I admit I have not given this blog the attention it needed over the past year. Needless to say school has kept me very busy. Plus, I’ve got some very exciting projects I’m working on outside the world of academia that I’ve been focusing on. Either way, as we reach the end of the semester I’m reminded that my time here is growing short. Soon enough I will be back in the thick of finishing my final semester and trying to get a job. I thought I would share an article I wrote last year about this time that was published on IHAVEANIDEA. You can link to the online article here or read it below. Its never too early to start polishing up the personal brand!
There is no escaping it. This tech-ed up world we’re living in has made dodging the marketer’s message nearly impossible. So much so, that as consumers we are all growing increasingly complacent to the onslaught of branded messaging we confront on a daily basis. As a student of the VCU Brandcenter, a microcosm of self-proclaimed brand junkies, the experience may be slightly different.
We love this stuff. Probably too much.
I remember well the first assignment I received in a course on brand engagement. At the professor’s instruction, I was to record in a journal every brand that I consciously engaged with during one single day. Simple, right? My mind was fried by the time I polished off my Cheerio’s. There I sat, on my Ikea couch, watching a TV series on Netflix, streamed via Roku, on my Panasonic television, while checking email on my iPhone and devouring a bowl of Big G cereal. All before 8 AM. And while I thought I was being particularly clever recognizing all this hardcore brand engagement, I was amazed to see my list of brands dwarfed by many of my fanatical peers. I think the winning list included nearly 200 brands. In one day.
While the Brandcenter may represent somewhat of an anomaly in that regard, it’s in the context of this observation that I can’t help but express some surprise at how infrequently people consider themselves among the most important brands in their life.
Whether we like it or not, we all act as our own personal brand. And much like the popular brands we all love (and love to hate), the things we do and say are often trumped by how others perceive us. It may seem unfair but that’s the way it works. Don’t think you’re that petty? Well, examine your own purchasing behavior and you may see similar patterns. How many times have you been torn between products and chosen the one wrapped in sexier packaging? Are you more willing to take a risk on a new product because of its cool logo or recognizable brand? Of course you are. We all are.
Managing a brand is hard work and requires a high level of commitment. One advantage that we, as individuals, have over corporate brands is agility. If you’re unhappy with your current brand, simply change it. It can be as simple as minding your wardrobe, tweaking your vocabulary or reinvigorating that limp handshake. Obviously these small transformations represent the most basic of personal branding tactics. However, implementing a more strategic branding initiative doesn’t have to be as complex as it seems. Look at world famous brands like Coca-Cola, Nike, and Levi’s – sure they have brand values. A brand voice. An essence. And while all of this may feel very intangible on the surface, each of these brands are rooted in something very real. A passion and dedication to their respective craft that transcends the product itself.
This same concept can be applied with equal magnitude to shaping your own brand. Find your passions, what you want to stand for and inject them with your own personality. Be fluid. Be flexible. These things change over time and your brand should evolve in parallel. Just keep in mind that there is no right answer and no real risk. No ROI to track. No shareholders to please. Just you: an army of one.
I recently had the opportunity to attend the annual recruiting event for graduating Brandcenter students. It is attended by hundreds of the world’s top ad agencies on the hunt for the industry’s hottest young talent. It was truly something to behold. For two days, the school was transformed into a gallery of brilliant personal branding. I didn’t see a thing that wasn’t astonishingly unique and creative. The Brandcenter Class of 2012 set the bar high – not only for future graduates of the Brandcenter, but for personal brands everywhere.
So whether you count yourself among the graduates plunging into the workforce for the first time this May, or those simply trying to ignite and propel a prosperous career, know that the secret to success may be more manageable than you thought. I’ve found that the best way to be treated like a junior is to act like one. If you want to be perceived as a professional you can just as easily be one of those, too. But that’s the beauty of being your own brand manager; you call the shots.