Proficiency in technological advancement aside, Apple (the electronics brand, not the fruit) has mastered the art of branding, which is proven, time and again, when its strategy overshadows the game-changing products it systematically unveils.
In fact, an article on VentureBeat published post-developers’ conference earlier this month suggests that the corporate giant – and one of the most profitable companies in the world – “is only 30 percent about the tech and 70 percent about the branding.”
If you buy into that statement (and I do, among most of Apple’s products), there’s a lesson to be learned about how to build a brand, even on a personal level. As a freelance writer and small business owner, I try to emulate Apple’s strategy, however minutely, in hopes of achieving my career goals and a small measure of success – and I’ve decided to detail those methods.
Read through some of the methods I explain here and let me know what you think. Are you building your personal brand the same way? Have you experienced success with any of these methods? Do you completely disagree with me? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
1. Establish Your Identity
Perhaps not at first, but beginning in the mid-80s, Apple established itself as The Fonz to Microsoft’s Richie Cunningham. Apple saw value in being the people’s computer company. That identity ethos is much like the one I’ve adopted in my copywriting and creative consulting brand, Paper Rox Scissors. I wanted Paper Rox Scissors to be the edgy alternative to the stuffier advertising and marketing firms. The copy I provide is hipper, more romantic than what you might get from a company that follows “the rules.” At Paper Rox Scissors, I have no rules, per se. Rather, I strive to provide copy that captures the energy of the dynamic brands that make up my roster.
2. Keep Your Brand Consistent
Consistency is key for any brand – and with Apple, it’s the consistency of its high-quality, innovative products that compel customers to stand in line for hours (sometimes even days) to be the first in their social circle to have the hottest new toy on the market. I don’t have a tangible product to sell so my personal brand consistency is built through my photo (or Paper Rox Scissors logo where applicable) on my myriad social networks. I use the same image of myself on Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, etc. I use the Paper Rox Scissors logo on my Facebook and LinkedIn business profiles. The purpose for this is to associate my face or logo with the Mikey Rox brand. When I change my images on Facebook (which I don’t do often and haven’t in over two years), I use that same image to update my profiles on the other networks, too.
3. Give Yourself a Defining Characteristic
When I ride the subway around New York City, I spot no less than five sets of white earbuds on every car I’m in. Before Apple launched the iPod, headphones were generally black and indistinguishable brand to brand. But Apple changed the game and solidified its status as experts in branding by making headphones white, a color that also defines much of its marketing to create its signature clean aesthetic. Recently I was hired by a British company to film a series of Web videos on personal-finance topics and I thought about how I could give myself a defining characteristic that would be recognizable from one video to the next. I chose one of my favorite accessories, solid-colored trucker hats. By branding my look, my goal is to create a sense of consistency throughout the series even when the topics change.
4. Put Your Name (or Logo) on Everything
Many companies use stylized script logos that spell out their name, but all Apple needs is a single icon that is recognized the world around – a brilliant achievement in itself. Your personal brand, however, may very well just be your name, and how can you build a brand with a common name? My first strategy was to change my name to something unique, much like entertainers do. I chose Mikey Rox (you didn’t think that’s my real name, did you?) because it has that energy I discussed early, it’s easy to pronounce and remember, and it’s press savvy. Once I chose the name, I had to build it, and to do that I slapped Mikey Rox on everything – my bylines, for sure, but also other items, like my license plate, for instance. And it’s the license plate, believe it or not, that has resulted in the most feedback. When I moved from Baltimore to NYC four years ago, I left my car at home with parents. To this day, I have people consistently sending me text messages or posting on my Facebook about how they saw Mikey Rox, the car, driving around town. If my name is on your mind when you’re on your way to the grocery store, I think I’ve done a fairly decent job building my personal brand.
5. Use Social Media to Spread the Word
When Apple holds its developers’ conferences or plans to make any announcements, the Web – especially Facebook and Twitter – is abuzz. Nobody’s ever going to have the same kind of interest in the articles I’ve written or the projects that I’m working on, but within my small online community there are people who care. Those people may choose to share my work with members of their own community, too, so I’m keen to use social media as a means to disseminate my brand to as many more people as I can. If you think social networking doesn’t work for personal brands, I can personally debunk your erroneous theory. I’ve been hired several times by different friends of Facebook friends because they were impressed by the quality of my work. At the end of the day, that’s what this is all about – building a reputation for quality that people trust enough to want to buy that book, or read your articles, or pay you for your personal skills. Whatever it is, it all equals money in the bank.