Jon Michail is Founder & Group CEO of Image Group International & best-selling author of Life Branding. Follow him on LinkedIn & Twitter.

When facing the prospect of entering the entrepreneurial landscape, the consideration of whether to start with personal branding versus business branding can feel like flipping a coin—a 50/50 outcome based on the centuries-old tradition of heads or tails.

That emotional roller-coaster ride is understandable. It isn’t every day that business people find themselves at the intersection of “either/or” turns. However, we know that the coin-toss approach (referred to in the Roman era as “heads or ships”) is far from prudent. Even a “fair” coin comes with a bias, depending on whatever side is facing up when it is flipped into the air. But it need not come down to how the coin rolls to a clattering stop for entrepreneurs to pick a personal or business brand before running off with it toward some sense of financial prosperity.

That coin-flip impartiality extends to plumping for personal branding over business branding. Put another way, “heads” should be at the helms of the “ships” when taking a risk to ply the fiscal waters of the commercial oceans. It’s a no-brainer.

To comprehend the head start a personal approach has over a business one demands defining “branding.” It is what switches on the neon lights of your entity so it stands out among other rivals in a hectic business district. That’s how a sea of clients and customers identifies with your enterprise. It’s more than just some hackneyed emblem. Branding is the sum of the parts of values entrenched in logos, names, slogans, uniforms, packaging and other such indicators that distinguish your products and services from the competitors.

How the business brand and its “personal” alternative share similarities and differences provides clear pathways to marketing strategies:

• Business Brand: While it shares the promotional platform, this type of branding encompasses intangible values.

• Personal Branding: This equates to the human factor. Business icons become walking, talking billboards of credibility, not just within the parameters of an enterprise but beyond it.

So why the personal brand first?

Simple. It’s a ritual that has stood the test of time, no matter how huge a technological stride may be in forming the commercial contours of engagement. No one encapsulated that better than the late Zig Ziglar. “If people like you, they’ll listen to you, but if they trust you, they’ll do business with you” was the author/motivational speaker’s edict.

The examples of how personality cuts across countless boundaries to connect with consumers is evident in the swath of fast-food, soda and footwear giants who sign lucrative deals with sports superstars to promote their products and services.

The power of personality is seen, for example, in the Colonel Harland Sanders story, where the founder of KFC continued to be the symbol and brand ambassador for his finger-licking chicken even after his death in 1980. The Colonel bucks the trend of businesses changing their names and brands not long after the owner dies. He was the face of KFC before his death, but more importantly, he maintains and enhances the ambassadorial brand posthumously.

It’s about integrity and trust.

Key individuals drive a company’s marketing campaign. The establishment’s name and insignia are no longer enough. That’s even more true today, when trust seems to be at the lowest level in memory. Someone needs to become the “face” and identity that builds credibility and instills trust. How that pans out goes a fair way in determining the effectiveness of an emblem. Word of mouth is the leader’s hero.

“More than eight in 10 global respondents [83%] say they completely or somewhat trust the recommendations of friends and family,” according to Neilsen’s “Global Trust in Advertising” report in 2015. That trustworthiness isn’t confined to the filial and social circles. Consumers’ posts online also count.

While such studies could be more updated, there’s no sidestepping the significance of an astute leader to help represent their brand. Entrepreneurs who drop a brand leader’s name and vision around associated industries in boardrooms can enhance that company’s reputation tenfold.

Identity illuminates branding.

Having knowledge and creating a quality product or service are important cornerstones of any commercial interest. However, clients and customers want to be associated with businesses that champion communal values. The leaders of enterprises become the identity that shines the light on those principles well after knock-off time. Done well, those principles tend to not only breathe life into an intangible brand but also become its soul.

A thought leader is ideal for such a portfolio. A mover and shaker who isn’t a know-it-all. Just someone who has a knack for looking outside the box to identify elements of a business that inspire and spur not only employees into action but also the industry and market. The leader becomes the catalyst for spawning numerous avenues to add value to the company emblem.

No matter what type, brands evolve.

Just as businesses tend to refresh their logos after a few years, personal branding also needs a facelift. Companies tend to time changes to reflect the shift in their marketing strategies. They may do so to sustain their rapport with an evolving customer base while maintaining time-worn traditions.

Even a family-run enterprise leader whose personal brand still works magic recognizes the need for a fresh face for a mutating market. An offspring can be that new blood or, in the case of a non-family entity, a contemporary successor who aligns with the company’s values and has the potential to maintain instilling that sense of trustworthiness its clients have become accustomed to.

Business and personal branding overlap.

The two brands should feed off each other. If they don’t, then something’s wrong with the entrepreneurial formula.

Consider any lovable character in an animated film; picking a celebrity to become its voice can be the difference between an “oh, yeah” production or a box-office hit. That takes us to the chicken-and-egg question: “Can I start with the business brand before the personal one?”

Definitely. Animated characters typify that. However, it’s important to keep in mind that tapping celebrity voices has taken characters to another realm with global audiences.

Leveraging one type of brand to grow another is smart business.


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By AKDSEO