Remember those old American Express card commercials? A recognizable face would appear in the ads, and at some point, up would pop the question, "Do you know me?" Followed by the celebrity's name on a facsimile of the credit card, and the date when he or she became a "member" of the American Express "club," for which people pay to belong.
The celebrity quotient was meant to imply that successful people used the card, so successful you didn't even have to know them by name, only by sight, and that somehow this quality would be conveyed upon non-famous users: a sort of sleight-of-hand of branding: You may not be famous, and no one might know your name, but you can act as if you're special by paying for our charge card.
That kind of celebrity branding has changed. Today it's less about the celebrity quotient, and more about the relatability factor. In ads for one type of American Express card, the writer and actress Tina Fey -- very relatable, likable, approachable and real, despite her enormous success that's leagues beyond what other people are likely to achieve -- conveys that human touch that people look for.
I'm not famous, although I'm known in my field. What's different about my being known, however, is that when people know my name -- or even see me out and about at industry gatherings or certain kinds of events I frequent -- they know not only who I am, but what I represent, the kind of work I do.
That's a different kind of branding. That's less "relatable," than actual: I am a book marketer, with a book marketing and audience-engagement company. I have a great team of people with whom I work, but I'm the one out there as the face of the company I began, and as such I am the brand rep, the face of Promote a Book and Smarter Voice, and the kind of person who doesn't have to ask, "Do you know me?" (Though from time to time, when I've had lapses of judgment, I've asked that question - though not recently.)
The thing is: I'm a trusted representative for the work I do. That's what branding is about: people know that my work speaks for itself, even if when they see me, they think of my work. It's a powerful shortcut for an audience.