Ask people on the street about what a brand is, and the answers will likely vary by generation.
Those who grew up in the mid-twentieth century might mention brands such as Kellogg’s, Coca Cola or even wonder what cigarettes they used to smoke.
Young people who have grown up immersed in social media might think of brands differently.
They might think of their own personal brands — how they’re driven by their own personality quirks, the traits that make them unique or how their friends know them best.
Some have brands so strong they’re considered influencers. Others might wonder whether their followings are deep enough to have reached that status.
“Anybody can have a brand,” Tina Walczak, branding expert with Kelowna’s Hiilite Marketing agency told Global News.
“You know how you connect with somebody on something ridiculous like a hilarious joke and then you talk to somebody else about it and they have no idea what you’re talking about?
“That’s kind of the essence of what a brand is.”
With interesting posts to share and unique qualities that shine, influencers have often launched their brands on reality TV or because they’ve been associated with others who have strong followings.
But there is always room for new players, according to Hiilite’s director William Walczak.
“What is there an opportunity for in the market? Or is there a void in the social space? Is there something?” he said.
The Walczaks agree that authenticity is the key to building a solid following.
“You want to find an audience that truly connects with you,” William Walczak said. “Whatever your brand is should be your true authentic self and that’s true with companies and that’s true with people.”
But sometimes the message doesn’t always resonate, which leads people to test their brands’ boundaries.
Tina Walczak helps clients sort through their brands to clarify that definition.
“How do you want to sound to others? How do others feel when interacting with you? What value do you add to people?” she said. “You follow those segments and you create that in your content.”
Colour, editing filters and hashtags all play a crucial role.
“They’ll use the same ones over and over again. That’s how people know the difference between different companies, which seems so simple and it is,” Walczak said. “It doesn’t need to be complicated.”
When an influencer has enough of a following, there’s a danger in oversharing their role as brand ambassadors, which is how they make a living.
“I think we’re so tired as consumers of being marketed at,” William Walczak said. “No one wants to be sold constantly.”
He demonstrated what it looks like when an influencer is overselling.
“‘Here’s the product I’m using. Here’s what I’m selling. Here’s the store that you need to go to. Here’s this,'” he said.
“We don’t want to do that. It’s not authentic, it’s another thing that’s trying to sell at us.”
The danger of using an influencer to be your brand ambassador is associating with someone who may do things that don’t resonate with your audience.
They might do things that “go off brand,” even carry out illegal activities in their personal lives.
“There is potential downside,” Walczak agreed. “What is this person doing in their private life?”
Celebrity designer and Canadian influencer Jillian Harris shares so much on her social media feeds there’s often little left to wonder about what she does with her time.
“There’s a part of me that wants to slow down because we are expecting our second baby and I want to be at home more,” Harris told Global News.
“But I think my career in TV will probably be the first one to go because it is so much more demanding.”
Harris is currently filming Love It or List It Vancouver in Kelowna, which she has called home for several years.
Getting a shout out from an influencer like Harris can make or break a business.
Tomorrow, we meet an Okanagan duo who managed to score a piece of the influencer action by putting their favourite local things into a subscription box.