When I say personal brand, immediate confusion ensues.
And let’s not even talk about what happens when a CEO wonders if they should be “the face” of their company.
Okay, that was premature. We’re definitely going to talk about all of this and more.
As both operate on distinct wavelengths–each possessing its own set of nuances–let’s solve the riddle of personal versus company branding, shall we?
The obvious choice involves multiple people vs one person, right? Eh, sort of. It’s more about individual versus collective.
Company brands must take into account multiple groups of people: consumers, employees, stakeholders; the culture that emerges; and how that company is perceived by the public. Alternatively, a personal brand is about an individual’s unique narrative–their thoughts, emotions and expertise in their particular area–and how they intimately and authentically connect with their audience.
Personal brands also have a larger opportunity to evolve, adapting to the individual’s circumstances more fluidly while a company must remain consistent to achieve long-standing trust.
The objectives of each type of entity also differ. While a personal brand focuses on building a loyal following, carving out authority and generating new opportunities, a company is looking for brand recognition and sustainable growth. Scalability comes into play here as well. With one person, a personal brand won’t be able to and won’t need to scale, but a company most definitely.
Company branding and personal branding rely on many of the same components (and number of persons being a factor), the distinction is actually founded in strategy.
Company brands rely heavily on foundational components (mission, vision, values, etc.) and consumer data to formulate their personality, message, and visuals. They also tend to be void of a singular face. Not faceless—but no one person is front and center.
Cook, Bezos, Musk and Zuckerberg notwithstanding.
Personal brands rely on the ethos and personality of the individual to connect with the consumer and formulate their look and feel. It’s more of a “Hey! This is me. Wanna be friends?”
I mention Cook, Bezos, Musk and Zuckerberg for a very particular purpose–they didn’t set out to be the face of their companies, but they sure take the heat.
Regardless of your position in a multi-bazillion dollar company or $200,000 company, you will likely become the face of that company at some point in time. As a CEO, founder, proprietor (in my case) that’s what you signed up for; you’re leading the herd.
My rule of thumb is, the larger the company, the more opportunity you have to fade into the background. If you’re a start up, a small business (especially something service-based) you’ll likely need to leverage your personal brand, story and personality to build the associated company brand.
Truthfully, people want to connect with people. And unless you’re an extremely well known company with multitudes of employees that can be that face, you’ll likely need to (and should) use yours to create connections with consumers.
We’re at the height of social media; of individuals leveraging themselves, their brains and their talent to make money for themselves.
People job hop for fun. LinkedIn has become the proverbial watercooler where all levels of every profession come to b*tch and cross-pitch one another.
You may not be a CEO or the face of any company. You may just be a fresh-out-of-college intern, but one thing is true: you already have an assumed set of skills, personality traits and expectations set upon you by everyone else.
In the words of Jeff Bezos: “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” Wouldn’t you rather be the one telling people what to say about you?
You already have a brand. You may as well perfect it and perfect it now because you’re already behind and you never know who is watching.
The choice between personal and company branding is nuanced. It's about recognizing the power of individual stories and connections while acknowledging the role of collective identity in the business landscape. Whether you're the leader of an industry giant or a newcomer to the professional arena, embracing the intricacies of branding is the key to creating a lasting and impactful presence.
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