If I ask you: "What do they have in common the following names: Apple, Coca Cola, Google, Amazon, Vodafone, BMW and McDonald's?" ... how would you answer?
Probably you would do some brainstorming effort to try to connect them to important dates, places of origin or maybe some curious thing they have in common in some way. Or perhaps some commercial factor they have in common: Coke (beverage) with McDonald's (food), perhaps consumed in a BMW car (vehicles) ... however, lacking the joint with Amazon (e-store) or Apple (electronics) ... and therfore you're back to the starting point.
In fact there is an answer, but it is not due to the material or the product description. What unites them is far beyond the analysis of a material oject.
They are all Brands.
We all recognize, for example, the value of hi-tech products of Apple, which quite frequently we find in electronics stores. But what allows us to distinguish it from the others? What gives us that feeling. The feeling that we are in front of an object which we are going to award with our liking for he rest of our lives? What drives the consumer to choose a product and elevate it as a symbol of personal belonging to a community of which he is proud to be part? The Brand.
Given the complexity of post-modern markets, the meaning of Brand goes beyond its primordial concept of an element to distinguish a product from its competitor. The Brands encapsulate a whole range of communication, the experience, the history, the feeling of a product or a company within a simple name and logo. But even though the name may be simple, the ideas behind the brand and the different ways in which the Brands are used are complex and multidirectional.
Over time, the brand has been enriched with relational meanings between the company and the market. For example, the activities of marketing and corporate communication act to consolidate the link "consumer vs. brand" with advertising slogans in order to include in the concept of Brand some psychological aspects that enhance the consumer's feeling of belonging to it.
Every successful brand strengthens its relationship with the market through its slogan: McDonald's - "I'm lovin 'it", Apple - "Loving it is easy. That's why so many people do.", Nike - "Just Do It "... Each Brand has calibrated its message to its audience. While I'm not a fan of its products, I must admit that I also feel a certain warmth of home when I see the Barilla's pasta on supermarket shelves of Dubai, New York, Cairo or wherever I travel.
From a pure instrument of differentiation of products, The Brand has thus become an aggregator of sensations and people. Around a Brand grow in fact entire communities, being those of different cultures, nationalities, societies, but sharing a system of values that unites them one to another. This concept was expressed by Albert Muniz Jr. and Thomas C. O'Guinn, who in 2001 published an article in the Journal of Consumer Research entitled "Brand Community" (source: Wikipedia): "a specialized community, not linked geographically, based on a structured set of social relations within the framework of preference of a Brand ".
Hence the concept of Brand as a social phenomenon.
There is indeed another aspect of branding that is emerging in recent years, thanks to the spread of Social Networks and Web 2.0 applications. The Personal Branding.
The authorship of the term is attributed to Tom Peters, who in 1997 wrote an article "The Brand Called You", in which it is explained the concept of self-sales in a manner similar to those applied to products or services. In practice, people and their careers are equivalents as commercial Brands, all with their own value, its own characteristics, its own uniqueness. While various techniques and management theories for self-improving are focused on changing their habits and improve their potential, the Personal Brading suggests that success comes from a proper introduction of themselves in terms of uniqueness and exclusiveness. This includes both external factors (clothing, appearance) and internal (knowledge, experience, talent) in an exclusive representation of "Yourself" - features that distinguishes us from the indelible impression.
So much for the theory. But in practice?
Many books have been written about Personal Branding. I'll just make a few practical examples.
Social networks provide many ideas to do Personal Branding. First of all, it is the nature of social applications that allows us, once we set our image, to be able to spread, amplify exploiting the interconnection channels that exist between Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc..
The first thing to do is to ask yourself - "is anyone already talking about me?". Perhaps your company or your professional profile is already the subject of interest from Internet users or virtual communities. Just googling your name to check it.
Primarily important to establish our objectives, and ask what are the reasons why we want to creat our Personal Branding. Try to conduct an analysis of yourself and your quality, so as to set up a self-marketing strategy that will help you to better identify your goals.
These can be of a professional nature (promote themselves to the search for a job, or freelance for our business, our company), or of a private nature (for example, you want to create your own image to use as a profile as a complement to Social business communication), or for reasons connected with your talent (for example, create a brand for a blog on a specific topic). Whatever are the reasons for which you want to create a Personal Brand, you should always keep your objectives in mind.
There is no precise rule in order to establish your presence on the web: some prefer signing up only to social networks, other (mostly professionals) rather have their own website or blog as a catalyst of content on the web. What is certain is that the more content we put on the net, the more interaction we create between us and our friends or colleagues, the more you will have a feedback from search engines. So you'll be more visible. It is important to be familiar with the workings of the 2.0 platform you decide to use, so that we may use the communication tools available at its best with the best results.
Another important step is the choice of your name. The name is one of the main components to determine your exclusive identity ... and exclusivity is one of the basic concepts of Personal Branding. Therefore better we choose to use our name or, at most, we use a creative nick-name. The important condition is that this is to be used on all platforms where we'll communicate. To bring coherence to our brand would be appropriate to create a Visual Identity Manual (also called Media Kit). In it you specify all of the parameters your image is made of: the logo, its shape, its colors, fonts to be used, their size, placement in various media that we are going to use, etc..
Let's move on then to the next step: give space to your creativity. To be creative does not necessarily mean to be colored or cute. Being creative means to publish your content with originality, practical sense, but especially by highlighting the unique features of your personal profile - as they are the ones to make your brand unique among many. For example, publishing your curriculum on the internet is something you do every day. But doing it on a video make it already more exclusive. Then If you can do it with creative content (a good videographer will give you some good ideas), you'll get a quality content that will be more interesting to see and maybe even to be shared on internet.
About image creativity...
Every day you will come across thousands of profiles which look "empty", without even a photograph to identify the owner of that profile... or even with a puppy or kitten as a profile photo. This is not making your Personal Branding, but it does to the cat. Beside our goals and personal contents, our uniqueness also derivates from our image. If you do Personal Branding, it is important that our readers have in front a image which communicate certain appeal. Not the photo of a cat. Your logo, your photos, your name will be the first items which people will be in contact when meeting your profile. At most, if you do not want to be formal, you can opt for an image which give prominence to something particular about you (eg, an accessory that you use every day, a special beard cut). Then you may use your unique image as a distinctive in all your profiles.
Never forget about your contents! Remember that Personal Branding means promoting your exclusivity. Social sites will reward us for the quality of content we put online and give us plenty of room to enrich our profile of all those elements that we communicate, making us looking exclusive. So we can post our curriculum on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN, both in photographic format, which video format if available. Create photo albums on Instagram to be shared on other social sites. Perhaps you'll like to enrich your album with pictures of your unique activities (professional, divagative, sports), in line with your personal brand. But above all you must be consistent in posting your own content: the photo of sexy pinup on your shared photo album does not make a good impression on LinkedIN Social, if you want to be credible!
Increase your Networking. As it happens in the Blogs, sharing content on the Social Networks sites is very important. Expand your circle of friends by participating to new communities, grow your reputation by sharing your unique contents and make your profile interesting for your readers by forwarding your unique ideas. IOn the professional side, if our personal brand is connected to a corporate or private page (or vice versa), you shuld always keep your conversations in line with the corporate policy, mantaining your way of being unique. The Public Relations teach us to be patient and to react calmly even when we answer to unpleasant things that people may write about our product or service. So if we lose the brackets reacting badly to a post by one of our customers or contacts, our Brand will pay the consequences.