Brand and branding are often referred to as two of the same, when in actual fact, that isn't the case - there is a difference and even thought we're in the business of brand strategy for individuals working in and around the professional services space, we still refer to what we do as personal branding!
Brand is an emotion - it's how you leave a customer or client feeling when they do business with you. Brand is your reputation and the feelings that people associate with you or your business. It’s the words they use to describe you or your business to friends and family, colleagues and prospective employers, clients and future clients. Your brand decides your identity in the market – it communicates who you are, what you do and how you are perceived.
Branding is a marketing tool. It's the look that you give your business and when it's done well and thoughtfully, it’s what attracts your ideal customer. Branding is only one element of building a successful brand but it's a vital one in making you memorable. Think of it like choosing a book. As much as anyone says that they don't judge a book by it's cover, this can’t be the case, at least not initially - unless it has amazing reviews and personal recommendations from others who have already read it. The cover is what is going to catch your eye and make you take notice. The cover is what is going to make you pick it up to find out more. That’s the branding part. Once you start reading the book, you get a feel for the story and you recommend it to your friends - that’s the brand.
We know we aren't helping with the confusion as we often find ourselves referring to what we do as personal branding (and we cringe a little bit whenever we do!), not because we think we're in the design business but purely because the term is more widely used, it's how people understand it and it's what they are searching for online, so as long as people continue to understand it in this way, it's likely that we will continue to use personal branding as a term that describes what we do!