The running shoes you are wearing with the distinctive swoosh; the soda you are drinking in the distinctive red colored can; the jeans with the prominent stitching on the back asserting that you are trendy and socially conscience; the smartphone with the bitten fruit logo prominently displayed; the watch the size of a small pancake that seems to scream out “look at me, I have made it”…you are branded, your neighbor is branded and your neighbor’s neighbor is branded. The reality is, we are all branded. Do not fight it, the signs are literally everywhere, and it is time for us all to learn from the big national brands and realize that in order to stand out in this congested world, you must be branded. And you must be the brand.
Let me be the first to congratulate you on your new position as chief executive officer and chief marketer for You, Incorporated. If not now then when? If not you then who? There is good news and bad news—the good news is everyone already has a personal brand, a reputation or how other people perceive you. The bad news is you may not like your personal brand. What is your personal brand? Do you know? Do you want to know? Is it positive or negative? Ask your cohorts, the ones that know you well, how they perceive you. Allow them to be frank by promising not to get upset. This ensures that you receive honest feedback.
Here is some additional good news. Everyone has an opportunity to be brand worthy and everyone can change their personal brand. Determine what it takes to create a distinctive role for you; create a message and a strategy to promote the YOU brand. Start right now. You are every bit as much a brand as Coke, Nike, Starbucks or Apple. To start thinking like your own brand, ask yourself the same question the brand managers at big companies ask themselves: What is it that my product or service does that makes it different? Write down your answer in less than 20 words, then read it, refine it and memorize it. This is your personal brand positioning statement, and it is used to create positive reactions from others, create a positive lasting impression or what I refer to as “shelf of the mind space.”
Positioning is a method to differentiate oneself from others (your competition) thus creating greater opportunity to build long-term relationships and create value in the eyes of the customer. In other words, customers must fully believe they cannot obtain the value you bring to them from any other individual or company. In the marketplace, a product will either enjoy brand identity as a brand item or fall into the ever growing sea of generic items—you are no different.
Start by identifying qualities or characteristics that make you distinctive from your colleagues or your competitors. What have you done today to make yourself stand out? What would your customers or your colleagues say is your greatest and clearest strength? What is your most noteworthy trait? Do you deliver work on time every time? Do you anticipate and solve problems before they become crises? Does your client save money and get fewer headaches just by having you on the team?
How do you market Brand You? Through a personal branding campaign. The most important thing to remember about your personal branding campaign is: it all matters. Everything you do and say, and everything you do not do and choose not to communicate impacts the value and the character of your brand. The way you handle phone conversations. The e-mail messages you send, the way you conduct yourself in a business meeting, the way you handle yourself on conference calls and the way you enter a room are all part of the larger message you are conveying about your brand. It is substance and it style. If you want to grow your brand, you have to accept that power is not a negative word. It is all about influence power; it is about reputation power. Getting and using power intelligently, responsibly and powerfully are essential skills to grow your brand. One of the traits that attract us to certain brands is the power they project. As a consumer, you want to associate with brands whose powerful presence rubs off on you. Remember, power is mostly a matter of perception: If you want people to see you as a powerful brand, then act like a credible leader. You do not need organizational chart authority to be a leader when the brand is you. You are the leader; you are leading you. Brand You is not defined by your title or your job description.
Again, congratulations on your new position as chief executive office and chief executive marketer for Brand You. Do not forget to keep your corporate minutes.