As the concept of personal branding has grown in popularity, it has raised questions about personal brands in comparison to business brands — what’s the difference between a personal brand and a business brand? Which is better if I am an entrepreneur starting a business? Do I need a personal brand as a business owner? How do I differentiate my personal brand from the company I work for?
In this blog post we will help answer these questions by explaining what personal brands and business brands are and examine their key differences and commonalities.
We will also look at a new branding trend brought on by the creator economy and popularity of side hustles in which personal brands and business brands are converging and overlap more than they have traditionally.
Read on for our personal brand vs. business brand breakdown.
A personal brand is the culmination of an individual’s reputation, values, personality, interests, and passions.
These characteristics are exemplified in day-to-day interactions, as well as communicated intentionally via marketing and communications channels like social media.
While a personal brand is based on what an audience thinks of an individual and the personal brand attributes they associate them with, actively working to influence that perceived reputation is the act of personal branding.
A simple way to think about it is to view a personal brand as the impression people have of an individual, and the concept of working to influence that impression as the act of personal branding. Using this framework, branding activities like creating content on social media are designed to give the public a certain impression of an individual—that resulting impression is the individual’s brand.
A business brand, or corporate brand as it is also called, is the reputation an organization is associated with.
This reputation is made up of characteristics like an organization’s values, its vision for its products and services, and the tone with which the company and its representatives communicate. A business brand often communicates what an organization stands for, what it offers to customers, and the style with which it approaches its business operations, products and services.
A business brand’s reputation comes across through its communications and marketing efforts, as well as through the interactions the public has with the people who work there, like executives and customer service representatives.
A logo is likely the first thing people think of when they think of branding, and it is an example of those brand communication efforts, as a brand logo visually communicates a company’s values and vision. Things like websites, writing tone on social media, and social responsibility programs are examples of other initiatives and assets that help to exemplify a business brand’s characteristics and impact the impression the brand gives people.
The primary difference between a personal brand and a business brand is the focus on the values of the individual vs. the shared values and characteristics of a group or corporate entity.
For example, Gary Vaynerchuk’s personal branding efforts focus on communicating his personal values and the value he wants to offer others, with those efforts focusing on entrepreneurship, business lessons, and personal development. Whereas his businesses like VaynerMedia have a different brand voice, with VaynerMedia’s communications focused on showcasing the culture the company has developed for its employees, and explaining the value they offer to clients through their marketing agency services.
Another key difference when comparing personal brand vs. business brand communications can be found in the tone and style with which they communicate. Being focused on the narrative of the individual, personal brands tend to be built using first-person communication, with phrases like “I did this,” “here is what I learned,” and “I’d like to share” exemplifying the way many individuals with strong personal brands communicate. Their narratives and the content they create focus on sharing their insights, expertise, and personal journeys in order to deliver their audiences value.
On the other end of the spectrum, business brands communicate with a style that focuses on the perspective and common interests of an organization and its employees and stakeholders. Communication from business brands on social media, websites, and other marketing channels are often written with phrases like “our organization,” “our team,” “our customers,” etc. as the organization’s communications team works to deliver their company’s shared values.
The value that an individual seeks from their brand and the value a business seeks from theirs have overlap, as that value generally falls into categories like audience growth, monetization and revenue, and reputation management.
Personal brand goals focus on the value an individual wishes to create for themselves through more intentional communication and audience building, and business brand goals usually center on growth metrics related to the business.
Business brand goal examples might include improving brand sentiment among consumers, or increasing brand exposure in order to drive more revenue for a business’s products or services. Personal brand goals examples can include things like network growth in order to yield employment opportunities, or monetizing a personal brand by selling products and services.
While unique to every individual and organization, brand goals tend to fit shared categories when analyzed at a high level.
In addition to common characteristics for brand goals, the approaches an individual can take to grow their brand are similar to the approaches a business can take. This is because brand development can be boiled down to fundamentals:
An individual wanting to grow their personal brand would follow this framework just like a business would.
For example, if a corporate brand wants to grow its social media presence on LinkedIn, their marketing team would develop a LinkedIn marketing strategy that defines their niche target audience, and the content they will use to grow a following on LinkedIn. An individual with the goal of creating a presence for their personal brand on LinkedIn would follow the same blueprint, as they identify their target audience and a content strategy catering to that audience.
Not only are brand goals like monetization and audience growth similar for corporate brands and personal brands, the mechanisms used to achieve those goals also have similarities.
Use this personal brand framework to define your own audience, content strategy, and personal brand marketing channels.
Now that we’ve explained how business brands and personal brands differ if we’re taking a purely binary approach, it’s time to look at a growing trend that raises interesting brand strategy questions: personal brands and business brands converging.
Historically when an entrepreneur started a business they would brand the business separately from their name. Elon Musk founded Tesla and SpaceX, Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook, etc. But trends like the creator economy and growing popularity of side hustles see more people building one-person businesses using their own names as their brand, and in turn making their personal brand marketing efforts their primary marketing efforts.
Creators like Justin Welsh and Niharikaa Kaur Sodhi are leading examples of solo entrepreneurs who have turned their personal brands into businesses. Rather than starting a separate brand for their businesses, these creators used their personal names. Welsh, for example, has a link to his personal brand website in his Twitter bio where he sells his courses and digital products. Kaur Sodhi links to her digital products for sale via her Gumroad account that is created in her own name.
These creators developed products and services under their personal names, and developed marketing funnels for those products and services by growing social media, blog, and newsletter channels under their personal names. This approach presents itself as an interesting alternative branding option for someone looking to develop an audience online.
In exploring the difference between personal brand and business brand goals, strategy, and execution there are certainly key differences, but the commonalities and strategy frameworks that apply to both are important to understand.
Each of the brand strategies outlined in this blog post has their own pros and cons, and it’s up to you to determine whether a personal brand independent of your business brand is the best fit for you, or if going all in on your personal brand and making it your business is the better approach.
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