Building Your Personal Brand: 3 Levels

Why is someone more keen on buying products and services from certain people than from others? Despite the fact that the product or service offering is the same, there are hidden elements that attract us to particular human beings.

To understand this concept better, it is worthwhile looking into some key principles of marketing.

Philip Kotler, also known as the father of modern marketing, states that product planners should think about products and services on three levels. Each level adds more customer value: core product, actual product and augmented product.

Let’s talk about a regular product and take iPhone as an example. The core product that creates value here is the ability to make phone calls, send text messages and browse on the Internet, among other opportunities the device provides. But are we buying iPhone just for that? Probably not.

Here comes the second level of a product – an actual product. In the context of iPhone, the actual product includes design, quality level, a brand name and packaging, where all its parts, styling, features combine to add more value to the core product. But is it always enough to have the actual product for customers to buy it? Again, probably not.

Therefore, an augmented product has to be built around the core and actual product by offering additional benefits. The iPhone is more than phone calls, messages and Internet. It’s more than style and design. It’s also the complete solution to mobile connectivity problems. The consumers will expect warranty, instructions and after-sale service.

Consumers see products as complex bundles of benefits that satisfy their multiple needs. What about personal brands? Does our target audience only look at the core value we provide? Probably not.

As mentioned earlier, core product addresses a fundamental need of the consumer. For example, if you are a Marketing Strategist, your clients will primarily need you to create a marketing strategy for them. That’s the core personal brand this professional has.

Actual product, in addition to the core product and supplemental features, provides additional symbolic value to the consumers. For example, some clients may choose a famous and well-known Marketing Strategist because of the symbolic meaning (trendiness) he represents. Other clients will choose the most experienced one, just because experience to them means expertise and trust. Therefore, a particular marketing strategist will be booked not only because he will create a marketing strategy for the company, but also because his personal brand stands for a certain quality level as well as values, characteristics and other features that altogether compose an actual personal brand.

Augmented product provides added value or attributes to its core utility or benefit. For a Marketing Strategist the supplemental feature might be giving training to the team on the marketing strategy’s execution, and answering all the questions that will come up during the execution process. We can call this an augmented personal brand the Marketing Strategist has.

Applying this concept to your own personal brand might be helpful to understand the full picture. It’s not only about the core product or service your personal brand stands for, but also about other levels, overt or implied, it has.

Therefore, when building a strong personal brand:

  1. Identify the core value your personal brand stands for. How do you create value for your target audience in the first place?
  2. Design the actual personal brand by naming other attributes that may influence others choosing you as a professional.
  3. Think how you can augment your personal brand. What additional value can you create to stand out from others?

Most importantly, trust Oscar Wilde and “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”

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