The Brand of You: Introducing Brand Identity and Brand Equity
How do you get your reputation to thrive long after you’ve left the room?
You make a great impression in business meetings. You always deliver on your commitments. You are results driven and are an impactful player when it comes to delivering client results. Building the outputs of these behaviors involves two aspects of branding: your personal brand identity and personal brand equity.
Think of brand identity as the icon, the symbol. Brand identity is what most people think of when they first hear the word, “brand.” It’s the Shell symbol that stands for gasoline. It’s the logo of your hometown football team. It’s that bright orange bottle of Tide that stands for laundry. It’s the Ritz-Carlton name that stands for unsurpassed hospitality. The symbol reminds the observer of the product or service, but beyond just a visual reminder, what emotions or impressions are generated as a result of having seen that symbol?
Does that green Starbucks siren sign on the side of the road remind you of relaxing weekends with your spouse, sipping lattes over the morning paper? Or does it recall that one hyper-caffeinated time you studied 12 hours straight for a licensure exam? Brand equity is that emotional or reputational response evoked by the symbol.
When it comes to the branding of you, identity and equity take on very specific forms.
Your identity becomes your name—your signature on an e-mail, when someone sees your name at the start of a memo or a technical report. The equity, on the other hand, is the reputation or emotional response that the observer associates with your name. (“Hey! That’s that LEED architecture expert.” Or “Hey! Isn’t she that super smart project manager who always delivers ahead of schedule?”)
Every second of every interaction you have with others, even if it is only your name interacting as your proxy, you are always being voted on. Your stakeholders, even if only subconsciously, will either vote “positive equity” or “negative equity.” This is sometimes referred to as your “hall file”—those words being said in the side corridors of office buildings, in side conference rooms, in the gates of airplane terminals. If this is the case, then how can one separate brand-equity building from workplace politics? There are several ways to distinguish one from the other but one of the most effective is: results, results, results.
Results distinguish equity from gossip. If you have a data set of strong results that are influential to your colleagues, managers, and clients, the landslide victory will be in favor of a positive, not negative, personal brand equity. Just as product brands build loyal followings, positive equity builds loyal stakeholders—people who back you in your absence who have the results to show for it.
There is a lot of work required to build and maintain a personal brand, but it all begins with being conscious of your brand identity and the brand equity that it evokes.