Brand you

Prince Charles umbrella.jpgThere’s been lots of talk of personal branding in the Smarta offices recently, so in honour of Prince Charles’s 60th today – or rather under the tenuous precept of a connection thanks to his Duchy of Cornwall organic foods range – this seems like as good a time as any to explore the issue in more detail.Would the Duchy of Cornwall line be as revered and trusted by consumers if it wasn’t fronted by the Prince? Is it his royal brand that gives it kudos and weight? Difficult to measure, but considering how many organic ranges are now on the market, it seems there’s definitely something keeping the line afloat in the swamp of ethical produce that other brands are drowning in. And what better USP could you want than the future king pushing the produce?Identifying with an individual can push the emotional connection a consumer has with a product much deeper than if they were just staring blankly at a logo and a name. Look at the success of Virgin. Would the brand have gone as far if we hadn’t had Richard Branson’s perennial grin framed in familiar geography-teacher beard encouraging us along at every step of the consumer journey, easing us into purchasing like an old friend recommending rather than a CEO hard-selling? Would Easygroup be forgiven its disgusting orangeness so easily if it wasn’t for the amiable Stellios, making us feel that buying cheap but wholly unappetising flights is the consumer equivalent of drinking low-price retsina in Greece? (It works, but only in this context.)This is a development of the old maxim that you do business with the people you like. You buy from a certain company when you like and trust the person who fronts the brand. And by the same token, that loyalty retains customers who feel that if they went elsewhere they would be betraying the individual, not the company. Case in point is Kevin Rose of Digg. When rival article-tagging companies set up, even though in some cases their technology was superior, Digg-users were reportedly crying all over Silicon Valley that they wouldn’t leave Digg because “we couldn’t do that to Kevin.” Even though, of course, they'd never met him.Which brings us back to personal branding. If you want to become the type of representative for your business that can get customers flocking to your products because of who you are, you need to create your personal brand. The best personal brands work for their businesses because they reflect, inspire and are at one with the brands of the company. If your business traditional and polished, so should you be. If it’s fun and easygoing, ditch the suit and tie for a Hawaiian shirt and some wooden beads and consider going shoe-less in the office. And do all your networking in pubs.Smarta’s going to be looking at personal branding in more depth when we launch in January, thanks to an interview with Salma Shah, who’s something of a specialist in the field. Check out what she says then – and in the meantime, do your best to make people like you.

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