Branding Mistakes: Whose pie are you filling?
Be the pie, not a slice.
When any individual starts out online, he or she needs to consider the branding effects of email addresses, social media accounts and blog URLs. If you tie your online image too closely to one thing (say a book, an art career or a band), you may find yourself unable to pull away from it. You may have the grueling task of recreating yourself for another endeavor.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the mistake Progressive Auto Insurance made tying its brand to a person: Flo. The “Aunt Flo” similarity always came to the front of my mind, and I never cared much for the commercials. But as far as branding is concerned, Progressive is now well within the closing grasp of what Stephanie Courtney wants as far as renewing her contract is concerned.
Was Subway forced into a lifelong contract with Jared Fogle because his face (and waist) became such a large (ha ha) part of the branding for Subway and healthy eating? According to Emily York’s 2008 article “Subway Can’t Stop Jonesing for Jared” published by AdAge.com, “The company and franchisees won’t stray from Jared, even though people close to the situation said that senior marketing and agency executives have recommended a shift in direction on several occasions.” I guess we masses are left to speculate as to what kind of money Fogle wanted, but he now enjoys an open-ended contract full with a black card enabling him to enjoy free Subway anywhere he goes. Flo’s going the same route as far as cashing in from tying a company brand to a human face.
I don’t ever expect work representing a company; probably not even my own. I’m no actress and I wouldn’t want to hold my pants up on television. But, what I wish I had known before is that tying a personal name to a brand or business can be troublesome.
I am not my business
even though I put everything I am into it
When I started Target Audience Magazine, I wanted to “be the ball” and, everywhere I went on the Internet, I wanted people to associate me with my main reason for being online: the business I put my all into. I titled my Gmail with my EIC title and took the magazine name vanity URL every chance I could.
What I should have done when starting an online persona:
What I should have done was keep a separation of self and business. Everything changes so rapidly in the growing environment of social media and do-it-yourself business marketing. Those readers out there who use “author-of-my-novel” email addresses and create profiles (not Pages) on Facebook to represent their businesses (or bands) need to realize that the book or band they started off with may change. Even if the first book is successful, you may write a second!
When I went to create this blog (something I never really thought I wanted to do), I already had a Google Plus account, but it and my Facebook, LinkedIn and the only Twitter account I had were all dedicated to Target Audience Magazine. So, who was I? Where does my new “brand” fit? “I just wanna be me!”
I decided to leave my Google Plus account alone; the email I set up for this website forwards to that old Gmail tied to my magazine name, but through Gmail’s settings I can choose to respond as other email addresses depending on how I need to represent myself at the time of sending an email. As far as Facebook, we users are permitted a URL name change (perhaps only one though), and the same held true for LinkedIn. Had I started all this in the beginning I might be EllenEldridge instead of EllenEldridge27, but I’m guessing I had an easier time than my children will have as far as getting a name-based email address.
Long story short: my advice to any DIY creative person or entrepreneur is to maintain a personal brand. Whatever YOU are can change (author, painter, bass player and so on), but typically speaking your name won’t (another reason I am glad all this branding and growth took off after I got married! No real advice for branding and re-branding after a marriage. Best shot at advice for this is choose carefully whom you marry and take the name publicly if your own fame is still growing).
- Call your email address your name or as close to it as you can get. Use YourName@businessURL.com for new opportunities.
- Create Pages or separate accounts for any business ventures. I mean, no matter how successful your band gets, is that really how you want your resume on LinkedIn to reflect YOU?
**If you need help creating or managing social media accounts, contact me for help: ellen[at]elleneldridge.com. I am also available to consult about branding yourself, your business and the best ways to reach your target audience via social media and the Internet.