Personal Branding For Dummies
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Corporations must build and maintain their brand image to stay in business. Knowing these techniques gives you an advantage when building your personal brand. Brand equity is the value of a brand based on the quality of the product or service, its reputation, and customer loyalty toward that product or service.

When a company has a poor reputation from an inferior product or deficient customer service, its brand becomes tarnished, and staying in business becomes difficult. (Its brand equity loses value.) A company with a tarnished brand certainly doesn’t grow. Brands are fragile, and all aspects of the business a customer encounters need to be consistent with the promised brand message.

Why companies invest so heavily in branding

A successful brand is the result of the experiences a company creates with its customers, employees, vendors, and communities — and the emotional feelings that arise as a result of those experiences. Companies invest in branding because it sets them apart and increases sales.

A brand is the total representation of a variety of characteristics, including

  • The product or service itself

  • Its reputation

  • The price of the product or service

  • Its logo and/or slogan

  • The customer service that supports the product or service

  • The brand’s promise (meaning what will be delivered and how)

  • Customers’ feelings about the product or service

The personality of a brand is a combination of its sensorial appeal (the way it looks, feels, sounds, smells, and tastes), rational appeal (the way it performs and how cost-efficient it is), and emotional appeal (the emotions that it induces and the associations it brings to mind). Successful brands are memorable and meaningful, and they appeal to the target audience that the product or service is intended for.

In other words, a brand isn’t just a logo or sound bite; it’s what people feel about the company, product, or service in question. According to Marty Neumeier, Director of Transformation at Liquid Agency, branding has become critical in the business world because

  • People have too many choices and too little time.

  • Most offerings have similar quality and features.

  • People tend to base buying choices on trust.

Crafting a positive, unique brand image

Brands are built on what people are saying about you, not what you’re saying about yourself.

—Guy Kawasaki

A brand image is the complete personality of a brand. Essentially, it’s the accumulation of all customer experiences with the brand or product, and a company does everything within its power to make sure that image is positive, as well as unique in the market. A positive brand image is developed over time by consistently delivering on a brand promise.

In his book The Brand Gap (New Riders), Marty Neumeier writes that all leading companies do five things to brand themselves well:

  • Differentiate: Stand out from the crowd. People are hardwired to notice what is different.

  • Collaborate: Bring the best people together to build the brand.

  • Innovate: Think creatively and strategically. They come up with ideas that make people curious.

  • Validate: Bring the target audience into the branding process to see whether they like the brand.

  • Cultivate: Look at the brand as a pattern of behavior. A good brand should evolve over time.

Sometimes even successful companies get tripped up when their practices aren’t aligned with their brand reputation.

Differentiating from competitors

The first tactic that successful companies use when branding themselves is to differentiate. It’s first on the list for a reason: Differentiation is crucial to branding success. But what, exactly, does differentiation mean?

If a brand looks like every other brand on the market, it’s a commodity: a product or service that looks the same to the customer as every other option available. If the customer discerns nothing special about the product or service, she can just as easily buy it from someone else.

A company differentiates — it distinguishes itself — in two important ways:

  • By figuring out what makes its product or service distinctive: Here are some questions a business asks itself in order to identify its uniqueness:

    • What is different about the services or products that we offer?

    • What do our current customers or clients have in common?

    • How do we differ from our competition?

    • What is special about what we bring to the market?

  • By marketing its products to a certain niche: In some cases, companies concentrate all their marketing efforts on a small but well-defined segment of the population. Businesses can create niches by identifying needs, wants, and requirements that are being addressed poorly or not at all by other companies and by delivering products or services to fulfill them.

Connecting with customers emotionally

Successful brands make strong emotional connections between the product or service and the target market. A strong emotional connection increases customer loyalty, which translates into higher sales and the ability to charge a premium price. Successful brands know that connecting emotionally with the customer transforms that customer from someone making a purchase into someone who will become a loyal follower.

Businesses evoke emotions by injecting human characteristics into products. (It’s not just cat food; it’s cat food that cares about keeping your pet happy and healthy for as many years as possible!) In doing so, they link the hearts of the customers to the essence of the brand.

Behavioral economics is a relatively new field, and it involves the analytical tracking of what a person thinks before doing or buying something. Behavioral economics is the science of consumer choice. (Classic economics, by contrast, analyzes after-the-fact decisions.)

If this sort of thing interests you, keep an eye out for articles about this field. As behavioral economics refines its methods of gathering data, it will surely impact brand buying decisions as marketers home in on the psychology of choice.

About This Article

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About the book author:

Susan Chritton is a Master Personal Brand Strategist, Executive Career Coach, and Master Career Counselor. She guides professionals looking to engage their authentic self in the world through personal branding. Visit her website at

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