There are three layers of branding your business needs to consider:
Product – The brands we associate to a product or service we can buy e.g.: “iPod”
Company – The brands we associate to a company we can buy from e.g.: “Apple”
Personality – The brands we associate to people who represent companies and products e.g.: “Steve Jobs”
The original conversation around branding started with “product branding”.
We saw the earliest brands like “Coke-a-Cola”, “Hoover” and “Marlboro” – Product brands that were so strong they built multinational companies around them. These companies shared the same name and brand identity as their product.
The second layer to come along was when the separation of “product brands” and “company brands” emerged.
McDonald’s was known as the company that sold products like Big Macs and McHappy Meals. Ford adapted and became a company that had many cars rather than just a Model T. General Electric, 3M and LG started producing many product ranges and had both strong product brands as well as company brands.
More recently we’ve seen the emergence of the third type of brand – the “personality brand”. Early adopters like “Nike”, used personality brands like “Michael Jordan” to sell their “product brands” like “Air Jordan” shoes.
We saw Steve Jobs powering Apple’s products like Mac, iPod and iPad. Richard Branson’s much-loved personality powered Virgin’s company brand from the music industry into completely new products like Trains, Planes and Mobile Phones.
Today with the ubiquitous presence of social media, the personality brand is arguably the most powerful. Consumers want to know who’s behind a business, they don’t just want to know the founder or the CEO, they want to know about the engineers, the leaders and the people who work in the company at a ground level.
Smart brands like Deloitte and Coutts are responding to these trends. They let their team write blogs, publish articles and speak at conferences; they wear their people proudly on their sleeve rather than hiding them away. Brands like these have discovered it’s a lot cheaper to encourage their leaders to build personality brands rather than paying people who already have celebrity status.
Most big companies don’t do this yet and small businesses currently have an advantage in building a powerful personality brand. Small businesses can easily produce videos, give talks, write books and blogs. They may be small but they can look big online. Garry Veynerchuck discovered this when he built his family’s wine business from $2m to $60m revenue as a result of his personal videos and blogs. As a result of his books, talks and online activity he’s gone on to build an empire worth many millions outside of the family business. In reality a small business will never be able to compete with a big business when it comes to company branding or product branding. In the future, big businesses will get better at building personality brands too but for now this is the place that a small business can outperform the bigger players.
As an additional benefit, a business leader who builds a personality brand will attract opportunities beyond the life of any particular business. Industries may change but key people of influence keep attracting great deals.
I recently spoke to a successful entrepreneur who sold his company for several million dollars but had failed to build any personality brand alongside the business brand. He divulged to me that he felt like he was starting from scratch because no one really knew who he was outside his industry (who he wasn’t permitted to contact as part of his exit deal).
Conversely, I know of CEOs and Leaders who have a long list of opportunities coming their way because they’ve built a personality brand alongside their business. While they are with the business they attract great opportunities and even after they leave they continue to do so for their next venture.
When you think of your business, think of building three types of brands – a company brand, product brands and personality brands (such as your own!). Your thoughts?
Daniel Priestley is a successful entrepreneur, event producer and author of ‘Become a Key Person of Influence’