The American Marketing Association defines a brand as a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.

According to the association, the legal term for brand is trademark. A brand may identify one item, a family of items, or all items from that seller. If used for the firm as a whole, the preferred term is trade name 

Everybody intuitively understands the concept of branding. Most of us have our favourite brands and demonstrate the self-explanatory concept of brand loyalty. Other branding concepts, like brand awareness, brand recall and top-of-mind awareness, may not be so obvious – and yet are extremely important.

Typically, branding is associated with products and companies. There are numerous examples of brands that stand out, such as Apple, Coca-Cola, Nike as well as home-grown brands like Singapore Airlines. Strong brands even become associated with verbs and generic products, which explains how the term “Google it” and “Xerox a copy” were coined.

But what do brands have to do with people? In a word, everything.

Your personal brand communicates who you are, what you stand for, and what others can expect when dealing with you.  The same concepts of product branding apply – awareness, recall, top-of-mind and loyalty. 

If you brand yourself correctly, people will know about you, remember you, think about you when the right situation or opportunity presents itself – and keep coming back to you. 

Arguably, the easy part is generating awareness, which is getting people to know about you. For this, networking is key, which has been made so much easier through social networking. 

Social media offers numerous platforms to develop brand awareness. Awareness, however, is not enough – you want people to remember you amidst all the other individuals and products screaming for attention. You want recall, and importantly – recall amidst the noise. 

The thing to remember about brand recall, however, is that it cuts both ways.  As much as people are loyal to a brand, they also stay away from brands with which they have had a negative experience. The same applies to personal brands.

Ask yourself: What do people think of when they hear your name, or conversely, what are you associated with in people’s minds?

As Ann Handley, co-author of Content Rules, says, a brand is “who people think you are”. You, and you alone, are responsible for making sure that your personal brand association is positive. 

The more successful you are, and the more positive the association with your personal brand, the more likely you are to achieve top-of-mind awareness, which is what you want. 

As much as it is a cliché, there is no one-size-fits-all model. As David Kerpen, author of Likeable Social Media says: “Branding is who you are that differentiates you.” 

Only you know what it is that differentiates you – what your value-adding proposition is, and if it is relevant to your audience. 

Ultimately, what it really comes down to is this: Who people think you are and perhaps more importantly, what differentiates you. The social branding consultant firm Blue Focus Marketing succinctly defines a brand as “a reason to choose”. You have to give people that reason.

As much as giving someone a reason to choose you is important, it may not necessarily be enough.  You don’t want to be a one-hit-wonder – you want people to choose you over and over again. In other words, you want brand loyalty.

Bryan Eisenberg, author of Waiting For Your Cat To Bark, boils down personal branding to three things: Consistency, frequency and anchoring.

You have to be consistent in your brand image. People need to know that you really are who you say you are, and they need to be reminded of this at every possible opportunity. Do this correctly or wrongly, and your reputation will precede you.

As for anchoring, people may not always remember what you may have said or done, but they will always remember how you made them feel. This is why you need to anchor your brand to a positive emotion.  This is where emotional intelligence becomes key – not just having it, but applying it as well.

So ask yourself, what is your personal brand?  If you do not have one, and do nothing to actively develop and cultivate it, one may just be made up for you – one you may not appreciate.

Remember that a brand is a perception. From a psychological perspective, perception is reality.  Branding is thus about shaping that perception, while personal branding shapes others’ perceptions of you. Think about it. It is all in your hands.

Article by Sean O’Hara, a senior consultant at Training Edge International who has developed corporate identities for several organisations and developed a brand strategy for a 20-year old company, helping it to win the Singapore Prestige Brand Award (SPBA).

Want to stand out from the crowd amidst the noise? Be sure to join us at the “Personal Branding, What's Your Story?” workshop organised by STJobs. Find out more at stjobs.sg/seminar.