People attract people in marketing

People attract people, which is why you need a personal brand. Scandals like the dodgy financial reporting at Enron, widespread chemical pollution at Dupont and groundwater contamination by PG and E are just a few that have eroded consumer trust over the years.

As a sole trader, solopreneur small or micro business owner, you’re likely to feel the impact of any changes to your personal brand. Most entrepeneurs let someone convince them paying thousands for a new logo or corporate rebrand will answer their prayers. It won’t. In fact, I would argue it’s personal branding that has the greatest impact in the early years.

People attract people

We’re living through the digital age, when it’s easier to connect with anyone. It’s also given rise to transparency because we can find out more about almost any business or initiative and who is behind it. When we don’t find much about a brand, we instantly become suspicious.

An often repeated mantra is, “People do business with people they know, like and trust”. Leadership Speaker, Ty Bennett, adds the attribue of “value” to the end. From my time in sales, and in my own business, I believe that much is true.

Who’s who

At the time of writing (01/06/2023) I found a few examples on Facebook to illustrate my point, so I shared them in the table below. A personal brand makes most sense for a business when there is a single founder or a handful of co-founders, with a key person of influence at the helm. Personal brands also make sense when you deal direct with the brand or followers have an aspration to copy and be like the founder or figurehead.

In each case, you will notice the personal brand has a significantly bigger following than the corporate brand. Sometimes 10 fold or more.

Brand FollowersFigureheadFollowers
Virgin Group361KRichard Branson4.5M
Zoa Energy Drinks48KDwayne The Rock Johnson63M
Kylie Cosmetics3.9MKylie Jenner33M
Unleash the Power Within89KTony Robbins6.2M
People are more likely to engage with other people, than logos or brands

For example, a brand like Coca Cola spans several generations and is sold through a distribution network, so personal branding plays less of a part in their marketing strategy. Still, we probably all noticed the $5.2B impact of an influential athlete Christiano Ronaldo had when he removed Coca Cola bottles from view in a press conference and replaced them with water. Evidence of the impact a personal brand can have on a corporate brand.

Christiano Ronaldo caused a stir, removing bottles of Coca Cola from view at a press conference and replaced them with water.

Something to live up to

“It’s not the result that’s important. It’s who you become in the process of achieving that result.”

Jack Canfield

In the Yellowstone series (yes, we’re in a world where I need to explain it is just a show), a leading ranch hand takes a glowing red hot branding iron from the fire and literally burns the brand logo onto the chest of their most trusted crew. If that’s the reward for loyalty, who would dare be disloyal? The Yellowstone brand, the brander says is, “Something you live up to”. And so it is with your personal brand.

Be your brand

Your personal brand is not just a show you put on for prospects or the general public. Your personal brand needs to highlight your strengths. Instead of pretending to be someone you’re not, you need to become that someone. Brand yourself.

To be clear, no one needs to brand themselves the Yellowstone red hot iron kind of way. Put it down. Perhaps the digital version of a branding iron will do! I used the above branding example to illustrate the idea that you can’t scrub your personal brand off in the shower.

Actions and accountability

You’re not likely to be perfect in living up to your brand values. Everyone stumbles. What’s important is that you take responsibility for your actions, good or bad. If you make a mistake, own it. If you need to fix something, fix it.

Do you ever watch a politician choose their words so carefully to avoid being caught in a lie? That’s a lack of accountability and it’s like watching a train wreck in slow motion. You know they’re better off coming clean or they’ll end up being the centre of a scandal. Still, so many choose to hold onto their sinking ship and die with the lie.

Own your mistakes or they will end up owning you (Okay, I just made that up… but you can steal it). A brilliant book about accountability, if you want to learn more about this aspect of leadership, is called Extreme Ownership.

Brand authenticity

In an age of social media, your actions will be scrutinised, so you need to make sure your personal brand is authentic. I know what you’re thinking… authenticity is a word that’s been flogged to death. Indeed it has but it’s no less important. When I think of personal brand authenticity, I liken it to character. Build a strong character and consistently behave one way. Then, if you falter (and you’re lucky), people may realise it’s not like you and chalk it down to a moment of madness.

From my observations, I have noticed people are constantly watching you to uncover your:

  • Values
  • Actions
  • Consistency (of actions)

Brand continuity

It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.

Warren Buffett

Your personal brand might attract people while you are working for someone else. So, even if you work for someone else, it makes sense you start relationships, demonstrate skills and knowledge, build rapport or even attract a loyal following.

Everyone is watching. What you do today, if serious enough, could be in the news tomorrow. Regardless of whether you work for yourself or someone else, you have a personal brand. You can make or break trust, even when you work for someone else.

On the flip side, you can start putting in the work and building a strong and positive reputation for yourself, even before you start your own business.

Values attract people

Already we have mentioned who people do business with. From my days in sales I know the fastest way to build rapport with anyone is to find common ground. People naturally like people, who are the same as them. When you share your values with the world, you’re likely to attract people with the same philosophies. The Internet has given people a voice, even if their idea seems extreme, crazy or too small to be a thing. Case in point below.

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Every day I see solopreneurs or micro business owners who try to copy big brands by creating a corporate brand image. They try to create brand umbrellas and line extensions because they believe “diversification” will prop up their failing brand. New logos and witty tage lines don’t attract people. People attract people.

So before you pre-occupy yourself with what your new brand needs to be called, focus on your personal brand. Peronal brand, though often neglected, can have a profound impact on your small or micro business.

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