Me, a brand?

“BrandYou” – Me, a brand?

Companies spend billions to influence how their customers think, feel, and respond to their brand. These companies know that a strong brand can create a brand loyalty that is thicker than blood. We can see this clearly today. Just try to convince an “Apple Guy” that Microsoft Windows is the best, or try to convince the hardcore Starbucks addict that it’s just a cup of coffee. You just may find yourself at the blunt end of a caffeine-enraged rant.Brand, Me, Inc

But, where did the idea of personal branding come about? When did the “BrandYou” revolution begin?

Although it isn’t a new concept, today personal branding has taken on a whole new meaning and significance.

Tom Peters, well-known and respected management expert, is attributed with giving the concept wings and relevance for today. In 1997, he published an article in Fast Company on the topic of personal branding called, The Brand Called You. It was from here that the concept snowballed into what it is today.

What did he say that was so life changing? What did he say that connected with so many people? I encourage you to read the whole article, but for now, here are a few of the key take-aways:

 

We are CEOs of Me, Inc.

Peters challenges us to take a Lesson from the Big Brands on what it takes to stand out and succeed in today’s marketplace. The same things needed to build a big brand that connects with consumers, is the same thing needed for today’s professional to succeed today.

Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.” Tom Peters, Management Guru.

Big Brands understand how important it is to manage its brand. They own it. In much the same way, you must own your personal brand. Each of us must understand that we are in charge of our brands success, or failure. As CEO, we call the shots.

If you don’t brand yourself, others will, which can be really risky because you have no control over what the end result may be. Instead, we should have control of our brand. We should manage our reputation, our image, and the perceptions that other people have about us.

Personal branding is about you becoming your own PR person. Not by tooting your own horn, no one likes that, but rather by taking charge of your brand image and communicate the value you can bring to a person or organization.

You Already Are a Brand

Peters goes on to clarify the importance for us to keep in mind, personal branding isn’t about you making up something about yourself, because you already have a brand, whether you are managing it, or not.

This is about you becoming aware of what that brand image already is and aligning it with the image you want to communicate to others. We are talking about you managing your brand image so it more aligns with your professional goals.

Your brand already exists. Many already think, feel, and act a certain way to your current brand image. It’s there, whether you want it or not. The question is how in tune are you with your brand and will are you owning and benefiting from it? It’s yours, do something with it.

You Are Not Defined by Your Job Title

To effectively manage your personal brand, you must begin to think of yourself differently. Besides seeing yourself as a brand to be managed, you must also realize your value goes beyond your job title or job description.

Start right now: as of this moment you’re going to think of yourself differently! You’re not an “employee” of General Motors, you’re not a “staffer” at General Mills, you’re not a “worker” at General Electric or a “human resource” at General Dynamics (ooops, it’s gone!). Forget the Generals! You don’t “belong to” any company for life, and your chief affiliation isn’t to any particular “function.” You’re not defined by your job title and you’re not confined by your job description.”

Today, companies come and go. Professionals must not limit their brand value to their job or organization. Don’t limit yourself to just your job description, because your job could be gone tomorrow. Where would your brand be then? Your brand is bigger than any company. If you lose your job, or decide to accept a new job position, your brand goes with you.

Discover What Makes You Remarkable

Your brand may benefit your current company and organization, however it is not limited to the work you do there. You must think bigger. You must discover what it is that makes you remarkable.

Ask yourself: What do I do that adds remarkable, measurable, distinguished, distinctive value? Forget your job description. Ask yourself: What do I do that I am most proud of? ; If you’re going to be a brand, you’ve got to become relentlessly focused on what you do that adds value, that you’re proud of, and most important, that you can shamelessly take credit for….

Start by identifying the qualities or characteristics that make you distinctive from your competitors — or your colleagues. What have you done lately — this week — to make yourself stand out?…What would your colleagues or your customers say is your greatest and clearest strength?”

Many feel you need to become a specialist, rather than a generalist. What do you do better than most others in your organization? If nothing stands out, maybe you should focus on something, take some classes, participate in specialized training, or hone your skills. Do something to build your expertise. Focus on what you do that adds value to your target market.

Personal Branding is NOT about Self-Promotion

Personal branding is more about self-discovery, not self-promotion. Notice that Tom Peters didn’t say for us to make up a fake facade. No one is telling you make something up or attempt to say, or be, something that you aren’t. You need the ability to back it up. You still must have the skills and authentic qualities to support your brand image.

I view personal branding as this process of self-discovery and a renewed understanding of who you are, what you value, and what you stand up for. It fundamentally begins with you truly understanding who you are and what your strengths are and how those qualities can be of value to yourself and others.

The final outcome should result in you understanding what makes you unique. This is where the power of a personal brand really gets traction. Because, I’ve heard it said, “it is not enough to be known for what you do — you must be known for what you do differently”.

It is not enough to be known for what you do – you must be known for what you do differently.”

You do not merely want to be known as another player in a category. You don’t want to be just another interview candidate. You don’t want to be just another sales consultant. You want people to believe that you are the BEST solution to their problem.

Personal branding is not about a logo, website, or tag line. Personal branding is about you discovering deep down what you are all about and then communicating that in such a way that it is of value to others. To be powerful and long lasting it must be genuine.

Personal Branding is a “Must-Have” Skill

Personal branding has come along way since the first time Tom Peters first wrote the article for Fast Company back in the ’90s. Fast forward to today, personal branding is now essential. It is now being considered a “must-have” skill to get ahead.

The market place is crowded with many highly accomplished people who are still searching for jobs. The competition for jobs and promotions are highly competitive.

To make your mark and rise above the crowd, you need to have a clear idea what you’re all about and what value you have to offer. What makes you different? What do you have to offer that is significantly different, better, more valuable?

The professional, entrepreneur, and job seeker all must find ways to stand out.

The Process Begins Inside

This process begins with taking a look inside you and asking yourself some very tough questions. For many, this is some of the toughest part about this process. Many just aren’t use to such an introspective deep look inside. However, as difficult as it may be it is still a very vital step.

Here is where you uncover your vision and mission, values and motivators, and your core competencies. Identify your top brand persona’s and leadership competencies. Each of these will lay the foundation for your brand.

If you are ready to take a look inside, there are a number of ways to uncover the qualities you seek. However, I have found that one tool is not only very effective, it also cuts the discovery time significantly. It takes one of the most difficult phase of the personal branding process and makes it a much more efficient experience. To read more about the, Personal Brand DNA assessment.  

The Perception of Others

The process continues by shifting from looking inside to looking outside of yourself to the minds of those around you. By coming to understand how friends, family, coworkers, and supervisors currently perceive you, an understanding of your brand image is revealed.

It does’t matter if you see yourself as driven and efficient, if others see you as domineering and impatient. It’s what others think that matters when it comes to branding. You may think your product is the best options, but if the customer thinks it is sub par, its what the customer thinks that wins out.

This is why it is so important to own your brand image, because you may feel you are making significant contributions at work, but if the prevailing perception is you aren’t, then it is those perceptions that may be keeping you from advancing. Until those perceptions are changed, your brand image will keep you from reaching your professional goals.

Your personal brand could be holding your career back, which is why this is a vital step in the branding process. You need the honest feedback from those who are aware of your brand.

360° Reach Personal Brand Assessment is the world’s first and leading confidential, web-based personal branding assessment that collects anonymous 360-degree feedback in real time from family, friends, peers, managers, staff, employees, clients, and mentors. It is ideal for gathering others perceptions of your brand. Nearly a million people have used 360Reach to date. To learn more about, 360° Reach Personal Brand Assessment. 

Your Unique Value Proposition

The look inward and the snapshot of your current brand are both ruminated until your unique proposition of value is extracted and then aligned.

I say ruminate because it requires you to think deeply about what you have discovered. To ruminate means to chew over like a cow chews the cud.

The cow is an animal with four compartments to its stomach, the largest of the four is the rumen, thus these animals are called ruminants. Sheep, goats, bison and deer are other examples of ruminants and this information pertains to them also. The rumen acts somewhat like a large fermentation vat. Inside this vat are bacteria and protozoa that are cellulolytic, meaning they are able to digest cellulose, the major component of plant cell walls. The host animal, in this case the cow, provides the environment for these microbes and they in turn aid in digestion of plant components that the host could not otherwise utilize. These microbes also continue down the digestive tract of the animal where they are digested as part of the protein in the animals diet. Monogastrics, or single stomached animals like humans and pigs don’t have this symbiotic relationship going on to this extent and cannot make good use of the type of plants that cattle typically eat.

So in cattle, particles of food are bitten off, masticated to some extent and swallowed. The “cud” is actually a portion of regurgitated food that needs shredded into smaller particle for effective digestion in the rumen and beyond. (Green Vista Farm)

I feel it is important to emphasize the importance of chewing all this information over, then do it again. You may have missed something. Don’t rush this process of considering how the information you have discovered can impact your job, career, family, and friends.

Once you are clear about what makes you different and uniquely valuable, you are tasked with focusing that into a clear and concise message that you will communicate to those you seek to network.

There are many reasons why many find this process difficult:

For some it is because they lack self-worth. They don’t think they have really anything unique to offer this world. To them I say, “Rubbish!” Everyone has something to offer of value. I encourage you to find the strength to find it.

Some find this difficult because their life is moving so fast, they can’t take the time to look that deep inside. Unfortunately, these people will risk the possibility of missing some incredible opportunities all because they couldn’t slow down long enough to learn something about themselves.

Then there are those who don’t want to look inside because they are nervous about what they may find. What if it isn’t what they expect?

It is with this in mind that I want to share an interesting anecdote.

Believe in Yourself

You Are More Than Sugar Water

Consider this, if I came to you and said, “I have a great idea on how we can make billions!” Would you be interested? What if my idea was to sell sugar water? Still think it is a billion dollar idea? Are you ready to invest?

The number one brand in the world is Coke-a-cola. What absolutely is amazing is that they sell and market sugar water. Coke-a-cola is sugar+water+carbonation+can= $$$$. Can you believe it?!

When you break Coke down to its base parts, it doesn’t really wow me. Kind of like some of you. Broken down into all of your base parts, you may not seem all that impressive either.

Yet, when the Coke-a-cola company put all the ingredients together and found their unique magic combination, millions love it! These millions of dedicated Coke drinkers will even defend the brand if necessary.

In fact, when the company decided to make some slight changes to the original Coke, you would have thought they had committed the unforgivable. Loyal Coke customers spoke up. They spoke up in defense of sugar water.

Now take a second to reflect on you. Think about all the things that are the ingredients to you. What do you see? Sugar water? Struggling to see anything all that special?

This, you see, is the problem. Look harder. You must believe in yourself enough to know that your unique skills, abilities and “style” can offer a value only you can give. But, until you see it, it will remain hidden. No one will see it. You must discover what makes you rise above the crowd. This is about you tapping into your unique promise of value. It’s there. It’s there for you to find it.

Find your unique magic combination

 

Your Brand is Worth It

Personal branding requires some work. It doesn’t just happen. However, the benefits of a solid personal brand are worth it.

Here’s are just a few of the benefits of personal branding:

 describe the image Increase your confidence and clarity in who you are  
 describe the image Position yourself clearly in the minds of others
 describe the image Differentiate yourself from your peers
 describe the image Open up doors of opportunity
 describe the image Advance your career
 describe the image Increase your income

The concept of personal branding has come of age. Today’s professional must believe in themselves enough to dig deep inside to find that unique value that makes them stand out. This won’t just happen. You must own it. You’re now the CEO of BrandYou. The reward will be worth it, because it has become deeply personal.

 

Read more about how the Wall Street Journal says, Personal Branding: A Must-Have Skill Needed to Get Ahead in 2013. 

 






 

By Brent Wells

 


 

TOM PETERS, The Brand Called YOUFast Company, AUGUST 31, 1997

 

About Brent Wells

Brent has 20 years’ experience in training and development, both with small businesses and Fortune 500 companies. His agency is focused on career development, personal branding and talent management strategies.

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