Friday, November 6, 2009

Creating Your Brand Statement: Brand Identity

In previous posts about the importance of a personal brand, we concentrated on how to create a personal brand using web tools such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Now it’s time to create your own personal brand statement. A brand statement will help your cover letter or resume stand out from thousands of others! In the next several blog postings, I will share information with you taken from leading personal branding expert and career advancement coach, Robert Allen Paul, and his “Company Of One” presentation at Buena Vista University. I would recommend his valuable message to every student. (Part I: Your Brand Part II: Core Competencies Part III: Brand Attributes): Part IV: Brand Identity:

Who Are Your Customers? What Do They Think You Do?
Understanding what you really do and how you do it differently provides you with an advantage when it comes to communicating key benefits to your “customers”. But who are your customers?

Traditionally, a customer –or consumer –is usually defined as anyone who uses or could possibly use your product or service. But in branding, the definition of a consumer also includes all of those who couldn’t or wouldn’t. Because even those consumers who are unlikely to become your customer (or employer) have some influence over those who might. They all participate in creating what marketers refer to as your Brand Identity; which is something different from simple Brand Recognition.

Brand Identity vs. Brand Recognition
What is the difference between Brand Recognition and Brand Identity? Let’s use a party analogy. You go to a party, you see an attractive person, and you walk up to them and introduce yourself with some Brand Advertising: “Hi, I’m (name) and I’m an awesome date.” So they say, “Hmmm. (Name)? I think I’ve heard of you.” That’s Brand Recognition. Now imagine you go to a party, you see an attractive person, you walk up to them and say “Hi, I’m (name).”
Then they say “Oh? You’re (name)? I hear you’re an awesome date.” That’s Brand Identity.

See the difference? Brand Identity isn’t based on what you say about yourself, but on what the consumer is likely to say about you. And, just as with brand positioning, your brand identity isn’t built in the marketplace. It’s built in the mind of the consumer. It consists of more than just the ability to recall your brand name. It consists of the consumer’s 360 degrees experience with your brand –personally and otherwise. In fact, it’s possible to develop a brand identity with all sorts of consumers who’ve never done business with you.

Every year, the Harris organization conducts what they call their Best Brand Survey. It’s a national poll of approximately 3,500 consumers that consists of just one question:
“We would like you to think about brands or names of products and services you know. Considering everything, which three brands do you consider the best?“

Can you guess which brand tops the list? According to American consumers, the best brand in America was Sony. For seven years running. That’s impressive performance by any standard. But what’s even more impressive is that there were years in which the percentage of consumers who named Sony as a best brand was greater than the percentage of consumers who actually own any Sony product.

In other words, you don’t have to have personal experience with a brand to have a definite opinion about that brand.
It can be disturbing to discover that people you don’t know –and who don’t know you –may still have an opinion of you. But that’s the way brand identity works; one impression or observation or interpretation at a time.

If I cut my hair or lose weight. If I’m ten minutes early or two minutes late. The clothes I wear. The car I drive. The way I answer the phone. The way I sign my emails. The way I treat my colleagues or my mother or the students in my class. Every little thing I say or do –or don’t say or don’t do –all make a little deposit in the identity account that exists in the mind of my consumer.

So, to those who might tell you the little things don’t matter, I’d say the little things do matter. More often than not, building positive brand identity is a matter of managing impressions and word-of-mouth.

Next up: Creating Your Brand Statement: Brand Promise

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