Last week I received an email from a boutique owner with a very good question about personal branding. And because I (Kathleen here – hi!) secretly want to be a proper advice columnist I thought I’d share the original questions and my response here.
I own a brick and mortar fashion boutique and one thing that I have been mulling over is: when is it appropriate to have a “personal brand”?
I feel like personal branding is really having a moment, especially as consumers appreciate the intimacy of knowing there is a person behind that brand. But for a boutique like mine, or even a maker, how would you suggest infusing that “personality” into a brand that’s not necessarily a “personal brand”?
I haven’t wanted to be the “face” of my brand because I want the freedom of the business running well without me there all the time so I can be with my family and have a life! But over the past year I’ve been getting some nudges to make my brand more “personal”. You’re the expert on this, and I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic!
No need to respond here; I know you get a lot of email. 🙂
Rhiannon had some really great questions and this is an issue that is applicable not only to creative entrepreneurs who don’t necessarily want to be front and center when it comes to their brand – but also to larger organizations that aren’t necessarily led by a single personality.
That said, I believe it is always appropriate to have a personal brand. First let’s define what it means to have a personal brand. Here at Braid Creative we believe a personal brand is simply blending who you are into the work that you do. This means your personal values will show up in your business mission. It means that you get to connect the dots between your expertise and your hobbies. It means that your personality is an asset to your bottom line – the thing that makes you “weird” can be the thing that sets you apart from your competitors and attracts your dream customer! And most importantly, it means that your work is creatively fulfilling on a personal level.
KNOW THIS: PEOPLE BUY FROM PEOPLE
When it comes to having a personal brand, regardless of whether or not you want to be the face of your business, is that people buy from people.
You might be thinking, “Yeah, but what about Apple? What about Starbucks? Those aren’t people!” It’s undeniable that the visionaries Steve Jobs (Apple) and Howard Schultz are not only household names but personalities that propelled those businesses into stratospheric success – and the plots of movies and authors best-selling books. But even beyond those founding personal brand … anytime I go into an Apple store I’m dealing with a person. When I go to my neighborhood Starbucks you better believe I have a favorite barista (the one who always compliments my outfit but more importantly gets my order – and name! – just right). Sure, that person isn’t Steve Jobs but they work for a company with a culture that has endorsed their individuality – their own personal brand! – within the context of their organization.
Even if you don’t want to be the face of your brand – as the leader and visionary behind your business you get to infuse your ideals into the products you curate, the way you train your employees, and the overall tone you set for your company.
TRY THIS: BRAND EXERCISES TO IDENTIFY YOUR PERSONAL BRAND
Here are a couple of brand exercises that can help you find your personal brand within the business you’ve built (or are wanting to build!):
Imagine someone walking into your store or visiting your pop-up shop for the first time. What do they see first? How are they greeted? What details surprise or delight them? How do they talk about describe your shop to their friends and family? How do you want them to feel? What do you want them to remember?
The answers to these questions can say a lot about the experience you’re trying to create. If the answers don’t reflect your own style or values it might mean that there is a disconnect between who you are and the business you’re trying to grow.
BRAND EXERCISE: MAGAZINE PROFILE
This next brand exercise might push you out of your comfort zone but just try it and see what comes up for you!
Imagine you’re two years in the future and a magazine is wanting to feature your store (or products) in an upcoming issue. They want to interview you: the founder of this wildly successful business! Here are some questions they may ask:
– how did you come up with the idea for your business?
– what is the #1 thing that has contributed to your success?
– what challenges have you faced along the way? How did you overcome them?
– what advice would you give to a teenager reading this article?
– what makes your store different from other stores?
– what is the story behind the name?
– what’s next?
These are the kinds of exercises and questions are the very same ones we ask of our own Braid Creative clients – from therapists to jewelers to retailers to marketing directors! Whether or not their brand is personality-driven we’ve found that by digging into what personally lights them up is the very thing that makes their brand and business culture attract just the right clients and customers.
P.S. If you need help blending more of who you are into the work you do contact us. We currently have a few spots open for branding clients – including creative entrepreneurs, small businesses, and even larger organizations.