This Elusive Thing Called Branding And Why It's So Hard To Get

05/01/2015 04:09 pm ET | Updated May 01, 2016

Everywhere you look these days everyone's talking branding. It's in every magazine, it's everywhere you look online. It's taught in a zillion online webinars, seminars and programs, addressed in numerous boardrooms and spoken about in deep reverential tones over business luncheons and after work cocktails.

Everyone seems to have something to say on the subject. The truth is it's been talked about so much that it's lost some of its punch, its power, its depth. And yes, alot of its meaning. It's become a gimmick of sorts. Hawked by almost everyone who's in the business of business. It's sold as the magical panacea for all your business woes, a tool of manipulation to sell anything and everything and the undisputed keys to your kingdom.

Many who are selling the idea, vision, process of branding have no real experience at all. Why not? As a skill it doesn't come with a degree or certificate of completion. It's ephemeral in nature so many have hopped on the branding bus with little to back up their skill set other than a fancy website and an expensive business page built by other "branders". So am I saying Branding is a sham, a rouse, a little bit of snake oil to be tossed in the nearest trash bin? Not at all. What I'm saying is we all have to scale back and examine the concept of branding at it's core.

As someone who has worked as a Personal Branding Specialist for over 15 years I can tell you with absolute certainty that branding is an inside job. The biggest mistake most amateurs make when approaching the work is missing that very delicate but powerful point. Personal Branding begins with who you really are. It's your most covetable qualities harnessed, sculpted and blasted out into the world in a very smart way. A good Branding Artist gets this and will make this the first line of defense.

Dressing it up is the second step. The physical manifestation of your brand is directly related to your quality. That's why borrowing bits and pieces of someone else's branding never ever works. Why? Because it's not authentically connected to you. Many people will often see aspects of someone else's brand that they love. The styling, copy, web design and they'll build their web presence, copy and offerings around what they are drawn to about another's brand presence. Big mistake. Unless the energy you project aligns with what you say, what you do and how you present there will be no synchronicity and that's where your brand falls flat. Your target audience will be able to literally smell the disconnect. They'll be able to smell the inauthenticity.

The most powerful personal brands are built on self ownership. Richard Branson has built every single business he has created around his own personal brand of streamlined honest accessibility. Madonna has built her brand around the talent of being a chameleon and the element of surprise. And Kanye West and Kim Kardashian West have not only built gargantuan brands based upon quite simply the act of being famous, they have also created a hybrid brand of their love story and their journey as a couple. It's a rare mashup. But smart. Intentionally smart.

Stellar Branding is essential for anybody selling, doing or being anything these days. Like it or not it's all about web presence. That is not going to change anytime soon. So the sooner you embrace this fact and begin to cultivate a powerful brand online the better off you will be. When I tell new clients this half the time their eyes glaze over. I'm not going to lie it takes alot of work to build something brandworthy and it never happens overnight. If someone promises you a perfectly sculpted branding strategy soup to nuts in 2 weeks or less run the other way.

Well built brands are crafted over time. There is a very specific layering process that needs to happen when syncing up a truly great brand. It's one part intuition, one part inspiration and one part very talented eye. I always tell people the dressing it up part is easy, it's finding your unique voice and vision thats hard. That's where the focus needs to be.

We need to start thinking about Branding differently. Sure, it's about looking great, having a current, fresh and provocative website to entertain your guests in and well written copy is indispensable, but more importantly it's about having the courage and confidence to step into yourself, to embrace your true voice, and to know, just like me, that your branding always begins with you.