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You are More Than Your Product

Why do people become super-fans of athletes and actors? Rarely is it purely because of a celebrity’s talent on the field or screen. People fall in love with the entire package: the talent, the story, the persona, etc. The same can be said for thought leaders and experts. The best thought leaders are those who have a well-developed personal brand that extends beyond just their product.

You’re more than a CEO, entrepreneur, author, or whatever you are. You are a brand.

Your life experiences, personality, way of thinking, and outlook all come together to create a unique, recognizable brand that is you. It’s just as recognizable and marketable as Nike, Apple, or Coca-Cola.

But most CEOs, entrepreneurs, and authors overemphasize their product and let their personal brand fall to the wayside. Then, when it comes time to pivot, create a new project, or adapt to changing times, it’s nearly impossible because their main point of popularity is a fixed product.

That’s why it’s critical to build a brand that can evolve and stand the test of time. With a strong personal brand, you’ll be able to infuse your recognizable identity throughout your product promotion, creating a unified, overarching story.

The Shift

Brands haven’t always been at the center of it all. In fact, products used to have all the glory; however, that’s changed over time.

Consumers don’t trust companies as much as they used to. Multinational corporations, greed, information breaches, and more have contributed to the public’s decline of trust in companies.

Instead, people have gained trust in people. Consumers want to feel a human connection because it’s more relatable. This explains the shift towards influencer marketing: Customers trust peers, friends, and people they admire more than the big conglomerate organizations. They trust people to tell them what to buy, what to wear, what to read, etc. because people (in theory) have other people in mind, not profits.

Because of this shift, we’ve begun to see a rise in the branding of personas and personalities.

The Problem With Being Extremely Book/Product Focused

Flexibility is the key to good business. Businesses that can’t evolve are doomed to fail. Take, for example, Netflix and Blockbuster. In the 90s and 2000s, Blockbuster was the go-to source for renting VHS tapes and DVDs. Netflix’s DVD-in-the-mail model was also popular, but not to the same extent as Blockbuster. When the world began to shift more digitally, Netflix pivoted to its now indispensable streaming service. Blockbuster didn’t, and now it’s a nostalgic memory of the past.

When you lead with your product, it makes it hard to adapt and pivot as necessary. As time goes on and society evolves, what’s considered “valuable” might change. What’s needed at one point in time might be obsolete down the line.

Another real-world example is the gaming industry. Nintendo marketed itself as the go-to provider for video games, rather than posing itself as the “Game Boy company.” As technology became more sophisticated, the Game Boy became the Nintendo DS, then the Wii, and now the Switch. If Nintendo had built its brand around the Game Boy, they wouldn’t have been able to build the iconic product line that it has today.

The same is true for CEOs and authors. If you lead with your book or product, you box yourself into a very narrow niche that very well may disappear or become useless in time. Leading with your brand as a whole gives you the flexibility to pivot quickly and easily, addressing the needs of the market.

Staying brand-driven is the smart financial move, too. It costs a lot of money to launch a company, develop a new product, or publish a book. It’s best to measure twice and cut once: build a branding strategy that’s going to withstand the test of time rather than building your brand around your first product. If you use the latter strategy, you’ll have to reinvest the time, energy, and money to re-develop a stronger brand later on.

By developing your brand first, you can infuse your brand tone, personality, and messaging into your product and any other future endeavor. Your brand will withstand the test of changing times and serve as an easy touchpoint when developing future products.

What is Your Brand Rooted In?

Smart leaders are those who don’t want to heavily rely on their early successes. Author and speaker Simon Sinek told an interviewer once that he didn’t want to be known as the “Why Guy.” He didn’t want to be remembered by the first thing that made him famous because his message is much larger than his most popular book, “Start with Why.” His brand is rooted in something more stable and unchanging: helping people find their lifelong purposes, think long term, and develop leadership skills.

You need a brand that’s just as three-dimensional and dynamic as you are–don’t let a single creation define your identity. Keep your branding broad, authentic, and well-thought-out to ensure that your message and vision can last. Putting in the forethought now will ensure that your story is unified, professional, and keeping people coming back for more.

For Thought Leaders
Bryan Wish

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