Focus On Owning The Category: A Not-So-New Approach To Building Your Personal Brand
Promote A Category, Not Your Name
The purpose of a slogan is to promote a brand that your prospective customer can identify with. You want the slogan and eventually your brand’s name to become so synonymous with the product or service that you’re selling, that you become generic.
Band-Aid is a company that sells bandages. Scotch Tape is a company that sells tape. When you hear the phrase, “Just Do It,” Nike is the first thing that comes to mind. When you hear these brands’ names, they appear to be the most generic in their categories: bandages, tape, and shoes. They own these categories.
These companies don’t only focus on promoting their logos, they focus on promoting the utility of their product categories. That’s what we all need to do if we are seeking to expand the reach of our personal brands. Thinking of ourselves as large corporations, it is better for us to promote the category of services rather than our brands themselves.
To give an explicit example, Tim Ferriss explains in Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, that he focused on selling the category of Lifestyle Design. He did this so successfully that after the launch of his book, The 4-Hour Workweek, many other copycats came out of the woodwork. Now there are thousands of people who promote themselves as lifestyle designers on Youtube and Instagram.
Now we may not be as lucky as Tim in both owning and creating a phrase that ends up becoming a whole category of service providers, but we can learn something from his approach. Your prospective customer is being sold to every minute of every day. They aren’t only being sold to by your direct competitors, hundreds of other brands outside of your industry are also trying to get their attention.
Instead of doing what everyone else does and promoting your services as, “Look what I can do for you,” the better approach is, “Look what this type of service can do for you.” You come off as more educational, rather than promotional.
How To Implement This Idea For Yourself
I’m currently trying to own the category of copywriter. I am not the first nor will I be the last copywriter. My main challenge right now is that I am working uphill, competing with every single copywriter in the world.
Even if I were to hone in on a niche, that currently being product review writing, I am still in fierce competition with other copywriters who write the same type of content. The only way to distinguish my personal brand to stand out more is by modifying the title of copywriter, promoting content on why businesses need copywriters, and showcasing my expertise — what I know.
People only remember the top three to seven brands in a given category. We have to aim for becoming, at the bare minimum, the number three person in our field if we are going to even have a chance at having a client consider hiring us.
Creating content for your personal brand is only the first step in this process. While you create your online footprint, you have to constantly keep in mind, “How am I creating or owning this category?” The older and bigger the category, the more difficult it will be to do this.
If you’re trying to build your personal brand as a newcomer in your industry, the most accessible option will be to promote the category you are in. For the more seasoned professional, Tim Ferriss approach might be the better option. Try creating a new category and have others copy you so that you become the leader in that category by default. This is certainly harder to do but, it beats trying to stand out in a sea of other professionals who have the exact same title as you do.
I just recently finished reading The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: Violate Them at Your Own Risk! by Al Ries & Jack Trout. Taking the ideas proposed by the authors, I wanted to know how I could actually retain the information more. I want to make the book more useful. They cover a wide history of how several companies gained prominence (or lost it) within their industries.
I’m taking what I’ve learned from the book and applying it to my personal brand. If you’re interested in learning more about marketing in general, I highly recommend buying this book. It’s a fast read and it is certainly an enjoyable way to spend a weekend at home.