The difference in persona and brand


  1. The aspect of someone’s character that is presented to or perceived by others.
  2. A role or character adopted by an author or an actor.


As a brand strategist and creative director for both businesses and books, and socially-driven for both, I’m fascinated with the interplay between persona and brand. Likely I pay more attention to the far ends – those who clash and those who mesh them extremely well. In particular, I’m talking about the persona by representatives (soldiers, if you will) of a brand and the brand image that’s been created for the brand.

I’ll talk about in more detail about this in my first Little Brand book, The Little Brand That Could: Train Your Brand, coming in January.

I have to thank Dr. Phil and O Magazine for the inspiration for this post. In their “best advice ever” issue on stands now, it’s chock full of advice in all areas, and Dr. Phil tackled that of personal image. He made a good point about people judging you by your appearance and character. It’s why he says he comes out in a suit on his show. From the definition of persona above, we can see that it begins with us – the view we want others to have of us in the world. And then the next is up to those who see us – how they perceive us. They form an opinion and over time that opinion becomes fact. If someone were to ask about us, they would rattle off a list of our characteristics which come from our own behavior and image.

On another page, the beauty editor recommended three quick ways to look polished. (Good haircut, neat eyebrows, neat nails.) I’ll throw in there: not wearing your sweatpants out in public could help, too. I immediately checked the mirror. Hair and eyebrows, fine, but my nails have seen better days. It’s a weekly task I never get around to. But I fixed that. Putting self-care on our list is important for persona. You can still lounge in your pajamas all weekend long and no one will be the wiser. It wouldn’t kill me to wear real clothes when I go out. You never know who you’ll run into.

Next, we add our patterns of behavior:

kind or judgmental?

on time or tardy?

trustworthy or sketchy?

giver or taker?

Combine the two  with all the social media tools, including blogs, Facebook status updates, Twitter, et al and we have an online and real world persona created for us.

So what’s the big deal when it comes to our brand image? Yes, there’s a brand persona, too, carefully selected words, design and color to convey your product message to the world. It’s both factual, promotional and emotional. We do this. We are great because of this. We’ll make you feel this way. 

How could persona screw up a brand?

  • Inconsistent messaging
  • Sloppy or unprofessional image or behavior
  • Misalignment between the values and characteristics of the person and the brand he/she is representing

There is also the case of the lazy brand, where it may have started gangbusters and then fizzled out over time. Sometimes we can connect the dots quickly because it’s a personal brand. (Authors fit into this category.) If your brand is a personal one, it’s even more important to stay under the umbrella of the brand image you are crafting. You don’t want to alienate your audience, who say, love you because of your cozy mysteries, with your opinions on the way the Universe ought to vote, raise their kids and worship. In this Internet age, there is really no such things as “these are my personal views, not reflective of the company I work for.” I mean, yes, we say that for legal reasons, but we  will still connect the person to the brand and if the person does something damaging, you can bet the company will call them out on it.

It’s a slippery slope to believe we can be too, too personal with “friends” on Facebook. They’ll remember if we’re too whiny, talk badly about people or ask for favors but never return them. Just look at what happened to a presidential candidate this week when words he thought he was saying in a small meeting were shared and dissected around the world? We must choose our words carefully, right? And not forget that old credo to “speak as if your grandmother were in the room.”

Sure, individual persona is a piece of the pie in our brand, but it’s a larger slice than we give it credit for.

Stuff I Love This Week

Downton Abbey – my hubby brought home the first two seasons on DVD for review and it’s everything the critics and fans say it is. The story, the characters, the setting – all hallmarks of a groundbreaking series. On PBS! Who would’ve thought? Can’t wait to see how they sweep the Emmy’s this weekend. (And get to see Jon Hamm again.)

Another short series I loved was The Crimson Petal and the White set in 1870s London. Goodness, it was riveting.

I’m looking forward to my husband’s Movie Clubbed event where he and several other funny guys mock Skatetown. If you’re in OKC, get your tickets before it’s sold out.

Got my lil guy a bow and arrow (youth sized of course) after months of him asking for one. Of course he lost the arrows on the first night, but Lordie he’s cute shooting them. He’s my Cub Scout and I love watching my children’s interests unfold.

My daughter said, “All my dance shows are over. What now?” Without Dance Moms and So You Think She Can Dance, she’s TV-less. I told her she’d just have to make due with her dancing in real life.

My oldest, a teen boy, has been especially kind to me this week. He even put a new screen protector on my phone without my asking. It’s sweet when a child who isn’t usually affectionate tosses some coins of random kindness my way. I’ll take whatever I can get.

Rock the week, friends.


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