Build Your Brand, not an Image

We all have role models, heroes, or leaders we look up to for inspiration, motivation, and guidance. Our role models can be famous althletes and celebrities, or simply a family member or teacher. But no matter who it is, we aspire to be like them and maybe even have dreams of actually being them.

As a passionate cyclist, one of my role models is Lance Armstrong. I respect him for his perseverance to beat cancer, his competitive drive to be the best cyclist, and his passion and commitment to advance cancer research. I admit there are even times while on a bike ride I have visions of being like Lance as I jump out of the saddle and sprint to the top of a long climb. This reminded me of a great commercial by Nike called “Your are faster than you think”.


What I love about this commercial is that the Chinese pianist sees himself as Lance Armstrong racing through the streets to get to the recital he is late for. In the end while it appears as if Lance is walking across the stage and sitting at the piano, it is the actual pianist who starts to play. 

Build your brand, not an image 

I know I can never be Lance simply because I am not him. I am me. I can buy the same bike he rides, wear the same gear he wears, and train the same way he trains. In the end, I will still be me. This really demonstrates the difference between branding who you authentically are versus creating a superficial or fake image of who you are not. Big corporate brands like Coke or Starbucks, and even celebrity brands such as Oprah or Madonna, are successful because they are clearly, consistently, and constantly their own identity. They do not try to be something they are not. The same can be said for personal brands.

Here are 4 things you can do to build your brand, not an image:

1. Get Feedback

The 360˚Reach Personal Brand Assessment enables you to gather data regarding the attributes, skills, leadership competencies and strengths that define your brand. The process begins with a self-assessment and is followed by requesting feedback from others so you can compare how you view yourself with how you are currently perceived. The results will enable you to identify areas that you want to accentuate and areas you want to diminish as you develop your brand.

2. Focus on strengths

Capitalize on your strengths rather than improve your weaknesses. Save time by taking what your are strong at and make it superb instead of wasting time on your weaknesses. When you focus on your strengths, you demonstrate passion and drive. When you focus on your weaknesses, you show frustration and stagnation. In addition to 360Reach, use StrengthsFinder 2.0. This is a great tool as it identifies how you can move forward with what you are good at by finding ways to work around your weaknesses.

3. Tell your story, not someone else’s

Michael Margolis, founder of Get Storied, says, “Your story is your brand. You have to get others to believe and identify with your story. When you can do that — the need to persuade, convince, or sell disappears.” We all have a unique story to tell and our story is what makes us authentic. Of course others can relate to our story because it may be similar, but it is never exactly the same. Each story is unique. Walter Akana of Threshold Consulting refers to this as your “brand DNA” and to discover it you need to unravel your life stories to find the themes that make you who you uniquely are.

4. Be real online (and off) 

In a recent interview, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said “The social web can’t exist until you are your real self online.”

Just like in the real world, being yourself online takes courage. It takes the willingness to be transparent. Use social media to portray the real you. Avoid nicknames and avatars and use your real name and a professional head-shot. Share bite-sized chunks about yourself but not your life history. Don’t just brag and boast. Listen and engage others as well.

Many of us dream of being someone else because we may not be strong enough, smart enough, or fast enough. But you are stronger, smarter, or faster than you think. Continue to look to your role models, heroes, and leaders for inspiration but in the end simply be yourself. No one can be you, just as you can never be someone else.

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About the author

Peter Sterlacci Peter Sterlacci is known as “Japan’s personal branding pioneer.” In a country where fitting-in is the norm, Peter’s mission is to pioneer a ‘cultural shift’ by helping Japanese to stand out in a global environment. An avid cyclist, he combines cycling imagery with personal branding strategy to empower his clients to shift gears and sprint to career success. Follow Peter on Google+