Ever the proponent of taking lessons from other industries and thinking beyond the boundaries of the ones I inhabit everyday, I think about the word “brand” in the context of products I’ve known all my life. Interestingly, their look/shape, packaging, consumer promise, taste, smell and performance are just as they were when I first came to know them many years ago.
Think of Pepperidge Farm Cookies. You would know that packaging anywhere and Mint Milanos have tasted the same since inception! Hellmann’s Mayonnaise. Kleenex. Twinings tea. Lands’ End. The Nike swoosh. The claim they make, personality they exude and attributes they project keep their promise and show up exactly the same way with each encounter.
Each of these is its own brand, comprised of features that distinguish it and keep it distinctive and memorable. Hopefully, it delivers a superior experience compared with its competitors. Every time.
Given our disruptive marketplace and the tendency to commoditize goods and services, creating a brand for ourselves, as individuals, that enables us to stand out, be memorable, and attract the people we want, is more critical than ever. Not just in business, but also in our personal lives. What does our personality say about us? What do the way we dress, the places we show up, our speech and choice of words, our body language, etc., say about us in the minds of those we care about?
Everyone has a chance to stand out. Everyone has the opportunity to be a valued brand. Everyone can choose what messages they send, and what messages they do not want to send.
You are the CEO of the brand, “Me, Inc.”
Amazingly, I just came across an article I had been saving entitled “The Brand Called You” dated August 31, 1997 (yes, really!) published by Fast Company and authored by Tom Peters. It is as if it were written this morning. He advocates that we be “our own micro-equivalent of the Nike swoosh.” Here are some other nuggets he offered up:
So what is the “feature-benefit model” that the brand called You offers? 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? Most of all, forget about the standard rungs of progression you’ve climbed in your career up to now. What have I accomplished that I can unabashedly brag about? 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.
Someone once said to me – “you define your business by the clients you do not take.” (Please permit a quick plug for a previous blog post that can be seen here.)
Think about that and all that it means:
• Having the self-awareness, focus, perseverance and courage to stay the course and not be distracted by bright shiny lights
• Being thoughtful and intentional about how you want to be perceived and the steps you are willing to take to get there
• Checking in with clients and others whom you trust to ensure that how you want to be perceived or experienced is the same as how you are perceived and experienced. If there is a disconnect, you can choose to keep going down that path, or tweak and retool to achieve your initial goal
We get to choose. Let’s all ask ourselves, as Tom Peters does in his article, “How is the brand YOU doing?”