Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

5 Important Tips for Building a Strong Brand: Interview with John Morgan

John Morgan, Author

John Morgan, Author

I recently had an opportunity to interview John Morgan, author, speaker, and marketing consultant.

Years ago, I heard John speak at an event and was blown away. He really understands personal brands and social media better than most people do.

This is an important topic that most bloggers, writers, and authors unforuntately overlook — the fact that you have a brand, whether you like it or not.

So, I asked John five important questions about the topic of branding and his new book, which goes deeper into the issue.

Here’s how it went (I broke up the interview into the five main topics):

Personal brands

Jeff: In the world of social media, what’s better: a personal brand or non-personal brand? If someone is starting a blog or signing up for a Twitter handle, should they use their name or something more scalable?

John: I love to see people focus on their personal brand even if they are part of a large corporation. People like to do business with people.

We’ve heard that cliche for years, because it’s true. We’ve seen countless examples of how a powerful personal brand can drive a large corporate brand. Just look at Steve Jobs with Apple, Richard Branson with Virgin, or even Scott Monty with Ford.

You have to remember that you are your brand. When starting out, scaling should be the least of someone’s concerns.

That being said you’re not locked into your brand forever even if you brand your name. Tim Ferriss is a great example of this. His first book was about outsourcing and delegation. His second book is about fitness, health, and sex. His third book will be about cooking. He’s interested in multiple things and his brand reflects that. It certainly hasn’t hurt his business.

Branding through social media

Jeff: How do you build your brand through the social web? Is it like old school marketing with a new skin or a completely different ball game?

John: Branding through the social web is all about relationships and content. You have to produce great content to capture the attention of your audience.

Once you have that attention you must start building a relationship with them. You do that through engagement which is where most businesses get it wrong. They want to use social media as another broadcasting tool when it’s not. It’s a conversation tool.

The more you can educate and entertain your audience through your content the quicker you’ll succeed. If someone likes your free stuff and likes communicating with you then the natural next step for them is to purchase from you.

Another quick note on this, people have to understand that everything they do is branding. Every tweet, Facebook update, and YouTube video affect your brand.

They are either helping your brand or hurting it. The sooner you realize that, the better.

Brand Against the Machine

John's New Book

Branding and “The Machine”

Jeff: What is your new book about, and why should people read it? (And what’s your favorite Rage Against the Machine song?)

John: My new book, Brand Against The Machine, teaches people how and why branding and marketing are broken.

But more importantly it teaches you what to do to fix it with your business. It’s about getting your brand to stand out from the crowd and be remembered.

This isn’t like branding books of the past. Branding doesn’t have to cost you money and it’s not a one-time campaign. Branding is a commitment.

When used properly it allows you to dominate your competition. That’s why people should read it. Because most marketing techniques and strategies are about short-term gain. You want to build a business and brand that last.

My favorite Rage Against The Machine song is probably “Killing In The Name,” but “Bulls On Parade” is a close second. Both of those are in my playlist that I listen to before speaking at an event.

Getting branding wrong

Jeff: How do people and organizations get branding wrong?

John: Most people get branding wrong because they don’t realize they already have a brand. Everyone already has a perception of you. It’s up to you to ensure that perception is accurate.

People think branding just happens naturally and to some extent it does. But when you don’t focus on it you end up running from one tactic to another never gaining any traction.

Businesses don’t need another tactic. They need a strong relationship with loyal fans.

Brand success

Jeff: What types of brands are succeeding in the 21st century?

John: The brands that are succeeding today are the ones who have a reason for existing. Most businesses are simply a “me too” competitor. They see someone selling widgets and they decide they’ll sell the same thing. You have to have a reason to exist in the marketplace.

Brands that focus on what makes them different and unique are the ones that succeed. People are bored to death of products and services. Give them a reason to care. Give them a reason to pay attention. The brands doing that are experiencing tremendous amounts of success.

For more on building a strong brand, check out John’s book Brand Against the Machine.

* * *

What’s your biggest struggle with branding? Share in the comments.

Disclosure: Some of the above links are affiliate links.

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • Great information about branding.

    My biggest struggle with branding currently is getting others aware of my brand and what I am doing.

    • Joe, I’d pick 2-3 channels you can use consistently that will reach your audience and focus 100% of your efforts on those. For example, public speaking, blogging, and social media. It helps keep you from chasing your tail and will allow your audience to get to know you over time and create a strong relationship. 

      Hope that helps!

      • Thanks John. I think it will. Currently I am focused on my blogging and sharing the content via social media.

        I would like to do public speaking but it scares me. We will see when that step comes.

  • Thanks for having me on your blog Jeff! Much appreciated!

  • I think for me it’s primarily about not letting my concerns about branding overtake my ability to just talk to people. I think what you said here: “They want to use social media as another broadcasting tool when it’s not. It’s a conversation tool.” is pretty key.

    Thanks for having John on today Jeff!

  • So as I’m typing these words, I’m actually branding? Oh boy. 

  • Hey Jeff, I just wanted to say that I started reading your blog within the last month, and I am consistently enjoying the material you post. Thanks for the great content.

  • NickZ

    My problem with branding is that once one forms an opinion about you it can not be easily changed. You can have a brand that actually does not suit you.
    Anyway, I was not aware of that before – thanks :). 

  • Joan

    Thanks for stirring my thoughts on this topic.  Awareness of  my brand is important for many personal reasons, beyond marketing. How I present myself to others comes from ‘How do I see myself today and in my future?’.
    Past life experiences affect who I am today, and how I perceive those experiences will lead my intentions for ‘who I become’. LIFE IS INTENTIONAL. 
    My daily question, “Who do I want to be?” … and “who do I want to become?” – this is essentially my definition of the branding process. 

  • This is good stuff man, internet popularity pops the combination.

  • Great topic Jeff. I’ve been struggling with the very same issue of using my name vs. a company name. You hit the nail on the head with “Everyone already has a perception of you. It’s up to you to ensure that perception is accurate.”  That’s the story that needs to be told.


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