“Try not to become a man of success, but rather to become a man of value”. The quote is often attributed to Albert Einstein. Either way, it is one of my favorite quotes for multiple reasons. This particular quote has resonated with me since I was in high school when my mother was trying to instill in me the importance of a moral code and inner ethics before anything else. As we get older, balancing what’s right or wrong versus our self-interest can be a difficult task. Not that you can remember exactly how it felt, but as a child there was so much more clarity in deciding what was right and wrong. The line was bright, loud and clear. Then as you begin to lose your innocence, some people younger than others, it’s as if that line begins to fade almost to black if you let it. The need to continually pursue the right thing is a challenge for all of us (or shall I say most of us).
The more I have become immersed into social media, business marketing, and personal promotion, there is something that is talked about over and over, and it’s called branding. Now you have business branding and marketing and the wave of personal branding continues to be more important now than ever. But it feels as if you can have branding for just about anything that needs an image or has a message to give to the world. Today, media has a huge impact on a brand. Our personal brand matters more than ever before and LinkedIn has made branding yourself an important component for even getting a job.
As with anything, when something is important for people there are more than a baGILLLION how-to books, [whatever topic] 101 articles and 50 ways to improve X. There is no shortage of information about how to effectively brand. And here’s why, “The average western consumer is exposed to some 3,000 brand messages a day.” (source)
That’s right, 3,000. So how did we get here? Let’s take a look how branding became popular. “Personal branding, self-positioning and all individual branding by whatever name, was first introduced in 1937 in the book “Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill”(source). But it wasn’t until the 1980’s the idea resurfaced, and Tom Peters popularized the term “brand” with a 1997 article. (source) But when thinking of branding, to get a better picture of branding, we have to look at business branding, which made brand management, messaging and public perception what it is today.
“In the 1950s, consumer packaged goods companies like Procter and Gamble, General Foods and Unilever developed the discipline of brand management….[they] required an understanding of the target consumer and what we call a “branded proposition” that offered not only functional but also emotional value.” This emotional value is the component that would allow companies to charge more for its products. “This marked the start of almost 50 years of marketing where “winning” was determined by understanding the consumer better than your competitors and the getting the total “brand mix” right. The brand mix is more than the logo, or the price of a product. It’s also the packaging, the promotions, and the advertising, all of which is guided by precisely worded positioning statements”. (source)
And as the world becomes more global, digital brands, in my opinion, try to be more more personal and “humanistic”. More and more CEOs, VPs, and successful businesspersons are available and visible. Figuring out who your ideal employees and consumers is easier, and therefore, the need for your personal brand has gradually become important. So Wikipedia defines personal branding, as the “practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands. While previous self-help management techniques were about self-improvement, the personal-branding concept suggests instead that success comes from self-packaging.” (source)
Now I am not here to add to the plethora of branding information out there, and by no means am I branding professional. But I am a natural (extreme) extrovert and one of those weirdos that genuinely enjoys networking unlike the average person. For a long time, I thought the idea of personal branding was just silly. In the sense, why do people need to “buy” into me based on the way I package myself and create some emotional response to who I am. See, if you are around a lot of people, you naturally are able to feel or sense one’s emotional response. I have come to recognize that this is not the case online, and there is a shift in digital world that we live in. It is important to brand yourself. There are so many messages and it is easier to mistake your message online than in an one on one interaction.
When I network, and if you do it enough, you can get a sense of what people are feeling, what they like or dislike based on body language, facial expressions, etc. You sometimes cannot gauge how a consumer or person will react digitally, but you have to put your best foot forward. On the flip side, because we consume so much digitally, it is important now than ever, that our in-person interactions are genuine, because we have less of them, and your first impression may be the only one. So yeah, I kind of have bought into this idea that branding can be important.
I am not exactly sure why I decide to write about this topic, but there is one idea that I want you to take away from all of this. The most important branding that one can do is the brand you are to yourself. You can try to fool others to think what they will about you. You must first have the message right within before you can communicate a message to your friends, your family, let alone a business or professionally. Figuring out what you stand for, and believing it. It’s the idea, if you are not willing to drink your own kool-aid, then why would anyone else. How do you do this? Self-reflection. What are you reflecting in the pool? Now this is not a discussion on HOW you should be, if being evil is your thing and that’s your prerogative, then own that story you are telling, before you invest in convincing someone else. You must be of one mind.
The best business brands usually believe in the brands that they are selling. Although money and success can be great motivators for making a brand successful, the best brands believe in themselves, and also hire people who also believe in them as well. One thing customers hate more than being bombarded by all of these numerous messages, is being lied to. At the end of the day, your brand is a promotion of you. If you are promoting XYZ, and you’re ABC, then it doesn’t matter if you hire the best branding professional, your true self will always comes through. There is no way of hiding it, and you shouldn’t want to. This is not just about believing in yourself, it’s about believing in what your selling. Sell to yourself first, if you’re not buying, then no one else will. REFLECT.