Your personality, mindset & outlook for life reflect the way you run your business or build one.
Jeff Bezos said that your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.
If Richard Branson is removed from all Virgin Atlantic branding, the airline and businesses will lose value immediately.
Type in just ‘Oprah’ on the search bar and you won’t even need to spell out ‘Winfrey’. She is coined as ‘America’s Ultimate Brand’
I had my own revelation in late 1995.
I had just landed in New York from my home country. It was a dream come true. As a creative person, I believed I had landed in the mecca of my dreams. The place to rise and shine. I had a few accolades back home for creating a great ad campaign, rebranding a couple of magazines, and also as a photographer shooting the Levi Strauss catalog. But here I was and it was time to take the big leap.
But after exactly 17 interviews I was still struggling to find a job. And then at the 18th interview, I was asked. “Are you a New Yorker?”. I fumbled to answer since this was way out of line from questions like ‘What was your last ad campaign?’ or ‘What is your most prestigious design work?”
It dawned on me that there must be something I am missing here. I asked and soon found out that being a New Yorker meant knowing the environment I wanted to work in. I had to be part of the American culture, daily habits, day-to-day life , probably start by naming everyone that played for the NY Mets and the Knicks. Watch a Broadway Show. Ride the subway lines, visit all the burroughs and walk the length of Central Park.
Hmmm — I had to rethink and rebrand myself here.
I had to be a New Yorker.
So that’s what I did — enjoying my morning bagels and coffee, watching, observing. I lived and absorbed the culture until I was a New Yorker as much as the next guy.
Somewhere in between all this learning, I landed a job with a design studio on 32nd and Madison Ave. After this, I moved to bigger agencies and worked for 7 years including 2 years at Fort Lee in New Jersey.
Over the years I have been exposed to other examples of personal and corporate branding. From TV personalities to actors and even Corporate Leaders. How they changed their names to create a brand, or how they dressed and spoke in a certain way to create a persona. Even companies to stand apart from their competitors added a certain product line that branded their company uniquely.
Entrepreneurial giants who believe in personal branding
“You have to understand your own personal DNA. Don’t do things because I do them or Steve Jobs or Mark Cuban tried it. You need to know your personal brand and stay true to it.”
“If you’re not a brand, you’re a commodity. The brand sells before you good and bad, so branding is essential. And if you’re a commodity you have to charge less. It is harder.”
“Why do we roll our eyes and think it self-indulgent when a person admits to working on their personal brand? To my mind, all it means is that this person knows who they are and how they add value…”
These giants know what it means and how important it is for every entrepreneur to think about branding. Often times as an entrepreneur we are caught up in creating the next best product or service. We overlook the need to package and brand our own image.
In this post-COVID world, there is a legion of new entrepreneurs and startups looking for the next big thing. The market is more competitive than ever.
If you plan to be the next Elon Musk or Sara Blakely — then you need a persona that separates you from the chaff. And it’s getting tougher each day and many businesses don’t make it. Everyone wants to stand out, but few are willing to do what’s necessary.
As a mentor, I have 28 years under the belt making brands, creating experiences, and working with like-minded people who have been successful marketers. I love that each entrepreneur has characteristics, values, and skills that can be tailored to create a unique brand.
These distinctions make you special, help me recognize them and that can set you apart completely to create your own persona.
My Personal Branding Commandments
1. Know thy niche
Let us figure out who is your target market and audience. The niche market that would make the pendulum sway your way. Find out how they either perceive you as a business figure now, and how you need to change it so that you make the right impact. The aim is to stand out from the crowd and create a distinction.
2. Find your WHY
This has been professed by most coaches and mentors but is still a relevant fact. Go inside out and find the reason WHY you built your startup. Don’t just say we are awesome, we built this great product & it can do a zillion things — so you need to buy it. There has to be a — WHY did you build it in the first place, WHY is it a great product. Add value and users will accept it.
3. Find your USP
You may have many unique selling points. The trick is to find the one that is the right USP to focus on at this stage of your journey. We all have the goals for today and the big plans for tomorrow that aren’t ready yet. Learn how to recognize what you’re ready for.
What can your provide that other people need and no one else is offering? Find that factor that clearly makes you stand out and let your audience see it as a differentiating element.
4. Thou shalt be yourself
Be honest. Be genuine. Be trustworthy. Build a product that has the WHY and then make sure you are the prime advocate of why the market needs you and your great company or product.
Many entrepreneurs start businesses just following the latest trend. Let me help you do a reality check and make sure you have found your true path.
5. Remember to Make a Difference
Always know that you are here in this Universe to not just receive but also to give back. Find a social cause in the product/service that can change people’s lives. Always ask yourself what issue are you solving for other people, how are you changing the game.
Create communities. Build bridges. Or provide a light at the end of the tunnel. A good business always has a gift for bringing people together, that’s how you know you matter in the market.
6. Thou shalt network to promote
Use community, friends, family to show off your product/service. Make them talk about you and spread the word. Find influencers that already have a following to make an impact for yourself.
7. Remember to Hustle
You need to keep knocking till all the doors that can lead to the final one open for you. Many times you will hear or read stories of how success came about when they were desperate enough and there was just one last option left. And once they found it they never look back. Keep trying and follow through what you really need to achieve. Never give up!
8. And This too Shalt pass
Don’t fret, frown, or be afraid to take bold steps to get where you want to be. Instead, think of the moment, think of how you are making a difference, think of how you are providing a solution to a problem.
The path to success is a bumpy road with a lot of detours, but as long as you keep your end goal in mind, you’ll get there in the end.
You are a blessing. So move on when the going gets rough and you will find communities or the universe will lead you.
Following a code and branding/rebranding yourself to stand out from the crowd and create a distinction is crucial if you want to survive in the market and make a difference.
We see people everyday selling products for a profit and just the money in mind, but how sustainable is that? For how long can you run a business that doesn’t have a personality?
Investing time in creating a persona speaks volumes of how you would be disciplined, cultured, and detailed when it comes to running your own startup. It could be your gateway to stand out, get investors to peek over their shoulders or consumers find your product/service trustworthy and reliable.
Do you believe that personal branding is important for success? Please leave a response below.