Why Branding is Blurry
Branding used to be as simple as creating a logo and a catchy jingle, but the dynamics of a brand quickly changed when social media exploded onto the scene. In fact, the way branding works has actually become quite confusing. Before trying to understand how branding can work for you and/or your company, it is important to realize that there are now three kinds of brands that exist:
The Top 3 Types of Branding Your Company Needs to Know
- Personal Brand: A personal brand is simply a culmination of factors that create an image for an individual. This can include social networks (pictures, posts, interests, etc.) as well as anything in the media about that individual. Personal brands are not created, but rather just happen. In other words, an individual may not write something on a Facebook wall in order to cause people to think of them in a certain way; they write something on a Facebook wall because they want to say it and that’s who they really are.
- Company Brand: A company brand is a culmination of factors that create an image for a company. While personal brands are not necessarily created on purpose, company brands often spend a lot of time creating their brand. Companies typically do this through consistent commercials, logos, mascots (ever seen the GEICO gecko?), appearances, and social networking.
- Professional Personal Brand: A professional personal brand is a brand that is created intentionally. This is exactly like a company brand only for an individual. For example, if a person wants the public to view them as hardworking and an expert in their field, they can now create this image through social media, guest posting, and blog interaction. The person would likely write a professional summary of themselves on a Facebook page and post only intriguing articles on Twitter (not joke with their friends about the crazy night they had last weekend).
The Two Ways Brands Are Blurring
- Company vs. Personal Brands
Consumers and other businesses quickly discovered that they can find an employee’s social networks in order to help “brand” that particular company. After all, who is working for a company can say a lot about the quality of work that gets done. This brings up the first blurring of the branding lines: company and personal. Consider the following example:
If you’re starting a small business and decide to hire a PR firm for your company, you will likely be assigned a PR professional who will work exclusively with you. If you see that Joe Shmo could potentially be in charge of your PR account, you may look up Joe Shmo on Facebook. Once you find his profile you might see that he clearly stays out all night and spends all day complaining about work. This will give you a negative opinion about the company. This is one instance of a personal brand affecting a company brand, and it happens all the time!
- Professional Personal vs. Personal
Once people began to realize that their personal brands were affecting their company brands, people began to create a professional personal brand. These lines began to blur because it can be very difficult to keep the two separate. After all, it is the same person. People began to have two Facebook pages and two Twitter accounts, and it was extremely important that the contacts from one didn’t find the contacts from another. You want your employers or potential employers to see only the professional side of you, but what if one of your friends talks about the party last night on the wrong social media account?
The problems don’t only arise when dealing with social media, but really any “bad” press. An individual may have gone on strike when they were in high school or college before even considering a job and a professional brand, but that image stays with that person forever if it was published in a newspaper or online. This then leaves individuals scrambling to cover up their old “bad” brands.
What This Means for the Individual and the Company
- Company: When it comes to your company, you will now need to focus on the personal and personal professional brands of your employees. Be aware that customers and/or clients can (and often do) look up the brands of your employees. You should be including social networks as well as Google searches into your employee background checks to see what kind of image your employee has online. Although most do not agree with a company snooping through their personal lives, they have put it out there for the world to see. For this reason, companies really have no choice but to do a quick overview of an individual’s brand. A company should not dig too deeply trying to find the “real” employee, but rather give a quick overview. If the professional personal brand is more prevalent across the Web, then that person has done a good job and will likely represent your company positively.
Individual: It is important as an individual that you represent yourself well on social networks and other Internet mediums. In other words—create a professional personal brand. If you have some things out there you’d rather were hidden, there are a few things you can do to help cover them up: guest post on websites so that those articles come up first on search engine pages, change your name on your old social accounts, set your social accounts to private, and/or create a fake professional account.