Whether you’re a solopreneur or a CEO, you may have wondered at some point where the line is between your personal brand and the business you represent. How do you separate the two?
(Brand archetypes are the secret sauce to creating stronger brands, and are an essential tool for any marketing toolbox! To learn more, read the introduction here.)
Don't complicate matters.
Generally, they are the same. When you start a business, your brand flows naturally out of who you are. You’ve probably heard this before: You are your brand. For most solopreneurs, the answer is simply that cut and dry.
The exception to this rule is if your business model, activities, category, or processes place your business clearly in a different brand archetype. In that case, you want to understand how your customers see your business in order to answer the question for yourself.
I can illustrate this using myself as an example. I identify most strongly as a Creator archetype, with a healthy dose of Sage mixed in. My company, however, is primarily a Magician archetype (with Creator and Sage supporting archetypes, of course!), due to the industry it occupies, the solutions it provides, and the processes it uses to get results for clients. How do I know this? By talking to clients and understanding why they chose my company over any other. Remember that your brand isn’t what you say it is, it’s what your audience says it is. My brand has evolved from when I first started freelancing solo ten years ago being a reflection of my creativity and the art that I could create, to now, where I focus on technological methodology and psychological motivations, using a team of people to provide solutions for my clients.
A brand is an extension of its creator. But, be prepared for it to take on a life of its own.
Babies eventually grow up and become independent… just look at any self-reliant teenager coming of age. The same can be said for many brands started by entrepreneurs.
That’s why, in response our original query, solopreneurs need to be able to answer a few key questions, for both now and the future, when trying to understand the nuances between personal and business brands. The most important question, that all others are based on, is this: Is your company bigger than yourself? (Not just in terms of human capital, but also positioning [your mission, your purpose] and exposure.)
How many people are part of your business? How far-reaching is your brand?
What comes to mind when I say “Fred Smith”? If you’re drawing a blank, let me help. He’s the founder and CEO of FedEx. FedEx is a global company, and you can bet that the FedEx brand is bigger than Fred Smith. When you get a package, Fred Smith isn’t the one knocking on your door. FedEx has 300,000 employees and delivers to 220 countries. That’s a lot of touchpoints for end users.
You may not have as much exposure as FedEx, but even as a solopreneur, you need to look at who else may be seen as a representative of your brand, now or in the future. If you decide one day that the best way to bring in more business is to pay a part-time intern a referral fee to go out and generate leads, all of a sudden you’ve added another touchpoint to your brand. That intern isn’t you and may not share your personality traits. But to the people your intern encounters, that person represents your brand.
In this case, your brand is bigger than you. It’s you and your salesperson, and the interactions and experiences that the public has with both of you.
What are your long-term plans? Can your brand carry on without you?
Some entrepreneurs start a business with the sole purpose of growing it to sell for a hefty profit. Once they've accomplished that, they start the process over again with another business idea. Lather, rinse, repeat, and so on. Other entrepreneurs decide to follow their passion and just start charging money for something they enjoy doing, never thinking to grow beyond themselves. And then there are others spanning the spectrum between.
Wherever you fall, you want to think about what happens if you remove yourself from the picture. Will your company remain intact? If so, your brand is bigger than you. Won’t FedEx continue beyond Fred Smith? Isn’t Apple still thriving after Steve Jobs?
If you intend to sell your business in the future, or hire someone else to run it, your company’s brand will supersede (not replace, but become more important than) your own association with it. As times change — the market changes, the culture changes, and technology changes — your company’s brand perception will likely need to adapt and change somewhat as well – whereas your own personality likely won’t.
The smaller you are, the easier it is to manage your brand’s meaning (even if you typically have less of a budget to do so). The larger you are, the more difficult it is to manage meaning, because there are so many potential touchpoints that you don’t have control over (e.g. an employee having a bad day being rude to a customer). That’s why megabrands spend millions on marketing. Partly because they can, but also because they have to. So as a solopreneur, you have the advantage of control. But just keep in mind that your brand can take on a life of its own, depending on the space you occupy and your plans for growth. Be prepared!
Do you have a burning question about brand archetypes? Want to dig deep and explore the hidden potential of your brand's personality? Let us know! We will be happy to schedule a consultation to find out how you can use the power of brand archetypes in your marketing. Still haven’t taken the quiz? Set aside ten minutes and do it here: brandpersonalityquiz.com.