Kelly Gibbons, an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member in Colorado, is founder and managing partner of Main & Rose, a personal branding firm for top CEOs, entrepreneurs, authors and celebrities that helps clients tell their story with significant, lasting impact. We asked Kelly to share her insight on building an authentic brand. Here's what she shared.
In today's fast-paced, ever-changing marketplace, entrepreneurs in every industry are struggling with the same challenge: How to build an enduring, relevant brand that stands out from the crowd. When you have a recognizable brand, it positions your business for success by becoming interchangeable with the product or service you offer: Ever asked for a Kleenex when you needed a tissue?
Without a robust brand, your company can be left floundering in mediocrity. So, how do you build a brand with lasting impact? Here's what I've learned:
1. Tell Your Story
I founded my own branding company after spending years in the entertainment, marketing and PR worlds where I realized that most agencies and companies were making the fatal mistake of focusing on new products and services, rather than the story behind the person making those products or services. My philosophy is based on a simple truth: Humans have a natural urge to connect with people. We focus on building the profile of clients as real people, using a tailored package of components that hits every personal brand touchpoint―ranging from updating bios, creating an impactful website, carefully crafting speeches, articles and even books―to help market and promote the full individual to their target audience. Ultimately, the most important thing is to tell a story: Create a strong identity and arc that people genuinely relate to.
2. Focus on the Social Good
My second tip is to consider building a brand that generates social or environmental good, in addition to growing your profits. Since the firm began, we've committed to working only with clients who have an interest in the social good space. If a potential client isn't partnered with a cause that matters to them, we help them connect with a cause or find them a synergistic partner―but if they're not interested, I simply don't bring them on. My philosophy is that entrepreneurs and innovators should use their personal skills and personal brand to make the world a better place, whether through turning waste into renewable energy, expanding access to banking and investment services, or helping bust myths in reporting. In pursuing the social good, you'll establish yourself as a values-driven brand, and you'll feel good while doing it.
3. Balance Timeless and Trendy
One of the toughest challenges for both new and old brands is figuring out how to offer a service or product that is cool and current but also feels classic and enduring. I advise my clients to study trends without copying them. Take the example of the sharing economy. Its explosion in popularity tells us that people are increasingly craving human contact―not that the world necessarily needs another Airbnb or Uber. Another reason I caution against copying trends is the risk of coming off as inauthentic, which is the quickest way to hurt your personal brand. I suggest that my clients find a balance between timeless values―such as reliability, creativity, honesty and service―and more modern methods of branding, including social media, video content and earned media. A brand should be based on a personal story, not some ephemeral fashion.
4. Create Communities
It's time to turn old-school methods of establishing customer relationships on their heads. I encourage my clients not only to foster traditional relationships with their target audiences, but also to create communities centered around their personal brand, and a shared ethos or lifestyle. Get creative! Initiate social media environments where your followers can interact and share their stories. Go offline and organize hikes, dinners, sports games or retreats for your customers, colleagues or even competitors. The point is to offer something more than just a product or a service―in doing so, you can gain a major marketing advantage.
5. Be a Trailblazer
If you really want to build a brand with impact, aim to change the culture and shift the idea of what it means to be a leading brand. As recently as ten years ago, most people would reference massive companies like Ford and IBM as being iconic brands. Today, smaller, more nimble and impact-focused brands such as Toms and Patagonia are becoming well-known and well-established because of their commitment to social impact, not in spite of it. Brands that focus on making a difference are helping change the culture around what it means to be a lasting brand―and yours can help lead the way.