There are three types of brand your business needs:

1. Product – The brands we associate to a product or service we can buy (e.g. “iPhone”)

2. Company – The brands we associate to a company we can buy from (e.g. “Apple”)

3. Personality – The brands we associate to people who represent companies and products (e.g. “Steve Jobs”)

The original conversation around branding started with “product brands”.

We saw the earliest brands like “Coca-Cola”, “Hoover” and “Marlboro” – Product brands that were so strong they built multinational companies around them. These companies shared the same name and brand identity as their product.

The second layer to come along was when the separation of “product brands” and “company brands” emerged.

McDonald’s was known as the company that sold products like Big Macs and McHappy Meals. Ford adapted and became a company that had many cars rather than just a Model T.

More recently we’ve seen the emergence of the third type of brand – the “personality brand”.

Early adopters like Nike, used personality brands like Michael Jordan to sell their “product brands” like Air and Apple use celebrities such as Justin Timberlake to sell Apple Music. But not all companies can find a celebrity to fit in with their brand, and that’s where the founder comes in. Founders such as Richard Branson and Elon Musk have both built a personality brand by themselves and their businesses (Virgin and Tesla) are leading the way in their respective industries. We saw Steve Jobs powering Apple’s products like Mac, iPod and iPad. Richard Branson took the much-loved Virgin’s company brand from the music industry into completely new industries like credit cards, trains, planes, mobile phones, TV etc.

Today, with social media being one of the fastest way to get recognised for what you do, your personality brand is arguably the most powerful brand. Consumers want to know who’s behind each business, they don’t just want to know the founder or the CEO, they want to know about the engineers, the leaders and the people who work in the company at a ground level to form a relationship with your brand.

Smart brands like Deloitte and Coutts are responding to these trends. They let their team write blogs, publish articles and speak at conferences; they wear their people proudly on their sleeve rather than hiding them away.
Brands like these have discovered it’s a lot cheaper to encourage their leaders to build personality brands rather than paying people who already have a celebrity status to come into their business and promote them.
Most big companies don’t do this yet and small businesses currently have an advantage in building a powerful personality brand. Small businesses can easily produce videos, give talks, write books and blogs. They may be small but they can look big online.

I recently spoke to a successful entrepreneur who sold his company for several million pounds but had failed to build any personality brand alongside the business brand. He explained to me that he felt like he was starting from scratch because no one really knew who he was outside his industry.

Conversely, I know of CEOs and leaders who have a long list of opportunities coming their way because they’ve built a personality brand alongside their business.

While they are with the business they attract great opportunities and even after they leave they continue to do so for their next venture as they’ve built such a strong presence both online and offline.

This March, we’ll be hosting the Business Brand Accelerator in London and Birmingham with industry-leading experts who’ve all built a personality brand from scratch while running multiple businesses.

Find out more here:

If you’re running a business and want to become the go-to person within your industry, focus on building and maintaining your personality brand. That’s what will set you apart in your market.