There’s a branding problem in the world today. For decades, brands have served as the foundation of the marketing and advertising campaigns of countless businesses of all industries. Brands represent the core identity of businesses, with a set of color, font, style, tone, values, and voice that encapsulate the core essence of their respective business. Brands become recognizable over time, building the reputation of the business they represent and establishing relationships with their respective customers. They are a vessel for brand-consumer communications, and they remain a major pillar in any business’s core strategy.
The Branding Problem
Unfortunately, there’s a problem with the modern state of corporate branding. It’s still effective as a means of conveying a business identity to the masses, but the way consumers desire to communicate with companies is changing.
Corporations are no longer trusted like they once were. They are faceless entities, representing an aggregation of people and moving parts, and because their goal is almost always maximum profitability, consumers have become wary of their messaging. The dawn of the information age, driven by technological developments like the Internet and social media, has given people access to an unlimited world of data, resources, and even other people — so when they see messaging coming from a faceless corporation, they are immediately skeptical.
The ubiquity of advertising is also responsible for creating this disconnect between modern brands and consumers. Advertising is all around us, in the form of billboards, radio ads, TV spots, all the way down to the wrapping of the products we buy at the gas station. Advertising is everywhere, and people have begun to filter it all into white noise. Any messaging that comes from a corporate brand is typically associated with an advertisement, and therefore has an ulterior motive — getting consumers to buy something.
The fundamental problem here is trust. Because consumers don’t trust corporate brands, there is a widening gap between brand-consumer relationships, and corporate brands are suffering as a result.
A Personal Approach
Fortunately, there’s a strategy to repair that trust, and it lies in establishing a truly personal connection. People trust other people far more than they trust faceless corporations, so it only makes sense to introduce a person as the representative of your company, rather than just a set of colors and styles.
Personal branding is a hybrid approach that combines the benefits of having a clear set of brand standards with the natural personality and human approach of an interpersonal relationship. Through the integration of personal branding and corporate branding, businesses can overcome the critical trust problem that is interfering with their professional messaging.
Elements of a Personal Brand
In most ways, personal brands are just like corporate brands. They require careful attention to detail, and consistent adherence to a set of personality and characteristic standards. There are no formal requirements on what constitutes a quality personal brand, since it’s going to be different for every instance, but there are a few things to keep in mind:
· The subject of personal branding must be a real person. This is not a mascot, nor is it a fictional character. When you build a personal brand, you’ll want to ensure that the person at the center of it is genuine — preferably someone within your own company. The person should be willing and able to comply with mutually created brand standards, possibly in a separate set of social profiles and communications platforms (for example, “John Smith” the person could have a personal Facebook profile that does not adhere to any set standards, but use Twitter and LinkedIn to showcase his personal brand).
· Your personal brand should be in line with your corporate brand values. Imagine your personal brand as being a communication vessel for your corporate brand. Any personal qualities the person demonstrates through messaging and interaction could eventually be applied to the corporate brand. If your company emphasizes humor and lightheartedness, your personal brand should also demonstrate that.
· Your personal brand must also be personal. Paying too close attention to your corporate brand values can sometimes interfere with the primary goal of the personal branding strategy: creating a real interpersonal relationship. This is sometimes a hard balance to strike. Make sure the subject of your personal brand is free to express elements of his/her own personality in the process.
When you craft a personal brand, it’s important to outline exactly what kinds of messaging are and are not allowed, working together on a balance that incorporates both the personal and corporate identity. Voice, tone, style, and values are the most important qualities to emphasize.
How to Integrate a Personal Brand with Your Corporate Brand
This is the important part: execution. Your personal brand isn’t going to do much of anything unless you make an active effort to integrate it with your company’s core brand. There are several strategies you can use to take advantage of your personal brand and increase trust in your audience.
Using Your Personal Brand as an Arm of Support
First, your personal brands can serve as supporting agents of your core brand. For example, your customer service representatives can all develop their personal brands and profiles in line with your core branding, and work with people in a one-on-one system to resolve their problems or answer their questions. Doing so cultivates far deeper connections than a formulaic automatic message from a faceless corporate brand.
Using Your Personal Brand as an Evangelist
It’s also possible to use your personal brand as an extended network for your core corporate brand. For example, when you post a new blog, you probably syndicate the link to that blog on your social media channels. Each personal brand you nurture under that core brand is another network for you to publish or share those pieces of content. This strategy guarantees you more visibility, especially if your personal brands are based around your actual content producers, who can respond to audience questions and comments in real-time.
Using Your Personal Brand as a Funnel
Of course, you can also use personal brands as a sales funnel. Through conversational interactions, your personal brands can form connections with individuals who meet your key demographic requirements, and eventually talk them up about your corporate brand. It’s a much more trusted avenue that leads to more interested prospects, and fewer leads that jump out of the funnel.
Using Multiple Personal Brands
You aren’t limited to using just one personal brand; in fact, the more personal brands you have working in unison under your master corporate brand, the better. Each personal brand functions as a mouth of your company, so the more mouths you have, the more people can hear you. Having many personal brands working together also gives people a great impression about the work culture of your company — since so many employees are actively socially involved with the company, it must be a great place to work, and therefore, must be a great place in general.
Corporate branding isn’t dead. It just needs to evolve in order to meet the expectations of selective, informed, demanding consumers. By leveraging this hybrid system of interactions, you can take advantage of all the benefits of your corporate brand while distinguishing yourself from the competition with a more personal approach.