Branding Agency; Design, Communications, Brand

Picture of Richard Bransons book
Personal Branding and Branding: What’s the Difference?

“Aren’t I my own brand?” 

A lot of our entrepreneur clients confuse branding (what we do) with personal branding (which we don’t) – especially those whose company name is their own name.

If you want to scale your business though, your personal brand and your business brand should be treated as two separate entities (think of Stella McCartney the person and Stella McCartney the fashion label.) 

When you start your business, you may just get by on the strength of your personality and reputation alone, especially if you’ve had an illustrious career, are well-connected and well-liked in your industry.

But if you’re entering a new market or want to grow your business, as you start to hire more staff or open new offices – you simply cannot be everywhere.

Even if you’re only hiring a part-time VA to help you out, if anything they do touches your clients, then your brand is no longer just about you.

Both branding and personal branding help build your business – so what’s the difference?

Personal Branding

Your personal brand centres around you as an individual, the figurehead of your company. This includes:

  • Your professional character and personality. Your public (or publicised) opinions, views and thoughts
  • How you manage yourself and your reputation, especially in times of crisis
  • How you show up in real life, on video, online, in social media and in search. There are even companies to ‘clean up’ your social media history and polish up your personal brand if need be!
  • Your image – your body language, wardrobe, grooming, voice.

Much more than just the visual – although your look is a powerful way to communicate what you want to convey.

Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Sheryl Sandberg and Oprah Winfrey all have powerful personal brands. They are the public face and persona of the companies they front. Of course, these people are so intertwined with the company brands that any negative press (e.g off-colour tweets or data-misuse disasters) impacts on them both.

One of the best examples of a fantastic, evolving, personal brand (despite no company – yet!) is Michelle Obama. She has garnered credibility, support, admirers and ardent fans for what she has achieved, her values, her views, the way she conducts herself. Michelle is bright, humane, engaging and real: consistent, honest and true in her views. She is not afraid to speak out and address serious issues, yet she’s also funny and self-deprecating (watch her in Carpool Karaoke here!). 

She also uses her wardrobe to cleverly communicate her personal brand. When Barack was in charge, Michelle patriotically championed US designers with chic, tailored and demure dresses befitting of her role as the President’s wife.

By the end of 2018 though, she rocked up to the last night of her book tour wearing $4,000 thigh-high silver-sequinned boots and a billowy, silky yellow dress, split daringly to the thigh.


Michelle rocks Balenciaga

That Balenciaga outfit was a massive sign to the world that she’d rebranded herself and was enjoying the freedom and fun of not being First Lady any more.

First Impressions COUNT

We could all be more Michelle. OK, not those boots perhaps! But first impressions count and Michelle was making a strong statement with what she wore that day. 

People decide if they’re going to do business with you within seven seconds of meeting you. So your personal branding could be costing you more than you know.

Male or female, your clothes, accessories and grooming matter. (Did you also know that people take businesswomen who wear makeup – but not too much! – more seriously than those who don’t? Judgemental, perhaps, but true.)

If you need help with your social media and personal presence, PR management, presentation style or voice-coaching, these are all also part of your personal branding too.

Working on your personal branding allows your amazing knowledge and personality to shine through without prospects being distracted by your ill-fitting outfit, too-high voice or distracting mannerisms. 

Personal branding also helps if you want to move your career on or project yourself in a new role, as Michelle did.

For example, I went for a restyle when I started to get more speaking roles. I’d seen myself on video, wearing a black dress and was shocked. I looked like a ‘floating head’ blended into the dark-clad crowd! My stylist, the amazing  Jo Baldwin-Trott, told me that black is “a colour to hide in”. I realised I needed a ‘speaker wardrobe’ to help me stand out and create more impact on stage – so that was my brief to her.

After a colour consultation, Jo culled my wardrobe (I’m a Cool Winter so my beloved blacks survived!) and took me shopping. In came sharper cuts in bright red, fuchsia pink, cobalt blue and emerald green – my speaker wardrobe!

I still love black for meetings. It totally ties in with my look as a designer and it’s one of my company colours. I may add a pop of red – my other brand colour – in a bag, coat or now, my (soon to be published) book!


Dressing in my client’s brand colours

You might choose to wear your corporate colours to look more ‘on brand’, or even wear one of your client’s brand colours if you are going to meet them for the first time. It’s a subliminal thing, but they will feel you ‘get them’ in those first vital few seconds. 

A lot of department stores offer free personal styling sessions. So take advantage and book yourself into a few. Give them a brief and the stylist will go round and find lots of things for you to try whilst you chill in a private room. Likely they’ll find things you would have never considered so keep an open mind. Oh, and if you’ve had your colours done (we totally recommend this) you’ll look even better and feel more confident in what you wear. You can be more experimental and still make fewer shopping mistakes.

Find a personal stylist or personal brand consultant near you whose style you resonate with. To find out more, watch Jo Baldwin-Trott and me in this video below.

Of course the same applies to your branding…

So what is branding?

Branding is not about you, it’s more about your company. This is what our company focuses on. 

Now, a lot of entrepreneurs think that getting a logo done means that’s their branding sorted. We do a one-day Branding Workshop and you can almost hear the jaws drop when they realise it’s so much more than that.

Branding is not just a logo.

Think about it. Nobody ever felt passionate about, or loyal to, a logo.

It is what makes your brand promise ‘real’ or tangible. Branding helps your company clearly communicate its value to the world, even when you’re not in the room.

We also like to think of branding as your brand vision (company ambition) and your customer’s vision (ideal brand experience) coming together.

As Alina Wheeler said, there’s an emotional connection too. 

This is where we develop your brand values, brand personality and brand voice – the heart, soul and communication part of your brand.

When people feel aligned to these values, they become loyal brand fans, repeat customers and passionate advocates for your company.

Only then do we start designing your brand identity, choosing the correct typefaces, colours and imagery to communicate this bigger brand vision. 

The combination of all these elements affect your audience on a conscious, subconscious, emotional and psychological level and builds understanding and connection over time.

Consistent application of them is important. This will build brand recognition, familiarity and trust as your company will look established, professional and sure of itself.

Beware though, the wrong choice for any one of these elements can repel people from your brand just as the right ones can attract them.

Don’t believe me? Imagine if the Gucci logo (original, top) was in Comic Sans (bottom) and nothing else changed. Is it still a desirable, high-end brand?


Your choice of brand typeface is more important than you might think

If that all sounds a lot to think about – don’t worry.

Our simple six-step VISION process will open your eyes to the power of branding.



Get in touch to find out how we can help you get brand clarity, stand out and supercharge your business growth. We call it ‘Branding that means Business’.




© 2020 InnerVisions ID Branding Consultancy

Theme by Anders Norén