The internet, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Snap Chat, Twitter, LinkedIn, and countless other digital channels that have not even revealed themselves yet are placing branding directly in the hands of the individual. Brands were once the exclusive domain of multinational corporations, famous actors and sports personalities. However, in today’s digital world managing your brand can be as critical for you as it is for these well-known names. A valuable and well recognised brand is aspirational and attracts sponsors and partnerships based on the strength of the brand and its followers.
Corporations understand the value of clearly defining their brand and protecting it by every means at their disposal. Brands, in their simplest form, are just markings that distinguish one product from another. However, as we know, they are so much more. According to Forbes magazine the top five global brands, Apple, Microsoft, Coca Cola, IBM and Google, are worth a combined $300 billion (as at November 2013). Arguably, they all make good products, but I hazard a guess that there are better products available in the market than what these market leader offer.
At a more individual level, there are countless people out in the digital landscape making large fortunes from the digital brands they have created and built.
YouTube has many million dollar success stories from teenagers sharing ‘how to’ sessions on topics as diverse as computer gaming (PewDiePie), makeup and fashion (Lauren Curtis) through to specialist home-based cake makers (Keith Green aka “Choppa”). These YouTube stars share their secrets with the world, supported by their valuable sponsors, and earn a great living. Instagram has taken branding to another level where successful digital branders have built significant followings through continually sharing their lives with their admirers. Have a look at Hannah Polites’ Instagram account. Hannah has built a following of over 236,000 fans by establishing her brand based on beauty, health, and fashion, which has now attracted numerous sponsors who leverage her profile to co-market their products.
The success of these everyday marketeers is that they have established their brand by getting out there and sharing messages and images that fulfil a desire of their target consumers. The true value of the digital brand becomes evident when companies recognise your valuable brand that thousands of others identify with, and then start to offer lucrative sponsorships and partnerships to be associated with your digital brand.
As our lives continue to be more interconnected with digital mediums, we need to be aware of the importance of managing our digital brands just like large companies and stars do. Your digital brand is the image that the world gets to know you by. That photo of you in your swimmers on holidays or dancing drunk on the tables at your best friend’s wedding may not be a good match with your professional profile.
Even before the digital age gave us channels to connect instantly with millions around the world, we all had our own brands. Our brands are the things we are known for and why people seek us out. They are the public face and personality of us as a product. In our personal lives our brand may be that we are the life of the party, the adventurer or the level-headed one who can solve any problem, while in our professional lives we may be celebrated for our expertise, service or work ethic. Quite often there is a significant difference between our personal and professional brands, the hard-nosed CEO becomes a pussycat when it comes to his grandchildren. To minimise confusion when we go to work we usually put on our professional façade, so that our customers and colleagues see us in a manner that aligns with our responsibilities.
However, all too often we see people breaking the rules of brand management in their parallel digital universe and present a merged and confusing brand online. Our professional brand becomes some warped hybrid that customers have trouble associating with. Without understanding the significance of managing your digital brand for now and into the future, you may find your faux pas coming back to haunt you next time you apply for the dream job or try to launch your own business.
We recently worked with a Sex Therapist to refine her online branding. Over the past couple of years she had established her digital brand with an enviable online following of over 20 million YouTube views of her professional (fully clothed) advice videos, with every new release resulting in an additional three million views. Our brief was to develop strategies that would enable her to capitalise on her large global following and ensure she had a valuable sustainable brand.
One of the biggest issues was mixed brand messaging. Her merged personal and professional brands were creating confusion for her followers. If your brand is about portraying you as the expert to consult when couples are having relationship issues, you shouldn’t overshare about your own personal issues. So the most critical advice we provided to her was to clearly define her brand and then ensure her messaging was consistent with the brand, just like any successful corporation or individual.
In today’s digital world you have as much chance of reaching an audience of millions as do the high-end advertising agencies. No longer does branding require multi-million dollar budgets to make that big break and establish yourself. Just by creating something quirky, interesting or useful yourself could lead to millions of dollars. However, as Vanilla Ice will attest being a one hit wonder does not lead to a career (does anyone remember any song other than Ice, Ice, Baby?. Imagine how many people would be buying Porsches if they only performed well occasionally. More often than not, a strong brand is dependent on reliability, consistency and exceeding consumers’ expectations.
All brands should aim to build connections with their customers, however great brands establish passionate relationships with their fans. Apple and Google are great examples of this level of passion. Their products are well thought out and their customers anxiously await the next product release following online rumours leaked in the lead up to the big day.
Here are 10 strategies you can do to build your digital brand and profit from sharing your expertise with the world:
- Be authentic – make sure your brand fits with the image you have of yourself and your target segment
- Identify your co-contributors – look for success stories and learn from them to establish your point of difference
- Be disciplined in the management of your brand – don’t confuse your customers with mixed messages between your personal and professional brands
- Market your brand through the digital mediums – you can do it yourself and avoid additional costs
- Find ways to interact with your customers – such as conversations, self-publishing articles and contributing to your field’s body of knowledge through Twitter, Instagram, Facebook
- Over-deliver – deliver more than what your customers expect through digital tools and frameworks
- Speak your customers’ language – don’t get caught up in jargon
- Experiment – that is the great thing with the digital age, you will get instantaneous feedback if something works and the silence will tell you even more when it doesn’t
- Set yourself a schedule of digital contributions you will make and stick to it – to make things grow you will need to feed them
- Think strategically and don’t over share
© Gary Waldon and garywaldon.com 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Gary Waldon and garywaldon.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.