There’s not much about our work in marketing these days that resembles the glamorous ad agency in Mad Men. We aren’t a big firm in a tower on Madison Avenue, and as I write this, let’s just say I’m dressed “casually,” and the only intoxicating beverage in my bloodstream is black coffee. (I’m also slightly less handsome than Jon Hamm).
Every once in awhile though, someone on the show will say something about advertising or marketing that makes me nod my head and say “yep, that’s right.” There’s an exchange in a recent episode where the seven partners of the big agency are arguing about their name. It’s a bit of a farce — the secretaries are complaining it’s difficult to say all seven partners’ names when they answer the phone.
They can’t decide what to do. But partner Jim Cutler points out, if they don’t settle on their brand, “the public will certainly do it for us.”
Your brand is something that you must design carefully and then insist upon. If you don’t do this, your audience will just make assumptions about you (that may be wrong), and those assumptions will be your brand.
Those are all old rules of branding, and they are still as true today as they were in 1968, when that episode takes place.
But as social media has risen in the last five years, there’s a new twist to this old wisdom. Your brand today is almost inseparable from who you are as a person. Much of the reason for this is that so much about you can be learned by following your footprints online.
There is so much information about you out there already — your LinkedIn profile, your Facebook page, the bios that might have been posted about you on the websites of your past employers, a paper you wrote in college, not to mention your address and photos on Google Street View of your house — that when you build your brand, you need to start from who you are. Because everyone is going to find out, eventually. So you might as well embrace your own, authentic identity. Your Real Brand.
What does this mean for consultants, and their websites? It means that you should make it as easy as possible for potential clients to learn about you. Even if you call your company “XYZ Consulting,” make sure your name is somewhere prominent on your site — put your photo and bio on an “About Us” page, for example. Include a link to your LinkedIn profile. (Don’t connect with professional contacts on Facebook unless you really do become “friends.” You should have some boundaries).
Because anyone considering doing business with you is going to Google you anyway. If you’re mysterious about who you are, your potential client might just move on to the next consultant, whose past work, identity, and “real” brand are easier to find.