Personal Branding 101
Updated: Jun 2
Here I share some important insights into personal branding, including the best examples of personal brands, the benefits of personal branding and how creating a personal brand can help you live the life you've always dreamed of. Here's your personal branding 101 guide:
What is Personal Branding?
You’ll hear many personal brand experts and marketers talking about the famous Jeff Bezos’ quote: “Your brand is what people say about you when you're not in the room.”
Personally, I believe your personal brand is much deeper than how other people see you. Your personal brand should be a reflection of your most authentic-self. It’s what you have to offer the world; your light, your greatness, that special spark that’s been fueled by the unique experiences that only you hold.
Successful personal brands take that inner spark and promote from the inside out.
Your story is reflected in your voice, behaviour, attitude and personal conduct. What you post, what you say, your online presence, how you communicate and act, creates a perception of your individual brand - this is a perception of who you are as a person.
The concept of personal branding is certainly not new, although momentum around the value of creating a personal brand has shifted gear from ‘nice-to-have’ to ‘must-have’.
Brian Tracy’s book, The Psychology of Achievement, which was first published in 1984, highlights the importance of building a cohesive personal brand.
Tracy is viewed as the world's foremost producer of personal development and motivational audio programs. He is a Canadian-American motivational public speaker and self-development author.
In The Psychology of Achievement, Tracy's invaluable actionable insights cover personal branding 101 - but without the modern-day title of ‘Personal Brand’.
His personal advice includes the value that comes when you "treat every person you meet like a million-dollar customer."
What are the benefits of creating a personal brand?
There is an abundance of benefits that come with building a personal brand.
When you’re authentic about sharing your story, skills and experiences, people trust you more.
If your intentions are genuine and clear, people feel more connected to you - and more likely to trust your opinions, which then increases your perceived personal brand value.
Having a strong personal brand will elevate you above your competition.
You will attract new and exciting opportunities that correlate with your personal brand values.
As an expert in your field, using your personal brand for promotional purposes can put you directly in front of the right audiences.
Creating a strong personal brand can enhance your career opportunities.
Examples of Great Brands:
Before diving into great personal brands, we'll take a quick look at a few of the world's most successful brand names and how they use their brand message to build a perception of who they are, and what they offer the world.
Coca-Cola's success is its emphasis on brand over product. Coke doesn't sell a drink, it sells “happiness”.
Apple appeals to those who want to be perceived as innovators, as pioneers. Those who, “Think Different”.
Disney’s power lies in its brand promise of creating “magical” experiences.
Nike follows a classic story of the hero's journey. The brand doesn’t focus on selling shoes, Nike sells performance, empowerment, and overcoming challenges.
Another footwear brand, which I review in more depth is the incredible story of TOMS.
The TOMS brand & the personal brand story of Blake Mycoskie
TOMS is a world-famous shoe brand developed by founder Blake Mycoskie.
While travelling, the Founder of TOMS witnessed first-hand the hardships children without shoes suffer. Inspired, moved and motivated, Blake decided to create a shoe company with a difference.
In 2006, Blake Mycoskie developed the concept of One for One® - for every pair of shoes sold, a new pair would be given to a child in need. Through the TOMS brand, Blake's company has supplied nearly 100 million pairs of shoes to date.
In addition to supporting through shoes, the TOMS team have extended into international development, health, and nonprofit work.
Expanding from footwear, TOMS launched TOMS Eyewear in 2011. The brand partnered with the Seva Foundation to help provide medical treatment, sight-saving surgery, and prescription glasses to those in need.
TOMS Roasting Co® was born in 2014 in partnership with Water For People. Through TOMS coffee sales, the brand is helping bring sustainable water systems to communities that lack access to safe water.
TOMS brand purpose promise is: "to challenge ourselves to redefine a better tomorrow. A better tomorrow is one where humanity thrives."
In addition to the brand purpose of TOMS, Blake Mycoskie holds a strong and respected personal brand. He’s recognised as an entrepreneur, author, and philanthropist.
In 2011, Blake penned his best-selling book, Start Something That Matters. The book journeys through his own amazing story that grew from a desire to inspire and a yearning to promote the power of incorporating giving in business.
Blake’s unique approach to putting purpose into the heart of his businesses has awarded him numerous accolades including the Secretary of State's 2009 Award of Corporate Excellence (ACE).
People Magazine featured Blake in its "Heroes Among Us" section, and TOMS was featured in the Bill Gates Time Magazine article, "How to Fix Capitalism." Blake has also been named as one of Fortune Magazine's "40 Under 40", which hailed him as one of the top young businessmen in the world.
In addition to his inspiring entrepreneurial and purpose-driven actions, Blake’s personal brand supports his personal drive to tackle important social issues. In 2018, Blake stepped up to raise awareness and take action against gun control laws in America. In addition to using his own voice, he works through TOMS’ digital resources, social media and stores to promote advocacy.
Examples of Powerful Personal Brands:
Like branded products, there is an abundance of powerful personal brands built on positive value and credibility. While there are plenty to choose from, here are a few that stand out above the crowd:
Michelle Obama soared into the public eye as the first lady of America. But it was her best selling memoir, Becoming - now a major Netflix documentary, that rooted her more deeply into the hearts of women, men and children around the world. Michelle isn't just a globally-renowned figure; she's one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era.
Richard Branson, Owner of Virgin, has a personal brand estimated to be 100x more valuable than the Virgin brand. He is also the most followed professional on LinkedIn with over 16 million followers. Branson is known for cavalier publicity stunts and record-setting achievements in powerboat racing and hot-air ballooning.
Greta Tumberg is a Swedish teenager who is best known for leading the global campaign for school strikes for climate change. Her strength, authenticity and unapologetic opinions make her distinctive; so much so that her personal brand has created ripples in people’s views on the climate crisis and ruffled a few political feathers. This smart young woman has appeared on major TV shows such as Ellen, was awarded 2019 Person of the Year by TIME Magazine and has met with world leaders across the globe.
Oprah's personal brand is synonymous with empowerment, self-belief and empathy. Oprah is a global role model and thought-leader. Her authentic approach to people and relationship with herself makes her unique. Arguably, she holds one of the most credible and highly valued opinions on the planet today. Her personal mission statement is: “To be a teacher. And to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be.”
Tony Robbins is known as the man who has dominated the self-help and personal development space for over 40 years. His energetic, no 'BS' approach have crowned him the best in the business with an extensive digital footprint. Robbins is a self-made millionaire, speaker and best-selling author who thrives on motivating people to be their best self.
Arianna Huffington is a co-founder and former editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post — one of the fastest-growing media companies in the world. Her brand personality is connected with inspiration, well-being, the importance of sleep and authenticity. She uses her digital and social media channels to share content that reinforces her personal brand message and her company’s mission.
One of my own all-time favourite personal brands is Marie Forleo. Marie is an American entrepreneur, a New York Times bestselling author, business coach and Founder of the booming business network, MarieTV.
Her brand purpose is "creating incredible content and changing lives".
What makes Marie special isn’t just that her content is appealing, helpful and supportive to a large and diverse audience, it's her dynamic, witty and genuine personality that bursts out from every webpage, social post and interview. She knows exactly who she is and what she stands for. Her personal brand is a reflection of her quirky full of life, love-yo’-self attitude. She’s an ambassador for authenticity with great style.
It's becoming increasingly clear that the most successful brands in the world today are those that incorporate a strong personal persona and brand purpose into the core of the company.
Food for thought!
Are there people who've made a positive impact in your life or who you admire because of their personal brand values?
When It Comes To Your Personal Brand - Authenticity is Everything!
Developing your personal brand isn’t just about the skills and stories you share with the world.
Your personal brand is connected to how you dress, speak, communicate and how you’re perceived online.
One of the most important aspects of developing your personal brand is being real about who you are and your brand message. If you’re not authentic, people will know. Failure for authenticity could cause you to lose credibility, and in doing so, there’s a good chance you will irrevocably damage your reputation and your brand.
If your personal brand says that you’re a person whose values eco ‘integrity’, ‘respect’ and ‘kindness’, yet your actions towards the staff inside your businesses - or to the waiter at a restaurant, are less than aligned with the values you promote, it’s likely that your brand will eventually spiral into a downward trajectory - Authenticity is everything and people want to work with (and for) businesses and people they trust.
Muhammad Ali famously said, “I don’t trust anyone who’s nice to me but rude to the waiter. Because they would treat me the same way if I were in that position.”
Ali’s quote is a perfect example of the importance of authenticity. If you act one way on social media but another way in person or to certain people, you are in danger of losing trust and respect.
People can spot inauthenticity a mile away, so embrace who you are.
If there are areas in your personality or in your thinking that you feel need a little work, change and development, that’s perfectly acceptable. Part of being authentic is having the courage to say, 'I need help' or 'I would like to develop in this area'.
Being authentic in business has played an important role in my own life. Coming from a corporate marketing background providing PR & Marketing for large luxury brands, I felt that a certain persona had to be upheld alongside the roles and responsibilities of my job title. I felt that I had to know everything, I had to dress a certain way and I had to behave a certain way.
When I started my own company, Outsourced imagination, it was time for me to face one of the biggest challenges of my own career - who was I without the suit?
At first, I felt compelled to play within the safety of the lines and stick to my comfort zone, after all, I thought it was what other people expected of me. But the static nature of my monochrome wardrobe no longer fitted with my internal values or my personality.
When I ventured into the workings of my own sincere self, I made the conscious decision to ensure my personal brand was kept rawly authentic. I also had to get comfortable with my own perfect imperfections because the truth is, I’m so far from perfect that the bus doesn’t even pull up at my stop! My insecurities include self-doubt and I’m often followed by that galling question, ‘what if I’m not good enough?’
Developing my own personal brand has been (and still is) an incredible journey, but for the first time ever, I’m able to voice my annoyingly petulant fears out loud. And the best part, I'm no longer ashamed about it!
I now allow myself to own what I’m good at, what I love doing, and where I am learning to improve. There’s no shiny coating here. Owning my authenticity and continuing to develop a growth mindset allows me to dive into what excites me most about working with individuals, businesses and brands.
I discovered that I thrive when I'm introducing others to the value of brand purpose. As a marketer at heart, I love jumping into my ‘ideas factory’ thinking and developing creative marketing strategies. I genuinely appreciate people who appreciate people. I believe in equality, good causes and good leadership. I feel my own personal brand mission is, "To help individuals and businesses navigate through changing and challenging times in order to become better brands for a better world."
Controversially, I believe that it’s time for personal brands to take ownership over opinions. Some agencies and marketers may disagree suggesting it’s best not to upset the apple cart when it comes to personal opinions. And don’t mistake my intentions, of course, there are certain subjects that could alienate some audiences, but if standing up for what matters and what you believe in is right, then this is what can make your personal brand the greatest.
Greta Thunberg and Jane Fonda are not afraid to speak about climate change, Blake Mycoskie is standing up to America’s gun laws. Oprah uses her platform to raise awareness of campaigns such as #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter. Lady Gaga proudly supports the LGBT community.
If you are using your personal brand to create a legacy, shouldn’t it be a voice for good?
Just like a multinational brand, a personal brand starts with a clearly defined personal brand strategy. To arrange your complimentary personal brand strategy consultation, click here >
If you’re looking for more marketing strategies and brand purpose ideas, check out these other Outsourced imagination posts and pages:
Stay safe, stay healthy.
Lindsay Grace Kinniburgh