Although securing and promoting your company's brand is an important step when starting a business, and although protecting that brand can be an ongoing concern, the question of what it means to associate a person with a company brand is a lot more complicated - a fact made obvious in light of Tiger Wood's sex scandals. The companies that featured Woods in their advertising had sought to latch onto Tiger-Woods-as-a-brand - an image crafted to suggest his tenacity, reliability, skill, and success.
The gulf we now see between Tiger-Woods-as-a-brand - "the perfect role model" - and Tiger Woods as a flawed human being points to some of the potential dangers in associating your company's brand with a person. Of course, few startups are in the position to build a brand based on a celebrity's image or reputation. Instead, if there is a person associated with the startup's brand, it is likely someone from within the company.
Tiger Woods serves as a cautionary tale, obviously for the businesses who endorsed him but also for individuals who seek to promote themselves as a brand. Despite concerns about people as brands (branding is, after all, what we do to cattle), the power of brands continues to be a way to quickly identify a product or service or idea with your business.
For many entrepreneurs, developing a brand isn't merely a matter of creating a company brand, but of also crafting a personal brand. The idea of a personal brand is hardly new, often traced back to a 1997 article by Tom Peters, "The Brand Called You": "To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You."
It may be that some of the fallout from the Tiger Woods scandal has made the idea of personal branding seem trickier - people are people, after all, not objects and not cattle. As Doc Searls has argued in two recent blog posts, brands are "boring" at best and "bull" at worst.
Technological innovation has made personal branding easier, in some regards. Registering a domain name under your own name has become an incredibly straightforward and inexpensive process. Having a domain name is a simple step in helping make sure that content you produce is readily associated with your name. And services like Google Alerts can be useful to monitor the Internet for mention of your name. The rise of social media has made creating an online presence quite simple, but signing up for social media networks or having a LinkedIn profile for example, is not necessarily sufficient or suitable for crafting your personal brand. As the information available online about all of us increases, it is likely that our ability to create and maintain personal branding will become more difficult.
Undoubtedly, building trust is fundamental to business success. Maintaining reputation is crucial, whether or not you want your name to be synonymous with a product, a service or a company.
What are your thoughts on personal branding? Has it become impossible? Or has it become ubiquitous?