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Brad Breininger & Marko Zonta

Zync - Journal | When brand gets personal.

Discussing about personal branding.

When brand gets personal.

More and more, personal brands have become integral to the marketplace—for influencers, politicians, and any other person or organization.

Are personal brands part of life going forward? What does a personal brand really entail? What’s the difference between a personal brand and a corporate brand? Does everyone need one? And, what do social channels like TikTok or Twitter have to do with the way you manage your brand?

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Recorded on September 3, 2021


Brad Breininger: 0:00
Hi everyone and welcome to this week’s everything is brand new this week we want to talk about personal branding, everything from social influencers to politicians. Let’s go. Alright, so more and more personal brands have become part of the vernacular and the approach that people need to take whether it’s developing a personal brand, if you’re a social influencer on social media, or if you’re a politician coming up with almost like a public persona, I think it’s always been something that people have done. But it seems to becoming more and more important, even to the point now where people are being canceled when they don’t fit into the public persona that has been either launched on them or that they’ve spent time creating – what do we think of this? Do we think that personal brands are an important part of life going forward? Is this just something that is crucial in what people are going to need to do in presenting themselves out into the marketplace?

Vincent Champenois: 1:05
I agree that yes, it is going to be quite important. You just have to be careful about what you mean by personal brand ready, and how far you want to take this. I do believe that we all brand ourselves already, it’s just really a matter of, I guess, defining what branding means or how much you want to brand yourself. I do believe that just selecting fonts on a resume is actually some sort of branding really, or choosing the items of clothing you’re wearing on a picture on Instagram is already branding to some extent, or choosing the way you decided to express yourself, either verbally or in writing is already some sort of self branding items, I would say. And I do believe that, yes, it is important that people recognize you, when you when you start expressing yourself. And I do believe that branding really helps you offering a consistent experience of yourself or a consistent image of yourself,

Brad Breininger: 1:56
I think you bring up a really good point. And this idea that brand is not just how people see you, but it’s how you choose to go into the marketplace as well. Like you said, choosing a font for your resume, or even kind of the clothes you wear to an interview all of that can be pre determined and decided before you ever make contact with anyone.

Marko Zonta: 2:17
I think it’s interesting, because some people actually create personal brands that are quite small in terms of they have like a fairly small circle of followers. But then there are some personal brands that actually become extremely valuable to corporate brands. Oprah, for example, is a personal brand, but it’s also a corporate brand. Richard Branson, another personal brand, that is a corporate brand, right? So massively important personal brands that are so connected to their bottom line, they are very focused on that they recognize the extreme value in those personal brands,

Vincent Champenois: 2:55
Perhaps have to define different categories as what people are expecting from those personal brands of theirs. So you mentioned politicians, you have mentioned famous entrepreneurs, but how does it apply to the common people – you and I? How does this apply to you on a daily basis? Do you have to brand yourself to apply for a job, do you have to brand yourself to get more followers on your social media channels? Do you have to go through that

Brad Breininger: 3:24
100% The truth is, is that if you look at the people who are most successful in any of those areas, it’s because they make the messaging very palatable, and very easy to understand. If you look at some of the biggest social media influencers, whether it’s on Tik Tok or Instagram or whatever, there’s a certain type of thing that kind of takes off, you really notice this on Tik Tok a lot. So someone will have a viral video and it do extremely well. And every video after that follows that same sort of direction. And it’s interesting, because if you go back and look at their previous videos, they’re all over the place. But after they hit that viral direction, all of a sudden now they tap into whatever brand that is, and they start to recreate it over and over and over again.

Marko Zonta: 4:12
It’s interesting, because when we talk about personal brands, I think a lot of people don’t really put a lot of value on a personal brand, because they just think it’s really not that important. But that’s where bigger brands actually are created. Right? Like it starts with something typically quite small, sometimes just a personal project or whatever it may be, they become an influencer. So that may actually be already connected to a corporate brand or corporate brands actually tap into those personal brands as influencers because they actually have a certain amount of followers they have power. The founder of Amazon is quoted as saying “your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” And that’s so true, right? Like you put out what you want people to think about you what people actually say about you when you’re not around. That is your true brain. So people have to realize that whether they are applying for a job or they’re promoting something that’s really their brand.

Brad Breininger: 5:07
A nd it could be good or bad, it doesn’t really matter. I mean, if you’re looking for a job, you obviously want it to be good. One of the greatest examples of turning a personal brand into a powerhouse is the whole Kardashian clan. That whole Kardashian brand was based off of what started as a personal brand. What started as someone who started to become an influencer, in the early days of social media, it started with Kim and it just kind of rolled out across the entire family. And they just nurtured and pushed. And to the point now where you know, love them or hate them, they’re worth billions of dollars, they turned a personal brand into a billion dollar powerhouse, multi faceted brand. It’s not a question of like or dislike some people like them, some people hate them, whatever, that’s neither here nor there. The bottom line is that they’re known, they’re noticed and their brand is strong.

Marko Zonta: 6:01
We look at politics. I mean, right now we’re going through elections in Canada, those leaders of the different parties, their personal brands are hugely important, right. Like in a lot of cases, people are not necessarily voting, you know, for their platform, or even in terms of being liberal or conservative or NDP. They are in a lot of cases, voting for the leader. So building that likability, trustworthy personality, all that kind of stuff. It’s really important. And it comes down to what’s Vincent mentioned at the very beginning, you know, how they dress, how they look, how they speak, all of those things kind of play into that, Again, a personal brand is as designed as a corporate brand. It just happens in a slightly different way.

Brad Breininger: 6:48
There’s trends as well. I mean, if you look at what a politician in Canada was, prior to Justin Trudeau, it was usually an older guy with white hair and that experience look at who’s been in public service for a long time. And Justin kind of turned that on its ear a little bit and kind of came in young, vibrant, you know, maybe smoked a little marijuana in the past, maybe goes paddleboarding on the weekends as a young family. And people really bought into that. And I think that the other politicians, if you look at the competition against Justin in this political cycle, it’s a lot more Justin-ing. Is that a word the? Justin-ing of the other candidates take Jagmeet Singh, for example, he’s a bit of a rock star with his you know, multicolored turbans, and he recreated that tik tok video of the cranberry juice guy on the skateboard. It’s really about looking at the trends that start to happen and how it all gets applied in the political realm. That’s a really strong, powerful statement to say that one election cycle has kind of changed what a lot of Canadians want in their leader. I mean, I guess we’ll see who ends up winning, but really all three of the major leaders and I know that there are other leaders, I think there’s like 19 of them in total, but really the top three Jagmeet Singh, Justin Trudeau and Aaron O’Toole, those three are all younger, more vibrant, more connected, very much family focused, as opposed to that older gray haired white guy scenario that was more of a past political brand for candidates.

Gabi Gomes: 8:29
I think a couple of things. First of all, they’re also chasing after a younger voter, a younger demographic, the old stuffy guys are let’s just admit probably not in the numbers compared to the younger folks in terms of voters. But the question I’d like to answer is, is it all a bit smoke and mirrors? I guess, because we’re in the business? You know, I’m always a bit skeptical of this. So I look at it from a different lens. But are people really buying it? Are people really buying the politicians? Are people really buying Kim? I would argue, yeah, Kim, if you look at any of the Kardashian family sales in lipstick and other products that they’re selling – yes, absolutely that translates into dollars. The politicians, I don’t know.

Marko Zonta: 9:10
I think people are absolutely buying into personal brands, whether it’s in politics, sports, anything, people want somebody to look up to – maybe a strange example, but the latest superhero movie just got released, and basically has the cast is primarily Asian. People look up to those examples, you know, that’s in the pop culture, in the movies and all that stuff, right? But people want to see themselves in someone else, and share those values and follow all of that. So absolutely. I think that people buy into the personal brand 100%

Gabi Gomes: 9:43
I remember at the onset of the pandemic Galen Weston coming on, and really having a voice with respect to the Weston companies, you know, loblaws no frills etc, etc. And really taking a front and center role when it came to communications on that. I would think that he too has a personal brand directly translated into his businesses. It’s interesting because you look at Loblaws you see Galen also having a strong personal brand tied to his. You mentioned other examples of Richard Branson, Virgin, Oprah and the OWN network. But then you look at Sobey’s and there’s nobody attached – there’s no personal brand attached to that. So is that the wave of the future where there’s somebody at the helm of this company that has to maintain this personal brand as well as a corporate brand on the side? We always talk about making emotional decisions right? And yes, brands can make an emotional connection. But let’s face it, it’s probably a lot easier to make an emotional connection with another human being.

Brad Breininger: 10:41
Yeah, and two things that I would say to that number one is the two most successful I guess cosmetic or beauty brands of the last five years or so are Kylie Cosmetics and Fenty, which is owned by Rihanna. Both Kylie Jenner and Rihanna are both billionaires. Now, the truth is, is that previously usually the person attached to these beauty brands was a spokesperson or a model, but it was all owned by you know, a big corporate entity in the background, whether it was L’Oreal, or I believe the woman who owns L’Oreal is one of the richest women in the world. But now what’s happening is that all of these corporate entities are buying up these celebrity based organizations in Jessica Alba has the Honest Company, Rihanna with Fenty, Kylie Jenner with Kylie Cosmetics, I think that more and more now that human connection and I think that part of that is driven by social media, I also read this incredible article, which talked a lot about Megan and Harry and why they’re doing the things that they’re doing now. I guess the opinion that this reporter had was that Megan and Harry have realized that the actual royal brand is less important now than the celebrity brands. And if they can become almost like the celebrity brand that comes out of the royal family, they’re going to be in a much better position to do whatever they want to do with their charity. This was an opinion piece. And I’m not saying that this is not the truth. But I would throw out that celebrities are the new royalty, it almost feels like – and if you look at the track record, the personal brands that these people are creating, whether it’s Jessica Alba, whether it’s Rihanna, whether it’s the Kardashians, or whether it’s Richard Branson, or or whoever it might be, the brands that these people are creating personally are translating into some of the most powerful organizations in the world in their various industries.

Marko Zonta: 12:38
There is also a little bit of, you know, danger, I guess, when it comes to personal brands, like corporate brands attach themselves to some personal brands very, very tightly, if they have a very close connection, and that one person does something publicly, that is unacceptable – to people in general like to the population – that can really hurt the corporate brand, right. And we’ve seen examples of corporate brands being renamed rebranded to distance themselves away from the personal brand that was attached to the old brand. So as much as it can help the brand, it’s also important to keep those personal brands squeaky clean, so to speak,

Brad Breininger: 13:16
But I think you have to kind of operate the way Nike does. So Nike kind of attaches five of the top global athletes to their brand. And when one of them – two words, Tiger Woods -kind of takes the brand into a place that they don’t necessarily want to go they just disassociate and they take all of the assets and turn them to one of the other global superstars that they have. I think some of those scandals that you’re talking about Marko, I think that they used to bring a brand down in the past, but I would suggest that they don’t bring a brand down as quickly as they used to. It almost seems like there’s a lot more leeway for people to kind of disassociate from the person and the main entity brand, like with the Tiger Woods situation, right. Like when he got into that. I mean, there was a bunch of different things right. He had that accident he went through that cheating and divorce scandal. I mean, he kind of did a bunch of different things. But I think Nike still has him on the roster. I think he’s still wears like Nike apparel.

Marko Zonta: 14:14
Yeah, no, I’m I’m thinking more about if a personal brand, like somebody’s last name is actually part of their corporate name. That’s what I’m talking about a little bit more. And I can’t remember in Hollywood, the whole me to movement he was –

Brad Breininger: 14:30

Marko Zonta: 14:31
Yeah, there you go. And not to say that he had necessarily a huge personal brand, but his personal issues brought the company down, right. So there are examples like that, where the person is so closely connected to the corporate brand that he can really damage it.

Gabi Gomes: 14:46
Not only that, but almost an industry. Almost an entire industry.

Marko Zonta: 14:50
Yeah, it definitely had a huge effect on it yes,

Gabi Gomes: 14:53
I think Brad’s right. Although we’re living in a world where everybody’s vying for everybody else’s attention. We’ve got two seconds, you know, if it’s not climate change, it’s politics. It’s Kim Kardashian and her divorce or not divorce or whatever is going on with her. I don’t know, like, I don’t know that the damage is – it’s quickly forgotten. I mean, it depends on the damage. But I think everybody’s on to the next thing.

Brad Breininger: 15:16
Its interesting because even you mentioned climate change, Gabi, I mean, Greta Tunberg, has become like the global face of climate change. And even there her personal brand is very much closely tied to that. And that’s been a wonderful thing to get the conversations going and get more people paying attention, who kind of follow her, but it runs the risk of If, for some reason, she doesn’t do exactly what needs to be done in that area, it could bring down that that whole conversation as well.

Marko Zonta: 15:46
And it’s interesting, you know, to to use her as an example, that is an incredible amount of pressure on an individual, like her personal brand is now the brand that the whole environmental movement is using, yeah, push things forward, right. So an incredible amount of pressure on her and other parts to that kind of comes with a territory, is personal attacks, like people are absolutely brutal when it comes to that. So somebody like that has to be able to almost turn that off, ignore it as much as possible, and not really pay attention to that. That’s, I think, a huge burden that somebody like that has to carry.

Gabi Gomes: 16:22
So it begs the question, and this is my biggest pet peeve is do we lose authenticity with personal brands? I’ll answer first, I think we do somewhere along the line that starts being authentic. And somewhere down the road, it becomes a business, it becomes a means of making money. It’s tied to revenue somehow. And I think somewhere we lose a little bit of that authenticity.

Marko Zonta: 16:47
Not always, some people truly believe in their cause whatever it may be. Now, absolutely. Like there are a lot of personal brands that yes, they create a personal brand. And the only reason is to have more, you know, YouTube followers to have more social media followers, because they’re really trying to sell themselves as a commodity in some way, whether they’re a personal trainer, or whatever that may be. But I think that there are also some people who almost like fall into it, like by accident, they have a cause. And they believe in that. And then they just become bigger than they ever expected they would.

Brad Breininger: 17:22
And part of it though, is it’s the chasing, I think what you’re talking about Gabi is this idea of the chasing right? It’s interesting, because you see this a lot with social media influencers, they do something that really resonates with the public, and it drives their personal brand really, really quickly. And then all of a sudden, they try to do more and more of that. And they create almost like a parameters or walls around what they’re putting out into the marketplace. And then –

Gabi Gomes: 17:49
over produce pieces of content.

Brad Breininger: 17:51
Yeah, it almost starts to become a parody of itself. Like over time, it loses that authenticity that made it go viral in the beginning. And it almost becomes like an over engineered overproduced version of what they were trying to do. And it almost feels a little bit pathetic. Like if you look at the track of some of these influencers later on in their careers, it’s almost like they’re chasing that high or chasing that initial, you know, thing that made them go viral. But meanwhile, in a lot of cases, the public has moved on to someone new and fresh and freshly minted and freshly authentic. And they’re kind of stuck doing some of the old fashioned stuff that originally got them noticed but now just feels desperate. You see that a lot, especially in that area of personal branding 100%.

Vincent Champenois: 18:40
What do I think could be an interesting question to ask would be if someone came to us to ask for personal branding, what could we tell that person to do or not to do? Or how would we react? What advice would we provide as a design agency and as a strategy agency?

Brad Breininger: 18:56
I think that, you know, we have been asked, and we have done a couple personal brands. I think, though that for us, the way we approach branding is is that we really look at it from how do you want to be seen in the marketplace? And how do you want to be represented. And when we’re doing that with corporate brands, we’re really trying to like we say we’re trying to goldmine into all of the great things that they are and bring those to the forefront. So I don’t think that it would be any different with the personal branding and the instances that we have done it, it’s about understanding how the person wants to be represented in the marketplace and making sure that all of the elements are aligned to do that. I think that people go off the rails a little bit in personal branding is precisely what Gabi said earlier, which is when they try to be something that they’re not or they try to expand it into something even greater than what they are. And this is true of corporate brands, as much as it’s true of personal brands is that anytime you try to be something that you’re not the whole bs meter starts to go and people look at it in a very different way. Any advice that I would give someone who’s trying to build a personal brand is make sure that your personal brand is true to who you are. I mean, you can add to it. We’re all multi dimensional people. And often you can look at some of those multi dimensions when you’re coming up with what you want to be in the marketplace. But don’t make stuff up. Right? Like don’t add stuff that you are simply not. It always reminds me Do you guys remember that woman? I think her name was Rachel Dolezal. She wanted her personal brand to be a natural black woman, but she was white, all of a sudden, that went off into a different direction that just never needed to happen. But I think she’s a really good example. And I mean, that’s pretty extreme. But the reality is, is that anytime you try to be something that you’re not, whether you’re a corporate brand, or personal brand, or a political brand, you’re gonna run into trouble.

Marko Zonta: 20:50
The other thing that I would say, when it comes to answer your question, Vincent, what we would actually say to people and we’ve done it, when it comes to building a personal brand, this is not a side gig, it’s a full time commitment, you need to get into it and be 100% committed to that, because that’s going to become your 24 seven job, basically, it’s a lot of work, it’s a ton of work to build a corporate brand. And it’s also a lot of work to build a personal brand. If you actually want to look at numbers in terms of YouTube followers, or whatever your your goal may be, you will have to generate content or product or whatever it may be to accompany your personal brand. Even if you’re a speaker, let’s say you need to be able to deliver on that to build that personal brand. So it really is a full time commitment.

Brad Breininger: 21:37
Part of the issue that a lot of politicians have is that they try to be very one dimensional. And this is very much geared towards politics. In the past, their version of their personal brand was okay, what does society want from a politician, and then I’m going to turn everything into that. So I’m going to take pictures of usually it was a white male who was the politician, and then they would take pictures with their beautiful young wife and their three wonderful children dressed in little outfits standing in a park with their dog at the front of the picture. And it was just a bunch of BS. Yeah, that might be one aspect of who those people are. But they’re also multi dimensional people, their life isn’t perfect. They have their own issues. And and I think Gabi, you you said earlier, this idea that there’s a younger audience out there who are judging these politicians, there was a younger audience back in the day too, but that was still what was given to them. And I think now with social media, and with more discussion and more communication, the demands of the public are greater and they want to see these more well rounded leaders, they want to see these people who are real like them, they’re not necessarily put up on a pedestal because so many have fallen so far, and so hard off of those pedestals that they were put on that I think that the requirement now is that authenticity is probably the number one requirement that is wanted in a politician, I think a little bit less so in a social media influencer. But even there, you know what a lot of followers will drop them like a hot potato, if they’re not true to the brand that they’ve built. I think those are some really important things for you know, whether you’re a social media influencer, whether you’re a politician, or whether you’re a corporation, make sure that you’re not putting a bunch of crap out into the marketplace, because people are gonna call you on it. So one other question. I mean, what do you think is the most important, are the most important elements of building a personal brand now? So if you want to be a social media influencer, if you want to be a politician, or Hey, even if you set your sights high, and you want to be a Kardashian, because eventually there’s gonna have to be a new set of Kardashians out there with a new reality? What What advice do we have for people to get that done in the best possible way?

Gabi Gomes: 23:52
Keep it real, stay real.

Brad Breininger: 23:53
Yeah, stay real, that’s good.

Marko Zonta: 23:55
And I would say have a purpose. There has to be a purpose behind it. You have to know where you’re going.

Christian Rosenthal | ZYNC: 24:00
I would say be consistent. There are so many channels right now for different audiences. But there has to be something that identifies you. If you lose that then doesn’t make sense.

Vincent Champenois: 24:13
Thank you, Christian, I was going to say consistent. Now I have to find something else to say. Just to say something different, I’m going to say be different.

Brad Breininger: 24:22
Yeah, definitely you have to stand out. So be different and stand out. Be consistent across every platform and direction that you’re going. Have a purpose. Don’t just be a mindless, faceless entity because you’re trying to build a brand just to fill your own coffers, but actually add something to the conversation, add something to the world and in the end, be real. I think be real and be authentic is probably the number one piece of advice for any one who wants to be a politician, who wants to be an influencer, who wants to build a personal brand because if you’re not you are going to fall far and hard off that pedestal that you are trying to build yourself up. So that’s this week’s version of everything is brand. Next week we’ll talk about a new subject and remember whether you’re building a corporate brand or a personal brand, keep in mind that everything is brand.

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