The Laymen’s Guide to Branding

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If you’ve ever started a business or follow any of today’s influencers you’ve heard about branding before. A person or company’s brand is often more important than anything that company or person ever does or says. Typically a brand refers to the name of a company or product. Over the last 10 years or so, a brand has evolved to be so much more than that.

So what is a brand? (2017 version)

Today a brand is still defined as the name of a product or company. However, it simultaneously stands for the reputation of a person or company. In laymen’s terms a brand is “what you are known for?” Think about a few brands and what they are known for. Oreo – cookies creme filled centers. Apple – user friendly hardware/software. Porsche – high end sports cars built to perform.

People have brands too.

Steve Jobs – innovator and creative mind behind Apple. Bill Gates – philanthropist and creator of Microsoft. Warren Buffet – genius investor and philanthropist.

Brands can be good or bad. Let’s talk about R. Kelly for a second. For a long time he was known as an artist who created great music. However, it doesn’t take much to destroy a good reputation. R. Kelly found that out first hand when, in 2008, he was put on trial for allegedly violating child pornography laws.

Although R. Kelly was later acquitted of all 14 counts his brand never completely recovered. Is that so hard to believe? Sure he was found not guilty and that’s great. But you know what? So was Casey Anthony and as far as I’m concerned neither one could watch my child, know what I’m saying?

A brand is directly related to trust (factor) a person or company commands. If a brand is “positive” then that brand is easily trusted. For instance, Gary Vaynerchuk has built an amazingly positive brand built on value. For this reason I’ve purchased every book he has published. I purchased his most recent book, #AskGaryVee, without even reading reviews, excerpts or knowing much about the book at all. His brand is so strong that he could’ve sold me a book with one word in it and I wouldn’t have known until it arrived at my house.

Conversely, if a brand is “negative” the brand is easily distrusted. Take Bernie Madoff for example, he ran the largest private Ponzi Scheme in history. During the collapse of the scheme it was reported that thousands of people lost substantial sums of money. Some even lost millions. I don’t know about you but if Bernie asked to borrow $20 from me tomorrow, that would be a HELL no!

EVERYONE has a brand…

Whether business person or not everyone has a brand. Years ago when I worked at Lowe’s my brand was reliability AND tardiness. Sounds conflicting, I know, but I’ll explain. In my years with Lowe’s I was late (A LOT) but I was also a hard worker. Many managers came to count on me as someone who followed through with commitments 99% of the time.

When it came to school I was known as a procrastinator always waiting til the last possible second to do my work. One semester I took an online class with an open schedule, (meaning work at your own pace). So guess when I did my course work… yep the last week of class. I ended up taking 9 quizzes, 3 tests, and a final, 16 week’s worth of work, in 4 days. And still managed to get a B!

Some people have known me as lazy as well… (OK I can be lazy from time to time). My closest friends and family say I’m either tired or hungry all the time, which is not so true these days. Unfortunately, your brand sticks with you even as you change over time.

So what are you known for?

Like I said before everyone has a brand. Often we develop our brands without even thinking about it. You can find out what your current brand is by asking people close to you what they know you for. Or if you’re too afraid to ask pay attention to what people say about you in conversation. Consistency is key ??? chances are whatever you hear a lot is your brand. Sometimes we get branded for things we’re not too proud of. Maybe people think of you as the wild party guy/girl, or maybe they think you’re mean, or shy. It can be hard to change your brand to something more favorable but it’s not impossible.

What would you like to be known for?

Many of us would like to carry a more noble brand. For instance, I would like to be known for helping people overcome their challenges. (Yet another motivation for my blog). But you don’t have to be a blogger or business person to want to build a better brand. Maybe you want to be known as the cool mom or dad. The possibilities for your brand are endless. So think about it, what kind of brand would support you and your future goals? Once you have that in mind you can figure out how to build it up and make it stick!

How to build your brand.

Gary Vaynerchuk says, “every person is a media company first, and their occupation second.” What he’s referring to is the content we push out into the world every day. With that in mind what are you putting out into the world? Everything you say, do, post online, etc, serves to build your brand. If every topic of conversation and everything you post online is about how terrible Donald Trump is, that becomes your brand over time. People will start to expect that content from you. Likewise, if everything you talk about involves conspiracies, that’s what people begin to know you for. So again, what are you putting out into the world? Is that what you want people to think about when they hear your name? If not, the first thing you need to do is change your content output.

Brands can be tricky.

Depending on how strong your current brand is it can be hard to change it. Making adjustments to your content is great but what people remember most vividly is what sticks. For example, I work four 10 hour days a week and have three days off. On my off days I spend most of the day sourcing for my FBA empire, writing, editing, recording podcasts, or doing research for my blog. On a typical day I get between 4-5 hours of sleep because I’m constantly working on my businesses. In fact on the day I’m writing this I’ve clocked about 14 hrs of ‘work’ in. Yet, people STILL think I’m lazy??? It’s the craziest thing to experience.

In order to change your brand you must be deliberate in your actions and memorable as well. Otherwise you may never make any progress. Fortunately we have the internet to helps us. Thanks to the internet we can reverse engineer the brand we want to build by reaching out to strangers. These people don’t know us personally so they have no choice but to base their opinions of us on what they “see.” This has lead to the raise of “Gurus” and fake life coaches, which I talked about here. These people use their brands to trick people into trusting them and out of their hard earned cash. It’s an unfortunate but a brand can be leveraged any way a person chooses to. I hope that you choose to use this new found knowledge to work for the forces of good.

One last word of advice. Regardless of what you do with your personal brand, remember this: “what’s done in the darkness will always come to light.” Time will either promote your brand or expose it. So be careful to make sure your public brand matches your brand in private. Cheers to your success.

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