Build Your Brand
Swapan Jyoti Sarma
“You are the storyteller of your own life, and you can create your own legend or not.”
Isabel Allende, Author.
On July 11, 2021, British billionaire entrepreneur, investor, author, astronaut, philanthropist, Sir Richard Branson took a suborbital spaceflight onboard Virgin Galactic Unity 22, reaching a peak altitude of 86.1 kms. At 71 years, Branson is the third oldest person to fly to space after John Glenn at the age of 77, and Wally Funk, who flew on Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin NS-16 at the age of 82, just 9 days after Branson, on July 20, 2021.
Richard Branson was knighted for “services to entrepreneurship” in the year 2000. His entrepreneurial journey had started at the age of 16 when after his initial attempts to sell Christmas trees and budgerigars failed, he found success with the launch of a magazine ‘Student’ in 1966. Thereafter, it was a story of many successful ventures and quite a few unsuccessful ones. Among his successes are the launch of Virgin Records in 1972, Virgin Atlantic in 1984 and the space tourism company Virgin Galactic in 2004. In July 2021, Forbes magazine listed Branson’s estimated net worth at US$5.7 billion. This is truly commendable of a person who as a child had dyslexia, a learning disorder, and a poor academic record; so much so that his school headmaster told him he would either end up in prison or become a millionaire.
Apart from his business acumen, what sets apart Branson is how he has created his brand statement as a visionary, an achiever, an adventurer and more importantly one who repeatedly breaks the shackles of convention. His Twitter bio reads “Tie-loathing adventurer, philanthropist & troublemaker, who believes in turning ideas into reality. Astronaut 001, otherwise known as Dr Yes at @virgin”
David Ogilvy, known as the ‘Father of Advertising’ defines a brand as “The intangible sum of a product’s attributes: its name, packaging, and price, its history, its reputation, and the way it’s advertised”. Egyptians used a hot branding iron to burn a distinctive symbol into the animal’s skin to differentiate cattle as early as 2,700 BCE. Images of cowboys branding their cattle in Western movies are well etched in our psyche.
Brand is a business concept. It is a marketing tool that enables people to identify a particular company, product, or individual. Branding is the process of creating and spreading the brand name. A name becomes a brand when people associate it with a set of tangible and intangible benefits that they obtain from the product or service. Branding can be applied to a corporate identity, a government or non – government organisation, a product, a service and an individual.
Just as for a company, branding can provide enormous value to the individual. A brand is used to create and store value as ‘brand equity’ for the individual, thereby giving them a competitive edge over others. Your brand equity starts with your name and can go up or down depending on how you have been able to project yourself. Brand Equity is determined by the net-sum support of all stakeholders.
Every individual has a default brand. It is a sum of his life experiences, point of view, actions and more importantly how others perceive the individual. He should ask himself the following questions – Am I aware my default brand? Do I like it? How would I change it if I could? What opportunities does it open or close for me?
It is essential to understand your default brand and how you can develop your distinct brand promise. A brand is defined by distinction, trustworthiness, excellence and consistency. Create and clearly define your brand promise – What makes you distinct? A brand promise is based in reality, and it’s something you can prove. It’s grounded in your culture, values and philosophy. It reflects how you serve others and deliver value to them. Why they can’t do without you and would never go anywhere else. Brand creation involves all the activities that are necessary to nurture a brand into a healthy cash flow stream.
Personal branding allows an individual to improve his credibility. Whether you are seeking employment, or trying to land a higher position or as a businessman trying to have an edge over your competitors, you need to get noticed. Branding yourself allows more people to get to know who you are and how you bring value. Developing your personal brand with imagination and showcasing your personality will enable you to differentiate yourself from others in your field.
As an individual you will have limitations how much you can do and how wide an audience you can serve. Focus on what you want to do and what you can do best. Don’t try to be something you are not. Find out who your target audience is – it can be a heterogeneous group or a niche segment. Create a dialogue with your target audience in an honest and authentic manner. Empower your audience and give them a great experience at every point of contact. Provide associations that add value. Keep your promises. Deliver value so that you can differentiate yourself from competitors. Perception is everything – How you are→ Your actions→ People’s perception about you. How you project yourself influences how you perceived and thus ultimately your value.
Branding consultant Scott Bedbury says, “A great brand taps into emotions. Emotions drive most, if not all, of our decisions. A brand reaches out with a powerful connecting experience. It’s an emotional connecting point that transcends the product.” Strong brands blend performance and imagery to create a rich, varied but complimentary set of consumer responses to the brand. By appealing to both rational & emotional concerns, a strong brand provides consumers with multiple access points to the brand while reducing competitive vulnerability. Rational concerns can satisfy utilitarian needs, whereas emotional concerns can satisfy psychological or emotional needs. Combining the two allows the brand to create a formidable brand position.
Share your personal brand through networking, public programmes, speaking opportunities and social media. Take up Blogging, Video Blogging, Podcasts and other ways that can promote your personal brand in a way that is easily accessible to your audience. A word of caution, especially to youngsters, about the use of social media. Prospective employers as well as other stakeholders find it very convenient to draw inferences about an individual’s personality, character, intellect, morality, political leanings, prejudices and biases through their social media presence and posts. Therefore, one has to be extremely certain on how he/she wants to project himself/herself through posts, shares, comments likes etc
It is important to develop and manage relationships by treating each stakeholder as a distinct entity with its own objectives. Give each one of them a value proposition by distinguishing your service from others. Just as Sir Richard Branson, build your brand by aligning how you project yourself and what you actually deliver.
Swapan Jyoti Sarma : A Graduate in Economics from Cotton College, MBA from Guwahati University and LLB from Govt. Law College. Sri Sarma joined LIC of India as a Direct Recruit Officer of the 14th Batch and rose to the cadre of Deputy Zonal Manager.