The word “branding” literally refers to burning insignia, initials, or a logo onto a product. The term has been used for cattle, pottery in ancient times, and now it indicates the indelible mark you personally make on the products and services you are marketing.
The idea of branding, as it more closely relates to industry, arose in the 1800’s when manufacturers, who had been personally selling goods within their own communities, began shipping products to sell elsewhere. The products had to fend for themselves without the manufacturer there to explain or promote it. 19th century manufacturers developed the ideas of publicity and advertising in their efforts to build name consciousness and product loyalty.
The concept of self-positioning we now call “personal branding” was introduced in 1937 in a book by Napoleon Hill called Think and Grow Rich and further developed in 1981 by Al Ries and Jack Trout in their book Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind. The idea gained traction and was popularized by Tom Peters.
In today’s iteration, brands constitute promises that peers, consumers, and potential employers believe; think of your personal brand as reputation capital and marketing as reputation management. In other words, you aren’t selling just goods or services, you are selling you.
What are your unique attributes, your skills, passions, and strengths? What sets you apart from your competitors? Now brand that reputation onto your wares with a highly recognizable logo and consistent style across platforms and mediums.
If you work for a corporation or a nonprofit, your “wares” might consist entirely of your skills, experience, attitude, and reputation. Nevertheless, consistency is key; cultivating a trustworthy product is the only way to grow your brand. A strong brand is a combination of trust, attention, reputation and execution.
With the age of the internet, branding has reached a new level of relevance and consequence. Managing your reputation is a full-scale operation, spanning the far corners of the virtual world. Despite the fact that social media is technically online, its effects in the real world are both real and far-reaching.
Social media allows you to curate and market an online identity; this isn’t just a tool, it has become an expectation. If you want to secure preference in the mind of the consumer, you must first earn their trust. Your professional reputation is equally built on brand consistency.
Employers are increasingly cognizant of social media as a way to vet applicants before offering the first round of interviews. This may involve everything from scanning the applicant’s Twitter or Facebook feed, finding their personal blog or profile on LinkedIn, or conducting a more extensive background check using search engines and other tools.
Job seekers know that to be a competitor, they must foster a strong online identity, cultivate a following, and provide potential employers with access to their personal brand assets. Such efforts will greatly improve your chances of creating a perception of your qualities and capabilities that will distinguish you from the competition.