“If this business were to be split up, I would be glad to take the brands, trademarks and goodwill and you could have all the bricks and mortar – and I would fare better than you.”
– John Stuart, former chairman, Quaker Oats
What Are You Marketing?
If you have any uncertainty about what exactly is being marketed in the practice of marketing, the quote by John Stuart provides the answer. We market brands- they are representations of products, services, ideas- the value that we create to meet the needs of others. Various accounts of the history of branding put its origins anywhere from 400 to 4,000 years ago. Branding was born out of the necessity to put identifying marks on one’s livestock to indicate ownership. The marketing role of brands shares a similar purpose, with a widely accepted definition of a brand being the use of a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature to uniquely identify a seller’s product to distinguish it from other sellers.
Today, brands have evolved far beyond their original purpose of being identification marks. Brands build up value in the minds and hearts of people who come in contact with them through usage, advertising, or the influence of other people. This characteristic of how people respond to brands influences behaviors like brand loyalty and making brand recommendations to friends or posting positive reviews online.
Two Words to Ignite Personal Branding
Your brand is the most valuable asset you can develop to begin and advance your professional career. But, you must have a grasp on branding fundamentals in order to begin the process of developing your personal brand. Two words in the previous sentence are crucial to understanding branding:
1. “Begin”- This word is important because you need to know that while there is a beginning to personal branding, there is no definitive ending. In other words, your brand is always being impacted by what you believe, think, say, and do. Crafting your personal brand is an ongoing project- you will never completely mark it off your To Do list.
If the notion of branding being a never ending endeavor is hard to accept, think about product brands. They are always “on.” Similarly, there are no breaks or days off when it comes to marketing your personal brand. Do not interpret this characteristic to mean you will never get a day off if you adopt a personal brand mindset. What it means is that you must be constantly mindful that your brand is being observed, experienced, and evaluated in the marketplace by people who come in contact with you.
2. “Process”- Personal branding involves a series of steps that move you through understanding and building your Meaning, Makeup, and Message. It is not one thing you do; personal branding requires completing many tasks needed to implement the three dimensions of your personal brand (i.e., determine Meaning, understand hard and soft skills needed for Makeup, and articulating Message).
Embrace the Challenge
For some people, the two key words for personal branding success might be so daunting that ditching the idea of building a personal brand seems like an attractive option. You must commit to the process of branding, and the sooner you begin the better. Can you think of a single brand- product or person- that was built quickly and with little effort? I can’t either. If branding were simple and fast, everyone would commit to it… and the strategic benefit of a brand would not be nearly as significant.
Don’t dodge the challenge of building your brand; embrace it by taking responsibility for building your most valuable professional asset. Remember that tangible aspects of a business can be replaced, but brand reputation is earned through your efforts to nurture the three Ms of your personal brand (Meaning, Makeup, and Message).