphics (think of the Coca-Cola “dynamic ribbon” coming from the text), shapes (Volkswagen Beetle for example), Colours (Cadbury’s Purple and Tiffany & Co Robin egg blue) and Taste (KFC’s secret recipe) are all pretty fundamental aspects that can make up part of a brand. But there is more…. a company website, social media pages, customer service, communication and a company ethos are all elements of brand.

To put it simply, it is everything that effects the way customers perceive your business.

So, how does Personal Brand come into this? And why would I need one? And while we are talking about it, what even is it?
Personal Brand was popularised over 10 years ago by a man called Tom Peters. He wrote an article titled ‘A Brand Called You’ in ‘Fast Company Magazine’. He started the article writing , “Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.” So how does one go about creating their personal brand? Well this was about to become a little easier as along came the Internet, Social Networking, Google, Blogs, LinkedIn, the list goes on. And these platforms create a personal brand for you, with or without your consent!

So the reality? You already have a personal brand. If you have a digital footprint, you have a personal brand. An AVG study showed that 92% children under 2 already have a digital footprint. Which means their personal brand is already being built for them! Platforms like Google drives information on your brand. Just google your name and location and anything digital such as your social media pages are likely to appear, as well as any articles you may have been quoted in, perhaps an alumni page will appear? The list could be endless. The question is no longer IF you choose to have a personal brand, but if you choose to cultivate the brand that is out there, or let it be defined on your behalf.

Much like the brand of a company, the way you look, communicate, your social media pages and your personal ethos, all effect and influence your personal brand. And if you work for, or run a business, your personal brand effects the brand of the business. Just look at Elon Musk for example!

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