Branding as Yourself vs. Branding as a Business

By Laura Wallace |  April 16, 2019

We live in a timeframe where it has become a lot more simplistic for us to create brands, not just in person but online. Between Instagram and Facebook and Twitter – and all the other social media platforms that are available to us – often the first step in a lot of businesses is just opening up one of those accounts. This week on The Gutsy Podcast, we’re going to talk about the difference between branding yourself as a person versus branding as a business entity.

This is often times one of the biggest questions that we get when clients are talking to us and prospects are like, you know, I’m not really sure where to begin, whether I should brand myself and my name, or if I should create a fictitious name and create a business in that direction.

I want to preface this with there really is not a right or wrong answer to this. It’s really all about you and the business you want to create and the type of brand you want to build. So whether you do one direction or the other, neither are right or wrong.

The most important thing, regardless of which one you choose, is to create a cohesive brand experience. Back in Episode 4, we really dug down into the depths of creating a brand. So if you didn’t catch that episode, I definitely recommend to go back and listen to that because we talk a lot about the fundamentals and foundational aspects to creating a brand. So I’m not going to really get down into the weeds of what our brand is, but instead today I want to help you really understand the differences, the pros and cons, and some of the differentiating factors between the two.

So let’s start by talking about branding. You as a person, you’ve probably encountered tons of people (especially if you’re following influencers and other people online) like Gary Vaynerchuk or Brené Brown. These people have branded themselves. And what I mean by that is their entire business model is based around their name and their personality.

This has become really popular lately. And typically people that want to brand themselves or take that route are speakers, authors, influencers, bloggers – people that just really have a direct voice into a certain type of topic, target audience, or particular area of interest. Some of these people are solopreneurs. In other words, it’s them and sometimes maybe a virtual assistant or a social media manager. But a lot of times these are individuals, and sometimes they grow into large corporations. But most of the time they kind of stay small but mighty.

Now I’m also feeling like I’m kind of talking out of both sides of my mouth and in reality there, again, is really no right or wrong way to this because you might say, “Laura, Gary Vaynerchuk clearly is not a small corporation. He’s kind of a big deal right now.”

I want you to also remember, though, that he has Vayner Media, which is his corporation and Gary Vaynerchuk has taken on the front end personality of the speaking and the traveling and being in front of people on a regular basis. As you’re thinking about whether you want to brand yourself as a business or not, the very first thing to consider is:

Are you comfortable being in the spotlight?

I know some people were like, “Hell yes, let’s do that. That’s exactly where I want to be.” And other people were like, “Oh, hold up. No wait, that’s entirely too much. I just want to do my thing and let the business grow.”

By choosing to brand the business as yourself, the business is really going to need to take on you and your personality and your natural flair. It’s going to be a direct reflection of who you are as a person and the type of personality that you put out into the world.

I also want to kind of let you know that it’s okay if you want to do that. I think sometimes when you’re considering branding as yourself, people go into, well, does that make me look or seem arrogant? Do People think that I’m full of myself? And is that going to make other people uncomfortable? So maybe I just shouldn’t do it.

You know, everyone’s gonna have their own thoughts and feelings, but when you come from a place of purity and genuine authenticity, you can really create a solid brand around yourself. This also means getting comfortable with being in front of people – your photo, your presence, standing in, speaking – and just kind of really being the face of the company because when you brand the company as you, we kind of need to see ya.

This is one of the main reasons that it’s so great for people that are pursuing a speaking career because as a speaker, you’re going to be in front of people anyway. So getting to know you and you personally is a great way to build that connection with your audience.

One of the perks to branding yourself is that you can always evolve it and make changes with your company.

Now that’s not to say that other businesses cannot, but it’s a lot easier when you are branded as yourself to kind of move and sway with the ebbs and flows of where your business is growing because people are going to grow to love you. Your audience is going to be attracted to you, and that means that as your business grows and you maybe kinda go in a different direction, or you start to incorporate new products or services, you’re the selling point, right? You’re the first person. You’re the first thing that they’re interacting with, and as long as you’re staying authentic with who you are and what you are providing, it’s a lot easier to bend and sway and positively convince your clients of why this is a good change.

If we think about Oprah as a brand, you know, I talk about Oprah a lot, but she, I mean she kind of is the CLB all right. But if you think about her as a brand, yes, she has lots of different corporations and lots of different names, but primarily Oprah is Oprah and that is the brand. So when she goes to do new things or starts new nonprofits or starts a new TV show, we don’t really question it because we love Oprah, right? So we learn about what she’s doing and we get involved and before we know it, we are part of that brand with her as well.

That’s the power of being an influencer, too. You hear that term a lot. That’s very common right now, especially on Instagram. Influencers are individual brands, people that have an influence on a certain topic or set of people. Most of these people have their own products and services and a business that they’re running, but they are able to build it to a place where other brands say, “Hey, you have a really wide reach. I would love for you to help promote and sell our product on your platforms.”

I’m a big fan of Jenna Kutcher. She started her business in photography and grew that pretty rapidly and now she’s an influencer. She has a buttload of followers on Instagram and now other products and other brands pay her to showcase their products on her platforms. Sometimes these are organizational tools, sometimes they’re apps. She’s also a model for Aerie, but one of the really cool things that I love about that is they are products that align with her core audience and messaging. And because people attach themselves to people when they can see a part of their life within someone else that’s doing really great things, or they feel like they are seen and heard because someone similar to them has similar thoughts and feelings and interest in this world, you can often build a brand faster with that mentality and that method than going the traditional route of creating a business name.

It’s also really important to be super clear and super consistent with whatever topic it is that you are representing. So for people to be able to attach your name with a product or a mission, you have to be so insanely clear that no matter when anyone sees your name immediately they know what you’re there for.

Earlier we talked about Brené Brown. She’s a pretty hot author right now and you know pretty quickly if you’re familiar with her and her brand that she stands for leadership, motivation, and inspiration. She’s going to give you some really great information on how to better yourself and those around you. If all of a sudden she started talking about different qualities of sports cars, there would be a pretty weird disconnect all of a sudden and you’d be like, Hey, Benré what? What you got going on there girl.. Because she has been so consistent. We know exactly who she is and what she stands for.

Another super popular influencer right now is Marie Kondo. If you’ve not heard about only keeping items that spark joy in your life, then you may have been living under a rock somewhere because this is like the biggest thing that everyone is doing right now. Marie Kondo has branded herself and has put herself in the light of creating an atmosphere in a home that is only filled with things that bring you joy. So instead of a whole bunch of stuff that we feel like we have to hang onto, she coaches people through how to create a home that brings you a lot of joy. Again, hyperfocused hyper-consistent.

See, when you choose to brand yourself, you really take on this authority and expertise in a certain area.

So if you’re online one day and you’re talking about makeup tutorials, but then on another day you’re talking about how to change your oil. There’s kind of a little bit of a disconnect there. But let’s say you want to be a beauty influencer and you’re constantly putting out different tips, tricks, makeup tutorials, videos, and audios and you’re speaking about it – you become the authority in that industry. And that’s really where the power of branding yourself comes into play.

So if you’re considering this route, one of the very first things I want you to ask yourself is:

Are you ready to put yourself out there and be the face of the company – always? Are you prepared to have the same conversations about very similar topics with people both online and in person? And are you hungry for the position of being an influencer in a very specific topic?

One of the cons to branding yourself with your name is the future growth and potential selling of your business.

When your business is a fictitious name, it can be a lot easier to sell the business if that is in your longterm plan. But whether you’re making a hundred grand a year or 100 million a year, it can be pretty challenging to sell a business that is attached to one person when that person is no longer going to be involved in the company.

So I really want you to sit down and think through your longterm plans. No, we can’t always predict the future, but in your heart and your gut, where do you foresee yourself? Is this a business that you’re trying to build up and sell so you can start something else? If so, branding yourself probably isn’t the best way to go. But if this is your longterm game, if this really is the space you play in and you know that you want to be the brand influencer for as long as you possibly can be, then this could be a really great route for you to build an identity around yourself and your expertise.

Now on the complete other end of the spectrum, we talk about branding a business as a company name.

This is typically a fictitious name that is created, whether it’s a play on words or a play on phrases or however you come up with the name. It’s not directly connected to one person but around an entire concept. When you build a brand around a company name, one of the most initial and most important aspects is to create an identity around that business name.

Going back to some of the fundamentals of creating a brand, when you’re creating this company identity you want to think about: If this were a person, how would they look? How would they dress? How would they speak? How would they interact with people? How would they make people feel?

The cool thing about this is it doesn’t have to be wrapped around a singular person, but it really gives you the opportunity to create a branded experience around a branded concept.

Let’s talk about Nike for instance. Nike is not wrapped up to one person, but if you’re familiar with the Nike brand (whether you’re a huge advocate and have all of the pieces or you’ve never bought a single piece in your life), you’re fairly familiar with the Nike brand and concept of Just Do It. They’ve created a brand experience where people feel like, yes, they can. They can achieve their athletic goals, they can overcome something that they didn’t feel they could. And because people are wearing this iconic checkmark on their sleeve or on their pant leg, they are part of something bigger than what they are as an individual.

And as in the same way as if you were going to brand yourself, the same foundational brand rules apply here. And it’s that you must be clear and consistent through your brand messaging. We don’t second guess Nike because we know what they’re doing because they’re always doing the same thing there. They’re always telling us that we can do more than we give ourselves credit for and we can do it with wearing some pretty quality products as well.

Now, one of the more challenging portions of branding a business name is it requires a bit more upfront work to create that branded experience.

Prior to you starting to educate people, they have no idea who you are and what you’re doing. They may not be familiar with the brand and what it stands for and what your core values and missions are, and especially if you come up with a name that’s not commonly recognizable. There’s a period of time that requires you to educate your audience on who you are, what you do, and how that’s going to impact their lives.

Let’s take Verizon for instance. Without the brand attachment, the word Verizon would not really mean a whole lot to us, but because of the marketing and the messaging and the presence that they have created around their brand name, we know that they claim to be the best wireless company with the best coverage in the United States and now their business name means something to us whether they’re your provider or not. You’re familiar with that name.

Also, businesses are more likely to create a business strategy, a target audience, and specific goals when they brand themselves as a business name.

Why is this? Well, it seems a little bit different and a lot of it is psychological because when you brand yourself, it’s just as much a business as if you brand it as a business name. But people tend to take their business growth and the strategy a little bit more serious when it’s built around an entity name. A lot of times these are businesses that are growing beyond just an individual or a small team. Sometimes the goals are to grow it into a larger corporation or franchise it or create multiple locations.

And to do those things you really have to have a business strategy in place. And when there is a business strategy in place, people tend to abide by those things a little better. There’s a clear path. Things are developed like job descriptions and who do we need and what type of people do we need on the seats of this bus for us to drive to the destination that we are headed towards. And when you have a clear brand identified, it can be a lot easier to grow and expand.

So just as I asked you earlier, when you think about branding your business entity name, I really want you to think about the future of your business:

Where do you want to go? Do you want to keep this small and mighty? Do you want to open multiple locations? Do you want to expand and have a larger team? Do you want to franchise? Do you want to go into the global market?

If you’re wanting to really expand and create a lot of open opportunities, then branding a business entity may be a better direction for you.

It’s also a lot easier to sell the business down the road as well.

So if you’ve got that mindset, if you’re the type of person that loves to build and create something and then sell it and then build and create and sell, then you’re really going to want to consider going in the business name direction versus yourself because it’s a lot easier to detach yourself from that brand and business. And because the business is not attached to one singular person per se, there’s a lot of opportunities to adjust the team and adjust the way that you do things to better serve your market. So it may be a slower start in the beginning, but it can be a lot easier to scale.

On the other side, one of the downfalls is it can be a little bit more challenging to change directions or types of services you’re offering because there isn’t a singular person that is influencing.

It’s not impossible, but it can be a little bit more challenging and take a lot more time through campaigns and education and video marketing to really help people understand what’s happening and how it will be affecting their purchasing.

When you’re thinking about which direction to take, let’s say you are either starting a new business or are evolving one that you currently have, the biggest question to ask yourself is: What are your long-term goals for the company? And the second question shortly thereafter is: Are you comfortable being the face of the company?

Now here’s the other really cool thing because in business we kind of get to make some things up as we go and you can start one and always build on a second as well. For instance, Worx is our agency, right? We work with growing small businesses on their branding, but as that business has grown legs of its own and has really taken on a foundation, I have found a lot of love and passion in speaking and being out in front of people. So that’s why you hear and see the Laura-Aura brand.

It’s a chance for me to really dig down into a particular area of my expertise and in turn, the exposure helps to grow our business as well. I want you to keep in mind, again, that there is not a right or wrong way for you to do this. You are your business and your business is you and your brand – whether that’s you as an individual or through an entity – should be an extension of who you are at your core, accompanied by your values, your mission and your goals for life, and something that you feel strongly about creating a branded experience that creates a positive impact in other people’s lives.

Join me for this week’s #powerback on Thursday when we talk about Hell yes’s. Look, when you’re making decisions in life, if it’s not a hell yes, it needs to be a no. So we’re gonna talk about how to apply this to your life and how it has really helped me and so many others live a more meaningful life.

Until then, follow The Gutsy Podcast on Facebook and Instagram or for more business insights, follow me on Instagram @thatlauraaura. See ya next time!

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Ep. 22: Bouncing Back from Setbacks

Setbacks can be something as little as you have to reroute your day and they can be something so monumental that you want to just crawl in your bed and stay there for the next week—or month.

Ep. 21: Mindset it EVERYTHING

“What you think is what you are.” Nothing in the world feels truer than the things we tell ourselves within our mind. So how do we manage those self-inflicting thoughts that quite nearly drain our confidence and motivation to do or be more?

Ep. 20: Identifying and Removing Toxic People

Let’s face it, approaching toxic people and saying, “You know what? I’m good. We’re not going to do this anymore,” is probably one of the more harder things to do as a human. Especially if you’re not sure how to identify these people from the start.

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