What is in a Brand: Determining One’s Own Personal Brand – Part I

This post is part one of a three part series on personal branding. This article serves to define “branding,” part two and three will focus on how to define your own brand and how to tweak it as you further construct your public image and build your company.

digital prWhat comes to mind when you hear the name “Apple” or “Facebook” or even “Oprah?” Most of the time these words not only bring a specific person to mind but a specific image, whether it is a smart phone, or a room full of people being told that they are being gifted a new car (last year marked the 10 year anniversary of the stunt and it is still fresh in my mind!) These are some of the most trusted and well-recognized brands in their industry and this didn’t happen for them over night. These brands worked diligently to carefully construct what their users thought of them and to make sure that when their name is spoken something unique about them comes to mind.

A company’s success depends on how well they construct their brand name.

Before we start digging further into branding strategies lets first take a look at what a brand even is.

  • A brand is recognizable. When we hear it or see it we immediately recognize it! Those golden arches are recognizable all around the world, as is the Coca-Cola coke can. Humans are big animals of habit, when it comes to purchasing and consumption, familiarity doesn’t breed contempt, but rather preferability.
  • A brand is preferable. When we are given a choice, we go with the more famous brand. Name brand vs. generic brand products are always being put up to blind tasting showdowns to see who really is better, and unsurprisingly most people prefer the generic brand or can’t tell the difference between the products at all. A Coca-Cola vs. Pepsi study conducted by Pepsi a few years back turned out to be 51 for Pepsi and 44 for Coca-Cola during the blind test. Then they let the participants try the drinks with the labels on, this time it was 65 Coca-Cola, 23 Pepsi.

Coca-Cola reigns in popularity across many media channels, and has really been able to create storylines with their brand unlike Pepsi— just one example, think of the holiday commercial collection Coca-Cola must have by now. Be smart with your brand, make it a story, make it popular, make it reputable and you’ll see your brand make it closer to joining the “cool kids lunch table” for sure.

  • A brand is highly regarded. Just like the blind-taste tests of generic vs. brand name food, quality tests for products have been researched to determine what consumers really are buying and if they even know it. 20/20’s John Stossell, actually took matters into his own hands and in his book Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity, makes the conclusion that for the majority of the products that he researched, brand name quality is the same as the generic brand and most people don’t even have a clue.
  • A brand is dependable. Across America mothers and grandmothers pass down trade secrets to their daughters on how to raise children and what products to buy for them too. In their notes, we see brand names like Johnson & Johnson, Gerber, and Fisher Price. Brands get passed down from generation to generation because we trust our brand names and have come to depend on them over time. Of course some brands like Johnson & Johnson have a long history and that is a definite plus. There is a trust factor involved always. We like the idea of using the same brand that has worked for generations. We love to depend on it and feel safe using it.
  • A brand has extendibility. We will trust a brand selling different products but just so long as it stays within its “domain.” Companies constantly need to worry about staying relevant and in attempts to broaden their reach they usually leverage their most valuable resources, their brand equity. Some big companies have launched some silly products as part of their brand extension attempts. This is unfortunate because over-extending your brand’s reach is always an expensive decision. We are willing to accept and buy new products from a company, as long as the new products fit the brand.

Some of my favorite mistake brand expansions include:

  • marketingLance Armstrong’s LiveStrong Mutual Funds
  • NASCAR Romance Novels
  • Cheetos-flavored Lip Balm
  • Bic Underwear
  • Harley-Davidson Cake Decorating Kit, and of course,
  • Hooters’ novice airline attempt, Hooters Air

It has been proven repeatedly that people love and trust what they find familiar and dependable. All strong companies have a brand name, a reputation to uphold, but this is not a surprise. What might be surprising to you is that you too are a brand.

You sell and market yourself everyday, whether it is picking out photos for your Facebook or dating app, asking the bank for a loan, or even just convincing your friend to do Mexican instead of Thai food tonight.

You have certain assets, certain weaknesses, and you must “sell” yourself based on your own personal brand all the time. Learning what a brand is, understanding that YOU ARE A BRAND TOO, and keeping in mind a few tricks will help position you to right where you want to be. My next two articles will give you the tools to do just that.

Article 2 and 3 of this series will focus on how to define your own brand and how to make adjustments to it as you grow and further develop.


Do you have a question about where to go from here? Need to reassess your branding strategy but aren’t sure where to start? Looking for someone to whip your online positioning and reputation into shape? Feel free to get in touch with Marketing Like A Millennial today, or ask Michelle a question on Twitter, and she’ll point you in the right direction.

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