Perceptions & Personal Branding
Perceptions and personal branding.
Everyone has a personal brand whether they like it or not. This is because our personal brand is merely a perceived reflection of ourselves in the eyes of others.
For those that don’t know what a personal brand is, personal branding is the process of marketing yourself as though you are a brand, so to leave a lasting impression about what you do in the minds of others. By marketing yourself as though you are a brand, you can more effectively build relationships with specific people that you wish to appeal to or associate with.
Lets say we looked at a person who chooses to live in the woods with no outside contact with people or digital technology, these choices say a lot about the kind of person they are. We would then take these choices into consideration when we make assumptions about what this person may be like. We may initially assume that they're vegetarian, that they hate consumerism, that their aspirations are to be off the grid, and that they like to travel.
Similarly, if you see a man dressed in a three piece suit in the west end of London, you’d come to a very different set of conclusions about that person without any prior knowledge.
The reason for this, is because all humans have an innate sense of pattern recognition, probably originating from a time when we had to identify danger to survive. Nowadays though, If we had to reevaluate every bit of information we’d be so overwhelmed that we’d probably have a mental breakdown. So to overcome this, we use our innate ability to recognise patterns.
Some of these patterns are learnt through experiences, like don’t touch hot things, some are amplified by the media, such as these people are bad, or this this product is cool etc. But one way or another, good or bad, we create a set of beliefs about almost everything. You’d think because we’ve all had different experiences, and have different likes, interests and viewpoints, that we’d all look at seemingly the same things, and come to very different conclusions. The truth however, is that in the vast majority of cases, no matter how unique you think your opinions, views, outlook and values are, you’re still on average, more likely to be similar with the people in your same age range, from the place where you came from, with similar influences, in the same economic status as you, as you would be with someone twenty years older on the other side of the world.
This is because we’re so heavily influenced by our circumstances that you can, in most cases, make assumptions about people, based on these influences. This is where you stray into the touchy area of ‘stereotypes’ which can, at times, be a bad thing. Unfortunately though, when you’re dealing with anything at a mass scale, blanket conclusions based on statistical evidence is what virtually every successful business in the world is predicated on.
While you should always validate your beliefs, you need to get comfortable making assumptions, as this is how you’ll come to identify opportunities and define who your audience in life will be.
On a basic level, if I decide to sell bras, I know I’m likely trying to sell to women not men. Drill down a bit further and If I’m trying to sell Bang & Olufsen speakers, I’m not going to set up my flagship store in Blackpool, because I can assume that most people from Blackpool don’t have a spare 10K to spend on a sound system.
This is how businesses make decisions, and the more you know about people, the more accurate you can be when making assumptions about their desires and purchasing behaviours. This is why companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon are so effective at delivering ads, because they have so much data on us that they know what you’re likely to buy before you do.
The difference between a person who is active vs those that are passive at personal branding, is that they are much more aware of the various ways that they are perceived. They can tap into the world view of an audience and position themselves as a leader in that space. Being great at personal branding is about having the self awareness to know that you’re not going to appeal to everyone, but you should know enough to work out who you do, or could appeal to and why. Only then can you be in the most effective position to build trust with an audience.
Perceptions are not just confined to people. We’re just as likely to draw upon our preconceptions with objects. Everything you may own or interact with from a table to a haircut is, in some way, a metaphor for way of life.
To give you an example. A concrete slab is less appealing to people of wealth, than a marble slab. Other than the fractional price difference in sourcing a marble slab over a concrete one, the main value difference comes from the objects prior context. Which, in this example, is marble’s sustained association with people of wealth.
If you’re aware of this association, it can then be utilised to evoke a feeling of wealth to your customers. The marble floor that lines the entrance to your office is conveying a very different impression compared to if it was lined with concrete or wood.
This concept is important to understand because a good brand should convey its values though everything it touches. By defining ‘your’ values you can start to live your brand in every way, not only in your work, but through purchasing decisions, language, and anything else that will ultimately help to reinforce the vision you wish to create. This in turn will attract the kinds of customers you wish to work with, that you can then build trust with and ultimately make money from in the long run.
Personal branding works in the same way as any brand, except that you are the main source of conveyable values. As well as conveying your values through products, materials, prices and graphics like any normal brand. You’ll also need to convey it through your clothing, spoken communication, the way you spend your time and the people you spend your time with.
This can seem overwhelming at first. You’re probably thinking... 'Do I really need to change the carpet to be a good solopreneur!' The answer to this is obviously no. But it helps if you understand how something as simple as the floor you walk on can convey a message. Once you understand this, you start to see the world differently, and you can begin to consciously change your enviroment to reinforce the values you believe in and want to convey to others.