Building a 'brand' around yourself – not your company – is a topic I speak about quite often. I will be chatting it up again tomorrow at the MSPC's Executive Women's Networking Group in North New Jersey with some of the area's most successful women professionals. So, while I'm freshening up my thoughts on the topic, I wanted to have the same conversation with YOU.
The first point of contention is that a 'brand' is something that in today's aggressive business environment seems to be a volatile commodity. Brands can quickly become hot or cold in the eyes of consumers both because of actions from the 'brand' or external factors unrelated – or uncontrolled – by the brand. For example, Apple is a global company that sells electronics and operates a digital merchandise store. Above and beyond the company structure and product line, Apple is undeniably a brand who's name alone conjures strong thoughts and opinions with consumers. Some consumers love the brand unquestionably, some consumers are vehemently against 'all the brand stands for' and some consumers flip flop back and forth depending on their personal experience with the products or any big 'news' that goes public (such as the stories on the sweatshop factory environment in China).
A 'brand' really isn't dictated by the company itself, but only acts as a guide to shape the public's perception of it. A brand is birthed and lives in the mind of each customer or potential customer. Is that something a person can risk?
Next, since a company can be sold, doesn't that mean a brand can be sold as well? Years agohad mentioned that he can't ever sell his blog because, well, it's his name (and therefore the brand he's build around his name). That one idea has stuck with me all this time and to be honest, scared me a bit. Yes the content of the blog – or a company – can be sold, but it is extremely difficult to transfer the perception of a personal brand. What happens when that personal brand you've no longer reflects where your future is heading? Chris is bigger than the ideas and experience that build his brand ten years ago, but the public might not evolve in their perception on the same timetable. This above all else is what I think about as a solopreneur – the fact that how others perceive me (my 'brand') does not always or accurately reflect my quickly changing professional goals. Is a personal brand transferrable?
Lastly, if building a personal / professional brand around a person is strongly successful, what happens to the work or the company that the person is employed at or represents? Most people know me as(or my Twitter and social identity of "Lynette Radio") – not my company of or my partnership with .
comes to mind with dilemma specifically. I had known of Scott before he started working at (technically he and I worked at the same boutique marketing startup but at different times) but right now in a lot of people's minds, Scott = Ford. I happen to know he's a huge Sherlock fan and runs a great blog on the topic, but most people don't bother 'digging' that far. Now, while I'm pretty sure he's not leaving Ford anytime this century, what happens if he did leave and work for another 'brand'? The person has a much easier time recovering from the switch (Ford would be just fine…Scott's build an amazing team there) than the company does in my opinion. Sadly, I don't feel the new company will benefit as much as they might think they will by snagging themselves a strongly personally-branded 'superstar'.
When a company sees a superstar 'brand' rising in their ranks I've seen it swashed – or even fired. What happens when the 'me' is more influential than the 'we'? Are jobs at risk?
These are all discussion points and not necessarily answers – every person and every business situation is different. Even the definition of a brand is up for debate. So, how do you feel about building a brand around YOU?