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Branding as a Noun

By definition, “branding” is a verb. When it comes to branding from a marketing perspective, it is a noun: person, place or thing. The parallels are unmistakably apparent.

Person = Personal branding

Place = Company branding

Thing = Product or service branding

Each aspect of branding has its own unique qualities, benefits, and aims. In keeping with the theme of branding as a noun, let’s take a closer look at each:

[Person] Personal Branding

– As a branding enthusiast, I would urge everyone to develop their own personal brand. Yes, e v e r y o n e. In a world of sameness, we need to create more uniqueness. The advent of the Internet and social media has made it both easier and harder to stand out in a crowded space.

Easier, in that there are sundries of outlets to express yourself. Harder, however, to reach intended audiences amongst the chatter and clutter. But the steps involved in building a personal brand are well worth the effort and can be an eye-opening self-examination, regardless of your intent to leverage it for commercial benefits or not.

Developing a personal brand is often misconstrued as seeking the next-level career move. While that certainly might be the reasoning behind it, there are other benefits for gainfully, even happily employed people, too.

I received unexpected scrutiny, years ago, during a meeting with fellow members of a key executive group when I shared that I was working on developing personal brands for 8 designers within the company. I was impassioned at the thought of working with these highly creative and talented individuals by helping build their identities and value propositions.

The pushback I received from colleagues in my peer business group was rooted in their belief that by creating personal brands I was essentially making them more marketable and desirable for our competitors.

On the contrary, I firmly believed then, as I do now, that their talents already made them attractive to the competition – with or without – a formal personal brand. More importantly, their individual personal brands would be more enticing to clients and strengthen the corporate brand.

What I discovered in this process is that by making the investment (time & money) in helping shape and build their personal brands accomplished three important things.

Sales and design awards increased. In fact, they just received a recording-breaking 27 awards this year – pardon my shameless plug for the elite designers of Ambius. I’m very proud of their continued success.

Their pride and commitment grew stronger because they felt a sense of belonging and loyalty to a company that provided them an opportunity to build their own personal brand that could thrive within the larger corporate brand.

It bolstered the overall image of the company as being the premier, award-winning design leader in plant displays and holiday décor.

And what of all those concerns about the talent becoming too marketable and then leaving the company? I am pleased to report not one of the 8 original designers that I branded over 7 years ago has left the company.

There are endless resources you can tap into to begin developing a personal brand. The first step is to begin asking and answering these three questions:

1. What do you want to be known for?
2. What qualities, talents and/or skills do you have that make you unique?
3. What are you most passionate about?

Building a personal brand on your own can be daunting for some. I often hear that it’s difficult identifying or articulating what makes one stand out. Try soliciting help from others in your network or seek out a branding-savvy professional coach.

The quest to build your personal brand needn’t be an exercise in verbose self-promotion. In fact, I would highly discourage using a personal brand as a vehicle to simply broadcast your services or talents. You can build tribes by developing an authentic, relatable, and genuine brand that conveys the essence of who you are and what you have to offer. It is possible to amplify your personal brand and not cross the fine line of ego-centric, self-promotion.

[Place] Company Branding

– There are type variations of company branding; corporate branding and employer branding. Although there is an overlap in both types, it is worth exploring the differences.

Corporate branding is the practice of promoting the brand name, identity, image of the entity.

What it is not:
Your logo
Your slogan or tagline
Your product
Your service

It is about creating a memorable experience and delivering it in a way that becomes remarkable. It is what sets you apart from the competition, attracts the audience(s) you want, and cultivates a sense of pride and belonging that you want to be associated with.

Achieving a brand standard that is consistent with your mission and core values is a great place to start. And soliciting employees and customers alike to become your brand ambassadors is essential.

There is a lot of work that goes into building, shaping, and reshaping a corporate brand. Here are 5 tips to ensure you have the right focus both internally and externally:

1. Communication – Devise ways to communicate that provide optimal exposure. Use face-to-face, media, electronic or written (handwritten is even better).

2. Touchpoints – Establish a contact strategy that provides timely, relevant information that is insightful, informative, and useful.

3. Consistency – Create compelling content that is repeated across multiple channels where viewers start to become influenced and engaged.

4. Governance – Appoint someone within the marketing team ideally that owns the brand reputation, management, and standards.

5. Listen – Whether through formal surveys, town halls or client meetings, listen to what your employees and customers have to say. Take note and then act. If you aren’t using a Net Promoter System to gauge the likelihood of your customer referring your company to others, then you ought to.

Employer branding is fast becoming a significant focus in the branding realm. Companies are scrambling to be known as a Great Place To Work, in an effort to win the war on talent.

In a tight job market, it shines the light on the importance of what a company’s employee value proposition (EVP) is. An EVP is used to define your company’s employment offering. The work put into developing a robust employer brand directly contributes to the vitality of attracting, retaining, and engaging talented candidates and employees alike.

This is where human resources management and brand management techniques intersect. The health of an employer brand has a direct impact on shaping the culture of the company and should not be overlooked.

[Thing] Product or Service Branding

– Products and services are the backbone and livelihood of any business. Without them, a company wouldn’t survive.

With that said, branding a service is different from branding a product for a variety of reasons, such as:

 Products are manufactured where services are delivered Services are provided to consumers whereas products are manufactured and distributed

 Products are used where services are experienced Services are more of an experience whereas products are tangible things to be used

 Products are tangible where services are emotional Services are to the emotional as products are to the palpable

The point being, a product can easily be judged, compared, evaluated prior to purchasing. For more on that, take a look at these 12 ways to improve product branding.

Services, on the other hand, are very personal and provide long-lasting impressions (both good and bad). When it comes to branding services, I often think of the Ritz-Carlton training I participated in where they shared the behind the scenes magic they do to provide unparalleled service underscored by their motto of, “Ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” Or the legendary extraordinary service stories from Nordstrom that I’ve heard over the years.

Service is at the heart of all great companies. Devise a service brand that exemplifies the type of company you want to be known for and then do whatever you can to ensure a consistent delivery at every touchpoint.

Your Culture is Your Brand
    Branding doesn’t end with how your customer relates to your organization. Your employee culture must also be considered. How do your company’s operatives speak about their work? About each other? Would they recommend it as a place to work? If not, they probably aren’t going to recommend its services or products.

    What do you think of branding as a noun? Are you embracing the rising trend in employer branding? Tell us about it in the comments below!



    Michelle Mariola is founder & managing director of ISH-Productions, a Chicago-based branding and marketing company whose mission is to help emerging to mid-market companies develop their marketing strategies and brand identities as well as advancement through culture coaching, leadership development, workshopping, and team engagement exercised.

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