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The corporate world is starting to realize that business is a very human endeavor.

In the last year alone, dozens of books were released focusing on the people side of business. Books like Customer Experience Management, CEO Capital, The Partnering Imperative and The Value Profit Chain: Treat Employees Like Customers and Customers Like Employees.

Innovative business leaders are waking up to the fact that successful brands are built by people. By creative employees, not robots. By loyal customers, not CRM systems. By committed partnerships, not relationships du jour. By visionary leaders, not those with a short-term focus.

Your brand is only as strong as the sum of your relationships with the members of your brand community. “Brand community” is the collective term for all of your human brand assets: your leaders, employees, business partners, customers and shareholders.

These brand assets are more valuable than your infrastructure, your office and even your products. The companies that succeed in today's competitive marketplace—those that stand out, are able to charge a premium for their services and are able to extend into new business areas—are the ones that proactively harness the emotional connections with all members of their brand communities.

You need only look at the companies that consistently show up on Business Week's Top 100 Brands, Fortune's Best Places to Work and Fortune's Most Admired Companies to see the connection between people and the brand. IBM, FedEx, Intel and Harley-Davidson are just a few that show up on all three lists.

Brand managers who focus their energy on the inanimate components of branding are working with only half the brand equation, and not the most important half. The non-human components of your brand are important for building a strong brand foundation, one that communicates the rational brand attributes of your organization, but they do less to build the emotional experience than the activities of your human brand assets.

Nick Graham, the self-titled Chief Underpants Officer (CUO!) of Joe Boxer, says: “The brand is the amusement park, the product is the souvenir.”

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image of William Arruda

William Arruda is a personal branding pioneer, the founder and CEO of Reach Personal Branding, and the author of Ditch. Dare. Do! 3D Personal Branding for Executives.

Twitter: @williamarruda

LinkedIn: William Arruda