Building a personal brand—that is, a business persona that is based on you—is not easy. There are a lot of decisions and choices to be made in what can seem like a very complicated process. It doesn’t have to be that way. Crafting an authentic personal brand really just boils down to knowing yourself.
Developing a Personal Brand
Recently, I had the unique opportunity to spend a few days with the NIOXIN US Top Artist Team while they went through an intense training program. This training had nothing to do with cut, color, or styling (although, we did get to see some of that while we shot photos and video for our Master Guide to Thinning Hair eBook series), it was all about creating a personal brand.
Top Artists for any manufacturing company usually have to wear a few hats: they are stage performers, educators, and spokespeople. The umbrella term for all of these roles is typically “brand ambassadors”, and typically they fulfill all of these duties while running a salon business of their own.
Having this many responsibilities at once is overwhelming enough, but there is one other caveat to this coveted position: in order to represent a brand, you have to develop one for yourself. This is a complicated process of its own and I’ve seen many small business owners and independent contractors struggle with it.
While it was great to see that NIOXIN was so supportive of helping their artists through the difficult process of developing their own brand, it became clear early on that the sheer amount of information to be processed was making it difficult to determine where to start.
Top agencies were brought in for seminars on brand development and social media strategy—and there were some very compelling and interesting insights to be learned. But building a personal brand, in an industry that centers around personal relationships and care, really has nothing at all to do with brand strategy and everything to do with people.
Corporate Brands v. Personal Brands
Not all branding is created equal. While at the end of the day all brands ultimately exist for the same goal—to sell a product or service—the avenues for doing so are different depending on whether it is a corporate brand or a personal one.
Corporate brands rely on advertising, marketing strategies, analytics, and projections to win over potential customers from their competition. Alternatively, personal brands rely on cultivating a unique, highly targeted and incredibly loyal fan base. Both approaches have their pluses and minuses, but to keep things simple let’s think of branding in terms of haircolor:
Corporate brands are like a base color, personal brands are like well-placed highlights and lowlights.
You need the base color to form a foundation, create the basis of the color palette and provide a background for the different tonal variations to really pop. Your highlights and lowlights take the overall look to the next level.
And so it is with brand ambassadors. A corporate brand—like NIOXIN—may have fantastic products, a solid strategy and tons of useful assets, but the very nature of corporate brands is to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, making it tricky to develop deep relationships with individual customer groups.
Whereas a personal brand is completely based on those close relationships. By creating a strong network of brand ambassadors that truly reflect the ethos and persona of the corporate brand, you get the best of both worlds.
IF you do right.
Before you brand
The key to having a healthy, sustainable personal brand that encourages organic growth (which is the entire point of creating one in the first place) is knowing who you are.
This is a big question and not one that we are all necessarily totally clear on. But it is possible to make some headway if you’re willing to do a little personal exploration.
Start off simple:
- What do you do? (for now, let’s just focus on your profession)
- What are 3 words that would describe your personality?
- What’s your style? (classic? Modern? Retro? Quirky?—jot down a few key descriptive terms)
- What are your main interests? (write down a couple of hobbies)
- Secondary interests? (you may not be involved in them directly, but there is an interest there.
- What kind of friend are you? (supportive? Fun and outgoing? Caring? Get a friend to help if you don’t know)
These questions can help you get started in a direction in which to take your personal brand, but it doesn’t end there. The types of responses that you gather from these questions can help you begin to develop your brand look, voice, and begin to create a network.
You are NOT your brand
One key thing to remember: your brand is an extension of who you are, but it’s not a direct reflection. There are certain aspects of your life and personality that won’t really relate to your brand, and that’s a good thing.
For example, the brand that I am a part of —Industrie—and I share similar foundational traits, (like our core values, for instance) but I have interests, goals, and relationships outside of my “Industrie world”.
I have learned over time that some of those interests dovetail nicely with Industrie’s (personal growth and a love of the arts, for example) and some do not (i.e.: british comedy, politics, and a pretty wide “geek-streak”). While there is some overlap, for the most part, I maintain a clear line of delineation between my personal life and my involvement in my brand.
The way it was best described to me is that a brand is more like a child than anything else. It has some of your characteristics, grows under your guidance, but ultimately—has its own life and personality.
When multiple personal brands work together
Having multiple personal brands work together can be an excellent way to achieve growth. If you are a business owner, perhaps, and want to convert some of your more successful employees into brand ambassadors or run a booth rental salon and want to encourage growth within your renters, encouraging a “team” atmosphere has multiple benefits.
It starts with identifying who makes up that team. In the case of the NIOXIN Top Artist team, they chose wisely. Each member has enough similarities to keep the feel cohesive, and enough differences to keep things interesting and attract a varied audience.
Mirella Roti Sementilli
A long-standing artist and mentor, Mirella has been in the beauty industry for more than 30 years. She comes from a strong family background of hairdressing (her brother is the late Wella Education Director Fabio Sementilli) and specializes in long-hair dressing and updos.
Mirella is a unique woman, she exudes strength and stability, like someone that you know that you can count on. She has a bit of a perfectionist streak, which no doubt makes her an exemplary educator. While the overall impression from meeting Mirella is that she is professional, put-together and very much in control of herself and her surroundings, there is a deeply caring undercurrent to her persona.
It becomes very clear that family is incredibly important to Mirella, and connectedness. She cares deeply about those in her life, and how she can help to better theirs.
A co-owner of Union Salon in gorgeous Vancouver, British Columbia. Anthony is also a Canadian reality T.V. competition winner. As adept with color as he is with cutting and styling, Anthony has a deep interest in technology and the science behind beauty. He is accomplished, successful and a highly skilled hairdresser.
One of Anthony’s immediately apparent traits is his amazing sense of humor. He can make anyone laugh at just about anything, without resorting to tearing down others. He is enormously positive, jovial and laid-back.
Like Mirella, Anthony cares deeply about the people around them, and about life itself. He is enamored with nature (he even has a growing landscape design side gig), and while he’s tossing off jokes, on one hand, he is deeply contemplative on the other.
Anthony has a unique and beautiful capacity for insight—looking beyond the surface to identify beauty in all situations.
A keen business woman and very successful salon owner, Diane is driven by creating her own definition of success. With a well-known and growing reputation in the beauty industry, Diane is consistently recognized for her skills in cutting and shaping as well as her creative vision.
Diane’s success and level of skill is probably due in large part to her sheer energy. She constantly going, learning, and seeking new ways to expand her world. With a keen desire for self-betterment, Diane is quick to impart her experience, expertise, and advice to her friends and team members.
Her devotion to her husband and sons illustrate a deep sense of belonging and community. She is a rare combination of someone who is driven to succeed, but not only for herself. Diane’s ambitions are to be distilled down and shared with those that she loves—which makes for a fantastic business educator.
Another veteran of the industry, Vinnie has been a salon owner, stylist and educator for decades. He has an immense wealth of technical knowledge and has developed an extremely high level of skill. What’s more, due to his long history, he is able to combine this technical knowledge with more nuanced insights into succeeding in the salon industry.
The very personification of “still waters run deep” Vinnie is a lot like a placid lake, nestled in the mountains. Completely calm and serene on the surface, to venture just beneath is to discover a person teeming with life, insights, opinions, and love.
With a penchant for gardening and being outdoors, Vinnie is deeply humble and connected to who he is, what his life is about and how he can best be of service to others.
A talented colorist with an extensive clientele, Emily works passionately in the salon on a daily basis. She is a color competition gold winner and constantly in search of new creative ways to work with natural color palettes.
Emily is a die-hard realist, with an optimist’s heart. She is bright, bold, and throws herself into new ideas and experiences with the same gusto as a teenager trying out the latest daredevil stunt. She is a try-first-ask-questions-later type but makes it a point to deeply consider the questions and their answers later.
Emily is always in search of the new, the daring and the artistic, and takes it a bit further by looking into the why it is what it is and how it got to be that way. She is a fiercely committed mother and natural leader who knows how to accept the help of others and offer her own.
Emanuel “Manny” San Martin
A total free-spirit, Emanuel is not tethered to any one salon location, preferring to dedicate himself to education and platform work amongst numerous outlets. He is passionate about working with cosmetology students and you will most often find him working in academies, guiding the next generation of beauty professional to greatness.
Manny is both laid-back and grounded, with a keen eye for artistry and beauty of all kinds. He dabbles in photography and vertical gardening and is deceptively quiet. Manny seems to sort of glide through life, guided only by his own strong inner compass. He is a man who knows who he is, what he wants and what matters. Nothing seems to ever truly faze him.
He is calm, cool, collected and enormously appreciative of others. He is genuinely interested in the lives and goings-on of those around him, as long as he is in fact, genuinely interested.
He is a man who puts on no airs, no displays, and has nothing to prove. He has a sly sense of humor, injects a sense of fun into all situations and is incredibly easy to get along with.
The youngest member of the team, Sofia is an enormously accomplished stylist and salon owner. Her work is bold and modern while remaining classically wearable. She is an enthusiastic educator who truly cares about the next generation of stylists.
Calm, quiet and serene, Sofia has an iron inner strength. She is deeply rooted in her family and culture, with a fierce drive and incredibly works ethic. She is an ancient soul, who exudes a deep understanding of people. Her background education in psychology likely has something to do with that, coupled with her incredibly intuitive nature.
Sofia is warm and inviting and the very personification of care. She has the kind of outlook on life that can only be earned through trial, tribulations and massive growth and self-discovery. She is so able to identify and highlight the beauty in others because she is such a purely beautiful soul, herself.
How it all comes together
Surely, these seven artists have a wealth of industry experience, credentials, and skills to teach. Looking at them purely as professionals, it would be easy to see how NIOXIN stands to gain from putting together such a strong artistic team.
But looking beyond the resumes, something else becomes even more clear—this is a uniquely authentic and diverse group of human beings. They have a genuine friendship and strong bond between them. They share similarities and appreciate each other’s differences.
Outside of their beauty industry lives, it would be difficult to imagine them sharing a group of friends—which is precisely the point. This well-formed group can attract their own respective groups to the thing that they share—a passion for professional beauty, education and the shared belief in the NIOXIN brand and products.
This is where the value of the personal brand lies, in relation to the corporate one. It allows for a deeper connection with potential customers and gives a human spin to a corporate culture.
In an industry that is so centered on people, specifically taking care of people, highlighting and incorporating the authentic personalities of the people involved is essential. Done properly and with care, the formation of strong personal brands can contribute a loyal and diverse audience of potential customers to a brand of any size.