Is your brand borrowed?

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog called Its Stephanie C. Harper. The purpose of the blog was to talk about the importance of maintaining your brand (and ensuring that others properly represent your brand). In the article, I spoke about why I don’t allow people to call me “Stephanie Harper”, and my preference of being called “Stephanie C. Harper”. Not to be confused with being a Diva like Diana Ross, who prefers Miss Ross, but simply because it’s more than just my name, but also my brand.

Today, I had the privilege of presenting at the Steer Your Career Conference and my topic of course, was “Building A Personal Brand”.  While preparing for my presentation, I categorized six (6) types of brands:  Personal, Business, Concrete, Confused, Borrowed and Broke.  In this blog, I’d like to focus on the borrowed brand.

One challenge I face in many circles is explaining to a new business owner (including authors), the importance of having a brand.  The truth is, your brand is essentially, your public reputation, so if you are going to have one, you may as well manage it.   Even though people often confuse branding with logo, websites, and business cards.  Those are extensions of brand management, but not a brand.   The American Marketing Association defines a brand as a “Name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.”  Key word being distinct which means (clear, precise, not the same, separate, no alike, different and yes…RECOGNIZABLE).

Speaking of recognizable, there are many borrowed brands that people use when they should be using their own.  A few of the most popular borrowed brands include gmail, yahoo, vista print, moo, wix, weebly and yes even WordPress.  I call these brands borrowed because they are more popular than the person using them and the person using them actively promotes the borrowed brand along with theirs.

Many people will take the time to purchase a personalized domain such as then turn around and use on their website and even have this printed on free business cards with printed on the back of them.  You get my point?    In the made up scenario above, I have borrowed the yahoo, wix and vista print brands all in an effort to promote my own brand.  Most of the people that I see do this, do so because well, they are too cheap to actually invest in their own brand. But I believe there is a population of people who just don’t know how to mask those free branding accounts. So let’s talk about it.  Keeping with the few brands I names above, let me give you a few suggestions to ensure your not using a borrowed brand, well at least not publicly.

If you have either a gmail or yahoo account (and I have, use and love both).   You can simply mask those email so that every email you send points back to YOUR BRAND.  Use them to your advantage BEHIND the scenes.


Yes, I have 14,000+ emails in my inbox, but that’s another blog.  As you can see from the above image, within Yahoo there is an option to use alternative email addressees (this option is also available in Gmail).  Simply use the pull down menu to choose which email account you want your emails from come from.  Simple…and your branding with every email!

If you decide to use Vistaprint or Moo cards for business cards….PLEASE just upload your own image and pay for the higher quality paper.    When using template business cards, you loose the “distinct” branding edge by using the same cards that millions of others are using.   For those who  think no one else is using the same template, I’d love to show you shoe boxes of business cards that all look EXACTLY the same.

Moving on to websites…some of the most popular include, wix, weebly, webs, and WordPress.  Unless you know how to code in HTML, you will have the same issue with anything that is a template – – it will look like the brand of others.  Some of  these won’t even allow you to change to your brand colors.  You will have limited options to customize and also loosing your ability to build a distinct brand image.  Yes, I know you can point your domain to the wix, weebly, webs,etc…but you will also have to wait a year to re-direct your domain should you decide to move from those platforms (read the fine print).  Now you have to begin re-branding.

I am also a WordPress user, however, we have purchased our themes and customized our websites and you wont see the WordPress branding anywhere on our sites.

(this below is what we purchased)

 this is actually (below) is what you’ll see when you visit our website.

The point is… there is NOTHING WRONG, with using borrowed brands, but you need to build your own.    If everything you put out is borrowed, you will soon began to look like a “broke brand”.  Which easily translates to “not ready to do business”.

If you are going to use a borrowed brand, make in investment in your brand to ensure that it speaks to the personality and professionalism  of your brand all while delivering your brand promise!  Borrowed brands should not scream broke brands (meaning, I have for my business is FREE!)  It’s not free, its borrowed and it’s costing you distinct branding opportunities.  At then end of the day, the only brand that going to make you any dollars and cents, it the brand that you build!

Bottomline, if the brand you promote has anyone’s brand in it other than yours, it’s borrowed!  Give it back – – or at least tuck it away!  You have a business to run and business to brand.  Let’s get busy branding!   Your brand needs to represent you and your business only – distinctly!







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  • Shawn Broussard says:

    Thanks, this is right on point and clarifiies quite a few thing for me. This alone has helped me more than a book I recently read as I am branding myself.

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