Personal Branding Basics for 2011

Batman Knew All About Personal Branding

Personal branding isn’t really my focus. It’s something that I do because it’s part of marketing and building out the new way that social business flows. It’s something we wrote about in Trust Agents in the “Make Your Own Game” part. But I’m asked about it often. Here are my thoughts for how to move the needle with your personal brand in 2011 (and yes, you should start planning now). Oh, and Batman is going to help me illustrate along the way.

Personal Branding Basics for 2011

Decide On Your Promise

A brand is a promise. Christopher S. Penn quotes Ze Frank often, saying that it’s an “emotional aftertaste.” Think about it. You buy Apple because you know it’s well-designed. You buy Coke because you prefer the taste. You take your kids to McDonalds because you know they’ll eat it without a fuss. Whatever the promise, good or bad, that’s why you align with the brands you choose.

Brands as part of identity is even bigger. If you’re into bicycling, you’re a cyclist. You think that way. You eat accordingly. You spend your extra time accordingly.

Batman is defined by the goal to seek never-ending vengeance on criminals. That’s his promise. You’re a bad guy? It’s going to hurt. Batman is vengeance. And if someone else started being Batman, they’d pretty much have to own up to that promise, as well, or the brand would dilute.

Decide what you’re going to promise and start there.

Decide How to Best Represent that Promise

First, for everyone who calls themselves something like “The Leadership Doctor” after their name, or in lieu of their name, I challenge you to find me a very big, very successful personal brand who did the same. Richard Branson is Richard Branson. Oprah is Oprah. Madonna. Lance Armstrong. Mother Theresa.

None of them were “the something someone.”

So, now that you’re a name, how do you represent the promise of that brand? I’m turning Human Business Works into a brand that promises to help grow sustainable, relationship-minded business through helpful education and community. That’s the brand promise of HBW. By extension, my promise is that I can deliver that and that becomes part of my brand.

Batman represents his promise by executing on it, all the time. Instead of talking, he does. He executes.

Brands DO Have Symbolism, However

Don’t doubt for a moment that brands use powerful symbolism. That yellow Livestrong band shows up at quite a distance, plus echoes the Maillot Jaune (the yellow jersey) that signifies the leader and winner of the Tour De France. All good brands have symbolism. I changed the logo here at [chrisbrogan.com] to a “B” not only to represent my last name but to represent business, which is at the heart of all my projects. That “B” will show up in a lot of places coming up.

Batman’s symbol, the bat, started as a way to add to people’s fear, and then grew from there.

Promises and Symbols Require Repetition

One way that brands build and grow is by being there, and being there repeatably. When people ask me about my success and how I got to where I am now, I always answer that I was everywhere and I was helpful. Not only did I pay every dollar I could afford to show up to places, but I paid more dollars that I couldn’t afford. What was the result? (Besides ruining my credit) I was everywhere, and people started to know that I’d be there, and they knew that I’d be helpful when I was there, and that my speeches would be useful, and I built relationships that mattered. I built connections to thousands of the who’s who in my field (look at some snaps of them all here), and by that, I really mean most of the up and comers who are stars-in-the-making.

Batman showed up every time the signal was lit. He seemed to be everywhere to stop crime and to build momentum on the fact that crime wasn’t a good idea in Gotham City.

How do you repeat your promises? Live them. Be there. Be useful. Put out good media. Be at every event that you need to be at to grow your industry. Help as many up-and-comers as you can. Group and gather and cluster to build a team of helpful people. (Batman had Robin, Batgirl, and a whole cast of people you wouldn’t know the names of, unless you were as geeky as me).

Grow And Adapt

Madonna stayed on top of the heap of female musical performers for quite some time by adjusting and adapting and growing with the times. She’d morph her style but keep her Madonna-ness as she moved into new phases in her career. In every case, she’d bridge. She wouldn’t swing wildly from one style to another, but instead, she’d let her capabilities overlap into new areas, and we’d be left with the sense that she’d acquired a new style to her collection, instead of seeing her as some kind of wishy washy switcher.

Batman has been in the media since the 1930s. Back in the old days, he would slap people and use guns and do all kinds of quasi-vampire things. Then we had Adam West in the crazy 60s. Then we had Michael Keaton showing that you didn’t have to be crazy. Most recently, we have Christian Bale in the movies and all kinds of crazy stories in the comics. In all cases, the storylines get a little more modern, and keep us in the right mindset to accept that this man dresses up in personal armor and beats people all night long.

How will you grow and adapt your brand? For instance, if your branding is all around “social media” right now, what are you going to do in 2011 when that phrase starts to fall from grace? How will you vector your branding accordingly to keep it fresh and current? To quote friend Aaron Strout, “I’m in fax marketing.” See how silly that sounds? Well, in the 1990s, someone was saying that.

The Tools Are the Afterthought

Your branding isn’t a logo, the same profile pic everywhere, a catch phrase, a theme song. Your branding isn’t a clever little ploy. It’s a whole package, a whole storyline, a promise and symbols. Who cares which tools you’re using? Use the tools that let you tell that story best. If you’re looking for which tools to use, answer these questions:

  • Which tools let you tell the story the best?
  • Where is your audience?
  • What do you want them to do with your promise?
  • Are the tools you’re choosing serving this or no?
  • How much effort is it to maintain your presence and your promise?

That’s a reasonable way to look at the tools, right?

Finally: Focus On Experimentation, Execution, and Storytelling

You want to crush it in branding? Focus on experimenting to improve your abilities, executing to bring your promise into the real world, and telling stories by making useful media to build relationships with your buyers and supporters. That’s the real formula. That’s where you’ll see your rewards. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

It’s the best advice I can offer you. For now.

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  • Anonymous

    “Chris Brogan delivers.” That has a ring to it, what do you think Chris?

  • http://www.ianbrodie.com ianbrodie

    Mucho helpful – thanks Chris.

    I’ve always found people who brand themselves as “the something someone” a litle creepy. Especially if someone is “King” or “Queen”. But I’d never looked to the simple point of “does anyone who’s really succesful label themselves like this?”

    Thanks

    Ian

  • http://www.latarahamying.com LaTara Ham-Ying

    This is good stuff! REALLY GOOD! I have been branding ME for sometime now and it works well. I loved where you talked about folks and their pseudo names. I felt like I was out of the loop for a while because I did not like putting a name after my name. I am LaTara Ham-Ying and goodness if that is not unique enough, I don’t know what it.

    LOVE THIS!!

  • http://www.pamelahazelton.com Pamela Hazelton

    Chris:

    You may have posted the “basics” but anyone can take these pointers and turn them into something much, much more than that. Kudos once again!

  • http://citysylvester.com Karl “City” Sylvester

    When you’re just starting to build your brand online you figure you’d create a blog, write about industry related topics that you care about, and eventually the traffic would come pouring in.

    I don’t really have to explain why that model doesn’t work in most cases. You made a great point, which was find your audience.

    Know where your prospects hang out, converse, and then join the conversation. Announce your brand to people it’s relevant to otherwise you’re wasting quite a bit of time.

    Great post.

  • http://ajleon.me ajleon

    People that have been following you for a while know you truly embody this, bro. I still remember the first time I met you in person at the first 140conf, I was completely new on the scene, and you walked right up to me and started talking to me, then introduced me to a few of people. It’s great advice, and what makes it even better is that you’re the case study. :)

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      That’s the only way I know how to be, AJ. I’m glad I introduced you around. It’d have been really mean to horde you to myself.

  • http://ajleon.me ajleon

    People that have been following you for a while know you truly embody this, bro. I still remember the first time I met you in person at the first 140conf, I was completely new on the scene, and you walked right up to me and started talking to me, then introduced me to a few of people. It’s great advice, and what makes it even better is that you’re the case study. :)

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  • http://hstrial-LASJEnterprises.intuitwebsites.com/ Lascrugs

    What a good source of wisdom on this topic of branding. Thanks! I’ll be referencing your blog on one of my business products that permits a customer’s info and “brand” to become part of an App that he/she gives as a gift.

  • Bcotier

    I liked this post. In so many ways right on target. Yet I am struggling with how you presented the promise part. A “promise” has never motivated me in the first place to buy something or a use something. Using your Batman allegory, trust me, if Superman showed up when I need a super hero would I care what Batman’s promise was? Hell no. My need was met.

    I buy and use things based first of all on an emotional basis then I rationalize it. If there is no emotional basis to try you then no promise, or stats, or blah blah blah you make is ever going to change that.

    So back to the promise—it’s retention…. Ok Batman makes a promise to always respond and he does. So when Batman and Superman both show up I would put my faith in Batman to save me, because he’s delivered before. He started a relationship with me. Therefore when given a choice I’m going with the one I already have a relationship with… Until Batman does not deliver. then well there is always Superman.

    There is where you were right on target. You sustain your brand preeminence in the mind of your audience by delivering on your promise or expectations is another way of putting it. But remember the audience really does not care about your “promise”. Anyone who has been in a relationship knows the first kiss was not based on a promise— it was based on pure emotion. So the question needs to be, “What is it that you emotionally satisfy in your customer?” and I can guarantee you is it not a list of services.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      I think you’re looking at it from the other side of the spectrum. The promise is knowing what you get when you get Batman. You would also know you get when you get Superman. As buyers, we decide which promise you want to go with. I bought a 2010 Chevy Camaro SS because I fricken love the car. It’s my own personal batmobile. I could’ve bought an Audi R8 (well, if I wanted to pay 3x more), and that would’ve been a different promise: the Iron Man promise, I guess. : )

      When I say it’s a promise, the brand is a promise to the buyer that you’ll get what you think.

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  • http://twitter.com/myndfuel Mark Wojtasiak

    Great post Chris…thanks for the advice. Currently, I am going through some goal setting exercises for both work and personal for 2011, and this will be a huge help. The mindset for setting my work goals took me down a path of opportunity, message, competition, alliances, and customer. The more I think about it, the more I define what I am setting out to accomplish professionally, the more it looks like a personal brand campaign. It just happens to be in the workplace. I just need to be sure my personal brand at work, and my personal brand outside of work are one in the same. Otherwise, I’m just fooling myself. Thanks for the mind fuel.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      The workplace is a perfect spot for a personal brand. Otherwise, you’re just a cubicle farmer.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      The workplace is a perfect spot for a personal brand. Otherwise, you’re just a cubicle farmer.

  • http://twitter.com/myndfuel Mark Wojtasiak

    Great post Chris…thanks for the advice. Currently, I am going through some goal setting exercises for both work and personal for 2011, and this will be a huge help. The mindset for setting my work goals took me down a path of opportunity, message, competition, alliances, and customer. The more I think about it, the more I define what I am setting out to accomplish professionally, the more it looks like a personal brand campaign. It just happens to be in the workplace. I just need to be sure my personal brand at work, and my personal brand outside of work are one in the same. Otherwise, I’m just fooling myself. Thanks for the mind fuel.

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  • http://twitter.com/AjevaCom Ajeva

    I like your analogies here. I think a statement got stuck in my head ” A brand is a promise. ” – It’s probably the part I’ll remember all throughout my brand-building days. You’re very much right about many things. What makes ladies love Hermes? The brand is more than just your name and logo in the end. Thanks!

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      Well good. I’m happy that worked for you. : )

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      Well good. I’m happy that worked for you. : )

  • http://twitter.com/AjevaCom Ajeva

    I like your analogies here. I think a statement got stuck in my head ” A brand is a promise. ” – It’s probably the part I’ll remember all throughout my brand-building days. You’re very much right about many things. What makes ladies love Hermes? The brand is more than just your name and logo in the end. Thanks!

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  • Juliakarr

    Great post. Thank you!

  • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

    Lots of small businesses think of branding and packaging as after-effects of the bigger story. It’s not that way. It’s built in, like glazing the top of a croissant to give it that appropriate shine.

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  • http://www.expion.com EricaMcClenny

    Good branding prompts a thought, great branding prompts an emotion which leads to an action. In today’s world action is driving marketing.

    It’s not called “social” media because we’re only talking to ourselves…just sayin’

  • http://www.expion.com EricaMcClenny

    Good branding prompts a thought, great branding prompts an emotion which leads to an action. In today’s world action is driving marketing.

    It’s not called “social” media because we’re only talking to ourselves…just sayin’

  • http://businessbeware.biz/ Ashley

    Such an awesome post Chris!

  • Valeriy

    Great post. This is very practical advice and easy to understand without any business jargon, it was simple and to the point. As a university student who is minoring in Communications/PR I enjoy blogs like these because they are written by real world people who have real world experience in the field. The batman analogy – which was humorous – served the point. You are correct in that repetition is needed for a brand to become known and trusted. There is too much “new” junk out there that screams for attention but doesn’t deliver the goods. Also great point on the promise, I never thought of branding in promise terms rather I understood branding to describe the product. It really is all about the “aftertaste”

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  • http://www.alexdumitru.com Alex Dumitru

    Excellent post, Chris !

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  • http://twitter.com/Annephilia anne rajkumari

    The comparison with Batman made it more comprehensible. Great post, thank you.

  • http://www.blackfridayplanet.com/ William Hushburn

    My audience is at random so I haven’t got a clue about it.

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  • http://alwainburgess.com Alwain

    Awesome post…just in time

  • http://tommy.ismy.name Tommy is my name

    What I love about you using Batman as an example is this-

    Batman let the scum of Gotham define him. His enemies knew to be afraid because he was every bit as fucking scary as the most sinister. And the scarier the bad guy, the more terrifying Batman would become.

    And that’s what people knew him for first. Not necessarily that he was the “world’s greatest detective” or a trained ninja, but that he was just plain downright terrifying.

    If you were just some low level street thug and you somehow heard about Batman tearing the latest supervillain a new one, Batman just became that much more horrifying to you.Because now he’s board, and it’s you and your street level thug buddies that Batman views as nothing more than a morning jog.

    I think that is really the foundation of New Marketing and new branding, letting your target market define you, not you defining your target market.

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    Thanks for sharing the idea there would be some apprehensions from segment but i am up for it.

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