Ruminations on “You are Your Brand”

The following guest post was written by Stephen Da Cambra.

If you are at all familiar with The Van Blog, you will know that Steven has many insights into branding. The opening paragraph of his recent blog 4 Simple Ways to Grow Your Brand echoes one of the first things he said to me about branding:

“You are your brand. Your brand is you. Wherever your go, there is your brand. Every action you take, every word you speak, every impression you leave, affects how others view your brand.”

I look for real world examples to help me better understand new concepts – even those as straight forward as Steven’s .

For whatever reason, the first thing that came to mind was the negative feeling I had when I heard that Nike knowingly used sweatshop labor (I sometimes feel alone in that reaction when I see the plethora of swoosh-clad athletes and celebrities.) Some of you may be more familiar with the recent images of young children being led from a factory that produces clothing for The Gap. Steven talks more about personal brands than these global icons, but I think the concept still applies. Even the big fish need to be concerned about how every action they take reflects upon their brand.

In looking at personal brands, I should engage you, the reader, but critiquing other brands might cost me readers. So let’s look at my brand, such that it is. While Steven’s blog touches on developing your online profile and forging links, I think the concept easily applies to smaller, seemingly mundane actions. Among other things, I write weekly blog entries for the Invesp Blog. When asked for a photo to go with the blog, I didn’t think too much about it and sent the first decent 😉 shot I found – one of me wearing a tie. I wish I had the branding conversation with Steven before I submitted the photo. The image does not fit with my brand. Even when it was shot a couple years ago, I didn’t wear ties and only did so in the photo to make readers think our company was larger and more corporate than it was – so the tie suited the company’s brand, but not mine. In the blogosphere, that photo might as well be my logo and it should better reflect my brand. (I might keep the tie shot, if only to stand out in the sea of tee-shirts and turtlenecks I see in other blogger’s photos!)

Steven’s blog talks about building strong profiles on social media. He refers mainly to sites like Digg, StumbleUpon and Technorati. While most of us probably do not consider YouTube in the same vein as Digg, I’m a bit of a YT addict and, since I began thinking about Steven’s concepts, I’ve become fascinated by some of the personal brands there. In light of the idea that “you are your brand”, I’m even more fascinated by the major personal brands that can’t seem to get traction on YouTube. Oprah recently launched a YT channel to the general disdain of the tuberati. P. Diddy has 68 subscribers (my son’s Lego animation channel has 125) and, while Paris Hilton has over 16,000, hundreds of others, who are entirely ordinary citizens outside of YouTube, eclipse that number. Conversely, an Avril Lavigne video is the second most watched ever on YT. What is it about the Paris, Puffy and Oprah brands that cause friction on YT, while Avril flourishes?

I’m right into this personal branding thing now!!

Thanks, Steven, for a valuable lesson learned and the privilege of writing a guest post for The Van Blog.

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  1. I completely agree with this…
    branding is a process, and you have to cutivate it through your actions and regular business process..

    on th eonline world we can translate it into the kind of audience you attract, how dilligently do you fight against spam, and so many other things.. like what blogs do you comment on if you run a blog :)

  2. Thanks for the post Stephen.

    What’s interesting is how we all sometimes do things in order to convey a certain impression and then realize it’s not the impression we really wanted to convey. One of the things I did when setting up this site is use ‘we’ a lot more than ‘I’ on many pages. At the time I was thinking it would be better to appear like a bigger company when in reality it was never the impression I really wanted to put out there. It’s something I still need to go back and correct.

    maneesh your brand is definitely something that needs to be cultivated. You can’t simply go out and state your brand. You have to be your brand with everything you do from a simple comment on a blog or forum to the products and services you offer. It’s all about consistency and then getting that consistent message in front of as many people as possible, specifically in front of your target market.

  3. Maneesh – Thanks for your comment. Cultivating your brand through “regular” business processes is key – not special actions to influence how customers percieve the brand, but every action – so they can percieve the brand in no other way.

    Steven – A apeaker at a sales meeting told us to use “we” when talking to clients so the client gets the impression that the entire organization is working for them. When we work for others, we need to cultivate their brand. If their brand is at odds with our personal brand, we have some decieions to make.

  4. You’re not alone in not wanting to see sweatshop child labor … it sure feels that way sometimes though. I don’t buy anything of Sony’s because of their rootkit, which is really a lesson to everyone. It takes years to build a positive reputation, but it can be lost pretty quickly. Using I vs we is a great but subtle example of why we need to be aware of how our actions are perceived and not just how they’re intended.

  5. This post really resonates with me. One of our companies now has a really strong brand, which isn’t based so much on a product as on our blog and the reputation that has been built for the company. Developing the brand wasn’t really planned, it just sort of happened, but now that we have one, I have to filter everything we do through the lens of that brand.

    On one hand it’s a good thing because the brand identification people have for us is positive. On the other hand, it has required more thinking on the back end to figure out what people think our brand is and then make sure that we act accordingly.

  6. Forrest – Unfortunately, not every corporate ethical blunder is broadcast, so perhaps they think the risk of ruining their reputation is worth it. Thanks for the comment.

    Kristine – What a really great turn of phrase “filter everything we do through the lens of that brand.” Sounds like you are using branding best practices and doing a job properly is rarely the easiest route.

    Khalid – Any other shot I have is even worse! I think I need to shoot something specifically – the only thing that comes to mind is like something out of an Ingmar Bergman movie – you only see half my face and it’s in grainy black & white – wait a minute, that sounds a little like Seth Godin’s shot!


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