When I started my photography business, I kept hearing “you are your brand” from other photographers. I was like “umm…okay, so my brand is short, nerdy, and has no self-control when it comes to chocolate chip cookies? What does that even mean?” Now, the phrase “personal brand” has become really trendy, but so many entrepreneurs still aren’t sure what it means. I say it’s time we remedy that!
So what is a personal brand?
A personal brand is a when a business owner uses themself as the brand’s personality and face. For many creative entrepreneurs, this is considered the norm; we build our business around ourselves to help connect with potential clients. A personal brand allows potential customers to get to know the person behind the products/service a decide if they want to work with or support that person. Artists, yoga instructors, coaches, and photographers are often known for having personal brands.
Personal brands are all about being human and connecting over our shared humanity. Business owners with personal brands may often share about their families or hometown, they talk about their struggles as well as their successes. Personal brands are about more than just the products/services you sell; they show the messy world behind-the-scenes and invite customers into their lives.
4 Ingredients for a Personal Brand
Brand mission This is the ewwy-gooey center of a personal brand. Everything you do, make or say is based on why you do this work. Your brand mission doesn’t have to be a Batman-esque origin story, it just needs to be authentic. My brand mission was born out of frustration with not knowing how to build a brand and market a business when I move every 3 years. Is it sexy? Nope, but it’s the truth and something other military spouses can relate to.
Value proposition What makes you different from the thousands of other people in your market? Your value proposition is the reason customers should + do choose your brand over others. Is your soap made with goats milk from your family’s heritage farm? Do you offer unique designs, custom work or a super fast turn-around? Telling potential what sets you apart, not only makes you more visible, it sets the expectation bar higher for others and makes your brand a more appealing choice.
Brand personality This is the flavor of your brand and is meant to both attract and repel people. Wait! I don’t want to repel people! What are you talking about? Your brand personality is how brand interacts with your audience, attracting those who right for you and repelling those who may not be the best match. Much like how a vegan pistachio cake may not be right for many people, there are a few that will love it and keep coming back for more. While personal brands are based around the owner, they also have a personality of their own, usually founded in at least part of the owner’s personally or identity. For an painter, your brand personality may be founded in the colors you tend to use; for photographers it may be your style of shooting/editing. Brand personality is represented through your products/services, social media accounts, your website, branding colors, and aesthetics. The goal of your brand personality is to attract and repel customers by speaking directly to your target audience in an authentic way.
Brand voice Much like brand personality, your brand voice also works to attract your target audience. How you talk to you audience should align with your brand mission, value proposition and brand personality. Whether you’re a CPA who uses an informative-yet-friendly voice or fashion designer with a penchant for puns, your brand voice should be used to attract the type of audience you want to work with while remaining true to who you are.
Putting it all together
Let’s say you create unique jewelry from recycled materials; your brand mission is to show people that recycling can be beautiful and isn’t just for cans. Your value proposition is that you create only one-of-a-kind pieces and donate 10% of proceeds to environmental conservation. Your brand’s personality is down-to-earth, eclectic, and fun represented earth tones with pops of color and the unique shapes and styles of your products. When you create content it has a fun, caring and joyful tone to it that is unique to you and makes your audience want to purchase your products because they feel connected to you, the business owner.
The #1 rule of building a brand
No matter what type of brand you’re building, it’s important to remember that you’re creating an experience, not just a pretty website or social media feed. Branding is all about the experience you give to customers; how you serve them and make them feel. Relationships are built on those experiences and can drive customers to continue coming back or walk away forever. Being true to yourself is important for a personal brand, but being true to your audience is just as important. If you want to build a loyal audience, you have to ensure the experience they have is the one you promise through your brand.