Self-Branding: Success Through the “Me” Brand
How to positively differentiate yourself from others and reach your goals through building your personal brand.
What does Roger Federer stand for? For world class tennis, a winning mentality and humility. Although you probably don‘t know Roger Federer personally, you have a fairly accurate picture of him. Now consider Boris Becker. He had the same job as Roger Federer and was also number one in world tennis. Nevertheless, we associate Boris Becker with completely different characteristics. And again, we know exactly what characteristics they are and what he stands for.
That is precisely what branding can do. Only brands manage to create a collective understanding and communicate the expected benefits so clearly and concisely. With a brand you know what you get.
Successful people are always successful brands as well: They clearly communicate what they stand for, inspire trust and win over others for their causes. They are being noticed, they are able to differentiate themselves from the competition and stand out from the crowd. The brand image that we have of people gives us orientation and helps us to make decisions.
But what is the magic that brands exert on us? What can we learn from brands and how can we become a successful personal brand ourselves?
In addition to answering these questions, in this article I will also present an overview of the Self Branding Model (SBM)® which forms the basis for my work with my clients.
1. What People Buy
Brands make a double promise:
The functional promise refers to quality and performance:
- A clock shows me the time. A coffee maker makes coffee.
- A person has certain strengths and accomplishments, such as analytical skills, knowledge of Chinese, expertise in project management or SAP.
The emotional promise refers to aspects such as values, emotions and ethics:
- A Swatch arouses different emotions than a Rolex, and a Nespresso coffee maker is emotionally not seen the same way as one from another company.
- A person can also stand for very specific emotions, e.g. for security, modesty, status, affection, fun, adventure, pride and/or friendship.
What is the difference between the brand and the no-name product? Is it the emotional promise that it makes or the functional performance that it provides? The answer is obvious:
Emotion makes the difference. The stronger the emotions are that a brand can transport, the greater its attraction and therefore its power. Among the most attractive emotions currently used in advertising are love, joy and pleasure. However, individuality, security, freedom, reputation and friendship also exert a great attraction and help to distinguish brands from one another.
2. Authenticity Instead of Extravagance
Personal branding, as I understand it, begins with ourselves, our greatest strengths, core values and passions. First, there‘s always the look inwards: to our resources and that which constitutes us as a person.
If my brand is to be credible, it must conform to who I am. No one has the power to maintain an image for very long that does not match his personality. We want a brand that suits us, in which we recognise ourselves and in which we can come alive, a brand with which we feel comfortable, one that motivates us every day to work on ourselves and our appearance. We want a brand that supports us in achieving personal satisfaction and professional success in a contemporary professional working world.
3. Everything We Do Sends Signals
Perhaps at one time or another you have put together a jigsaw puzzle. A similar task awaits you in shaping your personal brand.
Just like a jigsaw puzzle, in personal branding many individual elements come together to form a complete picture: Your behaviour, the contacts you maintain, how you approach people and deal with them, how you appear, speak and dress are all factors that contribute to your personal image. If the pieces fit together and are positioned correctly, the image is clearly visible to the viewer. On the other hand, if you put the wrong pieces together or they are too loose, the image becomes blurred and is no longer recognisable.
Everything you do sends a signal. Everything you do is perceived, some things consciously, most things unconsciously. Each signal is a piece of the puzzle on the way to your personal image. Send the right signals.
4. Overview of the Self Branding Model (SBM)®
The Self Branding Model (SBM)® is based precisely on this idea. It includes all the elements required for the design of a sustainable brand:
5. Brand Identity
Brand identity is at the heart of our brand. It reflects our strengths, values and passions, and expresses what we believe, what we stand for and what drives us.
A successful brand identity ensures that the brand is uniformly designed, positioned, experienced and perceived. It shows us which parts fit our image and where we need to place them so that a clear image is formed. Meaningful brand design and positioning are not possible without a rigorous, action-guiding brand identity.
Brand identity consists of three elements:
Unique selling proposition (USP): This is the functional aspect of our brand. It describes our biggest technical, methodological, social and individual strengths.
Answer the following questions and write down the answers:
• What are my greatest strengths and abilities?
• What characteristics constitute me as a person?
• What successes did I achieve in the last year?
• What is particularly important for me in my life?
• How do I inspire others?
• What are the values that determine my actions?
Also obtain feedback from other persons regarding these questions. This gives you an indication of how the people around you perceive you.
Emotional selling proposition (ESP): ESP describes our favourite emotions - emotions that we ourselves like to experience and would like to have the people around us experience as well.
Brand mantra: This is the motto of our brand. The brand mantra shows us how we should behave in certain situations and protects us from uncertainty and wrong decisions. The brand mantra is integrated into our everyday work via reminders.
Practical tip: ESP and brand mantra
Start your listing for the ESP preferably with: “My USP gives others the good feeling that...” or “My USP gives me the good feeling that...”
Finally, summarise the previous results into a guiding principle - the brand mantra - that represents the irrefutable essence of your brand. Such a sentence could be: “I create opportunities - for myself and for others.”
6. Brand Image
Brand identity includes planning for the future: What do we want to accomplish with which tools and with whom, and which principles will we follow when doing it?
Brand identity consists of five elements:
Top-of-Mind: Describes the objectives we want to achieve with the help of our brand.
Network: Includes the people we‘d like to win over for us and our ideas - so that they will support us on our way to our goal. This does not only include personal contacts, but also virtual relationships, which are becoming increasingly crucial for career success.
Performance: In order to be useful for our network partners, we provide certain services for them. The problem: the conscientious fulfilment of our daily business can‘t be marketed; we can‘t make a name for ourselves with services that are expected of us anyway.
To master one‘s own area of expertise and to perform one‘s job well and reliably is nothing extraordinary; it‘s simply a prerequisite for business.
This is a common fallacy: we believe hard work and diligence will bring us further. However, in our competitive society, “good” isn‘t good enough. We can‘t earn laurels with “more of the same”. Whether a performance can be marketed depends on whether it is expected of us, and whether we can use it to collect extra points. “Extra points” means: the service is useful and attractive for the other person, and he wants it.
The following graph displays the services from the perspective of self-marketing:
Source: “Profil macht Karriere.” Orell Füssli, 2010.
Practical tip: Added value
Regularly ask yourself:
• What are
• What needs do the people around me have?
• What is interesting and helpful to them?
• How can I generate a benefit for them?
• How can I create additional added value?
Relationships: In addition, we foster relationships with our network partners, determine how we approach people and how we want to shape our relationships with other people.
Principles of conduct: Actions speak louder than words. For this reason, we establish specific behavioural principles that we will observe in the future, which we can remember and which create recognition through their ritualisation. The principles of conduct are established through the if-then plan method.
7. Brand Communication
Lastly, brand communication is the strong presence of our brand. In this section of the personal branding model we define the measures that help us to make our brand visible and move it into the spotlight.
Brand communication consists of five elements:
Personal image: Personal image is what we generally mean by “packaging”. It is not limited to visual appearance, but attempts to make the brand come alive for all the five senses.
Online reputation: I have reintroduced this element into the model because self-marketing in Second Life is becoming increasingly more important. It addresses the question of how we want to move in virtual space and depict our brand. It points out risks and shows the stumbling blocks that need to be observed.
Brand stories: Stories build reality. It is time to listen to the stories being told about us and to take an active role in staging and telling stories ourselves.
Tag line: Short sentence - great effect. The tag line is comparable to a slogan that briefly and precisely reflects the core message of our brand - for example “Yes, we can!” from Barack Obama. It thus anchors itself in memory and creates brand recognition.
Elevator pitch: A pitch is a short sales pitch; an elevator pitch is a sales pitch in an elevator. The idea: you only have about 30 seconds to present your idea, case, project or offer. “Make them want more!” is the motto.
Practical tip: Elevator Pitch
How can you quickly bring the most important thing about yourself and your services to the point? The following steps have proven to work well in practise:
1. Provide information. Introduce yourself with your first and last name and explain what you are doing.
2. Arouse interest. Ask a question that is relevant to the other person.
3. Offer a solution to the question you have just raised. Show what you have to offer in regard to the topic being discussed.
4. Plan for a follow-up. Tell the other person what you would like him to do - for example, set up an appointment.
Wüst, Petra: “Profil macht Karriere. Mit Self Branding zum beruflichen Erfolg.” ISBN 978-3-280-05370-6, Orell Füssli, March 2010 (German language)
Wüst, Petra: “Selbstmarketing – sich erfolgreich zu positionieren.” Bestell-Nr. BD567, WEKA, May 2013 (German language)
9. Author and Contact
Petra Wüst is one of the most prominent experts in the field of personal-branding. She manages the consulting company Wüst Consulting in Basel and is internationally active as coach and lecturer. For 15 years she has been enthusiastically consulting clients from the areas of business, politics, academia and culture on the topics of self-branding, self-marketing, networking, communication and leadership.
In addition, the economist is author of several well-known books about selfbranding and self-PR, and teaches at various Swiss universities, including the University of Lausanne and the University of Lucerne.
Dr. Petra Wüst
Web: www.wuest-consulting.ch (german language)
Tel.: +41 61 271 8284