Nowadays the face behind any given product, be that a blog, magazine or designer label, is just as important as the product itself–if not more so.
“Consumers today are buying into a lot more than just a commodity,” said Marc Beckman, co-founder of Designers Management Agency.
Consider Anna Wintour or Karl Lagerfeld–their personal brands are inextricably connected to those of the companies they work for. When people buy a Chanel lego bag, they’re buying into Lagerfeld’s kooky, high-fashion lifestyle almost as much as the brand itself.
A figurehead with a strong personal brand is not just a boon for the company; it’s a powerful asset for the individual, making them less dependent on any given organization. That’s why having a personal brand is even more important for entrepreneurs or free agents, like models and bloggers.
Whether you’re an editor, blogger, or designer, having a strong personal brand may be the key to success in the fashion industry.
“Developing a brand is important in that it goes hand in hand with developing your overall personal voice and point of view,” Raina Penchansky, Chief Strategy Officer at Digital Brand Architects, which represents brands and top bloggers, said. “Your brand is what gives you the ability to determine what you want your growth strategy to be and where you ultimately want to take your vision.”
“It is one of the most critical elements of building a sustainable long term business model,” said Beckman.
So how can you tap into your own personal brand? We’ve put together a comprehensive guide on how to effectively brand yourself, with input from industry experts like Beckman, Penchansky and Kelly Framel of the Glamourai.
1. Know That You Can’t Fake the Funk
Don’t try to come up with a personal brand that’s not, well, personal. Don’t fall in with trends or try to fill a perceived void just for the sake of doing it. Your personal branding strategy needs to feel intrinsic and authentic.
“A brand has to be rooted in something organic and authentic, it can’t be created from nothing or something disingenuous,” said Penchansky.
2. Have Talent, Skill and Dedication to Back it Up
“If it’s not a superior product, [consumers] will walk away,” said Beckman–no matter how snazzy your personal branding strategy.
Work hard, stay dedicated, and make sure you’re creating something that is high quality; file copy on time, update your blog constantly, tie up every last detail. Most importantly, you have to believe in what you do.
3. Stand for Something.
Beckman recommends setting some time aside to think about what’s important to you, what appeals to you, and what you want to say. Ultimately, you need to figure out what you can bring to the industry that no one else can. This doesn’t mean you have to be the next Karl Lagerfeld or Cindy Crawford; simply having a unique point of view will do the trick.
4. Don’t Try to Appeal to Everyone
Whittle your branding strategy until it’s crystalized into a single, super-niche concept. And whatever you do, don’t try to appeal to everyone.
Penchansky said one of the most common mistakes aspiring bloggers make is to follow the pack too much. “Trying to edit yourself to fit into a trend might gain short term results but ultimately does not help with your long term growth as a blogger or brand.”
5. Write it Down.
The first thing Beckman does with all his clients is create what he calls a “brand soul” document.
“It analyzes every element, it defines the brand vision, the brand mission statement, the core values what the positioning statement is, what the competitive landscape is, and where they fit in it.”
It doesn’t necessarily have to get too technical. Writing down the basics, in your own words, will help you stay consistent and save time when you need to make tough decisions down the road.
6. Communicate Your Brand. Again. And Again. And Again.
Once you’ve figure out what you want to say, and who you want to say it to, it’s time to get your message out there. In this day and age you have access to all sorts of platforms to express yourself–a blog, Twitter account or Instagram account being some of the more obvious ones.
When it comes to your social media and online presence, there’s no one right way to do it. The most important thing is that you stay on-brand and consistent.
7. Foster Brand Culture
“Just to have a strong personality and to look really good doesn’t mean you’re going to create a long term sustainable business,” Beckman said.
Ultimately what makes a brand successful is the consumers, the fans. Develop a personal rapport with your target audience, respond to messages and encourage discussion.
8. Don’t Be Afraid to Say No
So, about those tough decisions: Some of them will be about saying no. To really good offers.
Once your business starts picking up steam, you’ll start getting approached by other brands to partner up. These can be amazing opportunities–and often involve hefty paychecks–but be wary. One wrong partnership could alienate your audience and ruin your credibility for good.
Invest in your brand’s future, and wait for the right ones to come knocking.
9. Be Patient
“Brand development, if done the right way, takes time,” said Penchansky.
Don’t expect to come a sensation over night. Put in the work, stay on brand, and be consistent–don’t abandon your ethos when the going gets tough. It may take longer to develop, but in the long run, your brand will be the stronger for it.