Why personal branding is relevant to business

When you talk about personal branding to employers, many are not interested. For them, they consider personal branding all about making the employee more valuable, which means that the employee may become more expensive and look to move elsewhere. Hardly something they want to invest in.

But what they fail to realise is that every time a customer interacts with their business through their staff, the customer is interacting with a person who has a personal brand. Now, that employee may not be conscious of their personal brand, but this doesn’t mean that they don’t have one.

What impression does the employee create? Are they presenting themselves in a manner appropriate with the business and its brand? Are the employee’s values in line with the business values? If the company values customer service highly, is this reflected in the behaviour of the employee? Whenever you have negative experiences with a business it is usually down to your interaction with a person and their attitude. Often, if senior management are made aware of the problem it is quickly addressed. And let’s not forget, customer service isn’t something that is restricted to the customer service department. Internally within a business, every employee has customers. Their customers will include their fellow team members, other teams they interact with and suppliers.

Look at it from a different perspective. Let’s say your business is one of many in a highly competitive market where there is little differentiation in the service or product offering. For example, professional services such as accountants or lawyers. Typically in these businesses, the professionals will all have similar qualifications and backgrounds. By the nature of what they do, it is standard fair. So, what helps them to stand apart? The people! People do business with people. So, it follows that the most successful people will be those that have great people skills and act authentically and consistently. Isn’t that the sort of person you’d rather have in your team?

So now tell me that Personal Branding isn’t relevant to business.

Branding in a business is often thought of as belonging to the marketing department. But in fact it straddles the whole organisation. Everyone in the organisation has a part to play in bringing the corporate brand to life. A brand breathes through its people. It’s the X-factor that separates the stars from the wannabe’s.

Staff attitudes, what they say, how they look, what they do, what people say about them, and their office environment. These factors will not only influence what you think of the individual, but the company they work for. It all contributes to the overall brand.

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When Branding and Marketing collide

With news this week that Ryanair are considering making some of its passengers stand during flights in a bid to squeeze as many as 30% more people on board, I couldn’t help but think that Ryanair must be getting a little bit confused.

ryanair468x286On the one hand they are trying to make more money. Well, you can’t have a go at them for that. That’s what all businesses are trying to do. And, in this current climate, the airlines are having a tough old time. But on the other, each action they take to bring them closer to the money is moving them away from the long term win; a brand that inspires loyalty and trust. That is where the real money is.

There appear to be two forces at play here so let me introduce you to the terrible twins; Branding and Marketing. Twins because they are often confused for one another.

But first, let’s just go back to basics for a moment. What is Marketing anyway?

The Chartered Institute of Marketing, which is the world’s largest marketing body, defines marketing as “The management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.” Notice that last word, “profitably“. Also, notice the word “satisfying“. Mmmm.

ryanairSo, in the name of profit, Ryanair have come up with a load of ideas to generate more money;
Charge to use toilets on board
Get passengers to carry all of their own luggage onto planes
• Abolish check-in facilities and demand that all passengers check in online at a cost of £5.

Our favourite is the 2-in-1 sick-bag cum send-your-film-off-for-development envelope. Genius!

But what about the other twin, Branding? Well, a company invests in branding because of the benefits that come with a good brand. A good brand:
• Delivers your brand message clearly
• Gets your audience to think that you are the ONLY solution to their problem
• Confirms your credibility
• Connects to your target audience emotionally
• Motivates your buyer into action
• Builds loyalty over the long-term so buyers keep coming back

So, in the name of marketing, O’Leary is doing everything he can to squeeze more profit out of his operation. And he’s being quite innovative with it. The trouble is, it’s not the sort of innovation that wins brownie points (a.k.a. happy paying customers). It seems that when Ryanair had their brainstorming away day, the branding team weren’t invited. If they were, someone would have been standing up for the poor paying customers. Someone would have been asking some tough questions about why the customer experience is being destroyed. Destroyed so much, that there are now masses of travellers that will do anything they can to AVOID travelling with them. One angry blogger has even gone as far as setting up www.ihateryanair.co.uk.

It seems as though Ryanair just don’t get it. The whole branding thing I mean. If they could successfully engage their customers on an emotional level (preferably nice positive emotions like love and delighted, not emotions like anger and hate), then customers would choose to travel with them. Some might even pay a little bit more. Imagine that Mr O’Leary?

ryanair-staff-nappingSo, we thought we’d come up with a few ideas of our own. After all, it looks like he needs all the help he can get.

• Ryanair Express store selling over-priced packed lunch ingredients and sandwich fillings for customers to make their own lunch before coming on board. Advise customers that if they require a preparation surface they can use the baby-changing facilities.
• Sell customers oxygen masks and a choice of getaway devices, from slides to parachutes
• Charge customers a monthly subscription to access the website
• Oblige customers to undergo steward training, in preparation for the no-staff service.
• Sell customers Ryanair uniforms in Duty Free, in case the staff are free of duty and absent
• £100 soiling charge if you wet your seat from not paying the £5 toilet charge

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What’s the secret to a great brand?


Apple has attained what a lot of brands can only dream of: avid loyal fan-atics who act as brand-ambassadors without prompt. How do they do this?Here’s one way, the Apple Brand Experience.

As a relatively recent Apple convert, I am still at that early stage of wonder and curiosity as I walk the path otherwise known as the Apple Brand Experience. So far, I have collected a number of really positive experiences since acquiring my beautiful little macbook. The most notable one so far is the fact that my macbook works. Yes! Simple things. And, it works when I want it to work. This makes a refreshing change from my PC days. Each day, I continue to be in awe at how smoothly it runs. Surely, this was too good to be true… Was it all about to horribly wrong? In a word, yes.

A few weeks ago, during Easter bank holiday weekend, a horrid cold forced me to spend the weekend in bed watching back-to-back episodes of Lost. I enjoyed it actually. Amazed at how long my battery was lasting, I just kept moving onto the next episode. But, the inevitable happened, so, before starting the next episode I crawled out of bed to get my lead. I plugged it in. Nothing. Nada. No little green or red LED. Nothing. Zip. Diddlysquat! No matter how much I wriggled the lead, the little LED’s just weren’t showing up. And I only had 20 minutes of juice left! AND…. It was bank holiday weekend! Aaargh! Suddenly, the sweat on my forehead had an entirely different composition.

The next 20 minutes were spent frantically searching the interweb for anything on the Magsafe power lead. Lost was soon a distant memory. A few forums later and I’m now a little wiser on the subject of the Magsafe power lead. They’re not all that great apparently. Some say a little bit delicate, too delicate. Others think that it’s not that well designed, especially when you compare it to other Mac stuff. And others still complain of theirs dying just after the warranty expires. Typical! But, time was running out. I needed to focus. First, I checked my warranty. Phew, another 2 weeks left! Second. I found the list of local resellers where I could get it fixed. Third. Emailed friends with Macs to see if I could borrow their lead. And relax.


After two painful days with minimal mac usage (damn bank holidays!) the day came for me to take my little macbook to be fixed. To avoid potential embarrassment, I checked both my lead and my friend’s lead. After all, I would not look very cool bringing in the lead that worked. But, both leads worked! What?! Now I’m not sure what’s worse. A lead that is faulty, or a lead that was faulty once and now isn’t… but might be faulty any minute now. How could I take the lead back - it worked! But, now I didn’t trust it. Weird concept, not trusting a lead.

Well now Apple. What are you going to do now? My brand experience has been shattered. I’ve lost trust in you. How can you possibly recover from this one? This question interested me, as both a marketer and a consumer. A week went by and the rawness of the experience started to fade. Time is a healer, right?

And, then I find myself with a spare 15 minutes in between meetings and I’m near the Regent Street Apple store. Well, it would have been rude not to go in. I had never been in an Apple store before, so this was potentially quite exciting. Maybe, I could talk to a real person about my problem. The power-lead one.


I was a little apprehensive about walking in. Everyone inside the store looked far too cool. Would they let me in? I might get rumbled as an Apple newbie and get sent out again. I put my Ipod on to make myself feel better.

Once inside, I was in awe. As a retail space, it was quite incredible. It didn’t feel like a store at all, more like Apple World. There were zones, workshops, one-to-one training sessions, and people using products, everywhere. I made an enquiry about my problem and was advised that it would be best to bring my little macbook in so they could have a look at it. On my way out, I picked up a program of events for the month. After all, as a newbie, I could probably do with attending the “Going from a PC to a Mac” workshop at some point.

My next Apple retail experience was in their shiny new store in the Westfield centre, where, armed with my little macbook, I turned up as the doors opened. A very helpful, very cool guy welcomed me into the store and listened as I explained the problem. We walked together to the counter at the back. I was thankful for this, as I’m sure I would have got ejected for not looking cool enough if I was on my own. As he opened my Mac, he noticed a crack that had appeared near my mouse pad. I tried to hide it, as I was sure he would be thinking that I didn’t treat my mac with enough respect. He suggested that my lead connector might be loose, but that if I get my casing replaced under warranty, the connector could be done at the same time. And, while he was tinkering under my Apple bonnet, he also noted how slow my machine was. So he prodded and poked for a bit. Then he let me know that my machine should run a lot quicker from now on. Fantastic! I skipped out of the store with my new slicker, faster machine and the AppleCare phone number. All ready for stage 2. Result!

In an effort to test Apple, I decided to call AppleCare, on the last day of my warranty. Well, no. Actually I forgot. But, these things don’t matter in Apple World. I called and spoke to a very cool guy. Well, his voice sounded cool. I imagined him sitting at work in his jeans, scruffy white designer T-shirt, and trainers. Hair ruffled, but in a styled way. Like I said, cool. He created an Apple file just for me for me, which detailed my problem, and then he gave me a unique Apple number. I felt very important. But, I needed to be put on hold for a bit while he raised the paperwork. As my sense of importance diminished somewhat, I listened to some cool music. Then he came back, assured me that everything would get fixed free of charge under warranty and reminded me to have a great day. I did.

Now for the Big Fix. This was where it could go horribly wrong again. As I don’t have a local Apple store, I have to use a reseller to fix my little macbook. The marketer in me was once more very interested in how this next stage was going to play out. We marketers know that the challenge for brand owners when they outsource is ensuring that the brand experience is maintained. Outsourcing customer-facing aspects of your business can be risky, as it is here on the front line, that brand loyalty can be won or lost.

But I needn’t worry. Apple has clearly picked a very good organisation in my area. Once again, I was faced with super-cool staff and excellent customer service. I was so impressed with how it was all going that I forgot about my untrustworthy lead and got way too excited at the prospect of having new casing. I know. I should get out more. Well I am planning to go to the Apple workshop next time I’m in London.

So here I am now with my new shiny white casing, and I still have a lead that might stop working at any time. But, do I care? NO! In fact, I’m delighted. I have a new set of keys to tap away on that I can see (my E had disappeared), my mouse pad feels slick and fast, and I have no crack in sight.

2304078792Great brands know that if they have a customer in distress, it is a ripe opportunity to turn that customer into a loyal brand advocate. After all, the real test of a brand’s strength is how well the situation is managed. We are all human, and as customers we accept that mistakes can happen. It’s how we are treated in that situation that will colour our opinion. In my situation, Apple could have sorted the lead situation out no problem. But as a customer, what difference would I have noticed in my brand experience? However, now I have shiny new casing with new keys that I can now read again, and a mouse pad that seems even more efficient than it was before. So even though my brand experience wasn’t really in question (bar the lead), I am now even more in love with my little macbook. So, I’m more than happy.

And you know what? If the lead dies, well, c’est la vie! We can’t all be perfect.

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