Brands are basically an idea or image of a specific product or service that customers connect with. The consumer market is a very dynamic and sophisticated space.
I read an article recently where it stated that the average consumer is exposed to about 5000 advertising messages per day. Consumers are spoilt for choice and wield enormous power in their buying decisions. Customers seek a brand that makes them feel appreciated, understood and worthy to be identified with. If these boxes can be ticked, brand loyalty becomes an enduring one.
A lot of time and resources are spent in building a reputable brand. In 2017, Google was rated the number one brand in the world with an estimated brand value of 109 billion USD. This was followed by Apple and Amazon was in position three. We also see quite a lot of instances where brands go into a free fall with resultant destruction of shareholder value; the recent iconic Steinhoff brand is a case in point.
The key differentiator in the whole scheme of things, is the issue of authenticity. The dictionary defines authenticity as something of undisputed origin; genuine; real and veritable. When something is authentic, it is not at variance between promise and performance; there is absolute consistency. You cannot fool customers indefinitely. You might initially get away with sales talk hype and expedient pricing considerations but very soon, they will know intuitively if something is not the real deal. People are constantly in search of reality and will always believe in something that is genuine.
YOU ARE THE BRAND
Every day, people create perceptions about you and based on these perceptions ( positive or negative ) they make a decision on how they will relate to you. As an entrepreneur, you therefore need to take a conscious decision daily, about your Unique Selling Proposition ( USP ). What is so special and unique about you that can be imparted into the lives of those around you? Maurillio Amorim puts it so aptly ‘’Brands are created by impressions that, over time, create a picture of who we are in the minds of our audience, no matter who they are. Everything we say, do, wear, drive… matters. Our personal brand is not the professional head shot on a blog or social media profile, but the total effect of what we put out there. The implications are huge.’’
May I respectfully submit that the world is beset by too many fake and unauthentic brands within leadership circles. Authenticity is the DNA of your personal brand. By this I am referring to those innate qualities that define who you are. It is about an appreciation of the uniqueness of your personal identity and being comfortable in your own skin; not being a copy of somebody else and a proxy for their agendas. But even more importantly, it is the embodiment of the values for which you stand for. Once you have come to terms with these aspects you will be able to connect with your target market and evoke real and meaningful responses.
People who consistently conduct themselves within the realm of authenticity are believed, trusted, admired and respected. What do people think when they think of you?
KEY DRIVERS IN BUILDING YOUR PERSONAL BRAND
- Absolute clarity of direction: We all need at some stage of our lives to determine for ourselves what is our vision, purpose and reason for being. Critical questions to be asked in this regard includes: Who am I? Why am I doing what I am doing? What is the game plan to reach my final destination? Am I prepared to pay the price in pursuit of my vision?
- Value compass: Values are uncompromisable, undebatable truths that drive and direct behavior. It acts as a compass against which various choices are evaluated. Someone once said, if you do not stand for anything, you will fall for everything. What are you standing for?
- Understanding the power of niche: We are operating in a world of specialization. You need to become known for something in which you excel and become an expert or authority in that field. Invest in the tools of your trade and hone your skills set at every available opportunity. This will enable you to operate in a spirit of excellence.
- Composure: Behaviour matters. Emotional Intelligence is a critical element in your personal brand. It is that consistent display of emotional health and maturity that sets a positive mood. In marketing circles it is referred to as brand essence; those intangible emotions you want your customers to feel.
- Tenacity: To build an enduring brand, warrants the strength to persevere in difficult circumstances. It’s a way of life, not quitting on your dream, standing up for what you believe in, resisting compromise and staying true to yourself, no matter the costs. Temporary setbacks are not fatal, it only expands your reservoir of learning experiences.
Personal branding has initially been premised on the notion that one must build an identity based on the X – factor that commands attention. There are however risks in the pursuit of continuously wanting to be seen, heard and acknowledged. It can so easily translate into an ego trip informed by selfish ambition. Strong brands are built and sustained based on qualitative outputs. Once you qualitatively deliver the goods, people will instinctively respect you and they themselves will accord you the accolades due to you.
YOU ARE THE BRAND!
LEARN IT, LIVE IT AND LEAD IT.