How to Build a Compelling Personal Brand: What is Your Brand Personality?
Part 2 of 3
Having been a student of marketing my entire adult life, I’ve seen the sweeping, seismic changes wrought by technology. The changes in media usage, how we connect and interact with each other are obvious. However, our approach to branding and positioning, or at least that of the more sophisticated marketers, also seems to have been transformed.
At the beginning of my career, brands were valued for what they could do on a rational basis. Marketers sought to define a brand’s “Unique Selling Proposition,” an outdated concept if there ever were one, seeking to differentiate themselves on the basis of a physical characteristic or performance. Folger’s coffee was “Mountain Grown.” Wisk was the only detergent brand that worked on “ring around the collar.” Schaeffer, in order to communicate “smooth taste” while encouraging increased consumption, was “the one beer to have when you’re having more than one.” Head & Shoulders was the first mainstream shampoo that controlled dandruff.
As technology leveled the playing field, marketers realized that emotional connections were more powerful than rational appeals. The Pampers brand was once known for superior absorbency. But Huggies and other brands eventually performed just as well, taking a huge bite out of Pampers’ market share. Now Pampers embraces a positioning of understanding the needs of mothers and the stages of a baby’s development, an emotional appeal that helped turn the business around.
Emotion is still important, but it’s at work in a different way. Now, what a brand actually does is now less important than its purpose and personality. How a brand “makes me feel” might be defined by a company’s positions and actions on social issues more than anything connected directly to the brand’s utility.
Is Chobani yogurt better than Dannon or Yoplait? They all taste pretty good, and it’s doubtful that there would be a clear “winner” in a taste test. But Chobani is a purpose driven brand with an authentic personality. While Dannon was doubling down on “creamier yogurt, delicious fruit and quality ingredients,” Chobani emphasized a rich back story that centered on the vision of a passionate founder. And as Dannon and Yoplait continue to fight it out over which had more “goodness” or “richness” or “quality,” Chobani is making big news by sharing profits with employees. Hiring refuges to work at the plants, promoting sustainability, giving back to workers and other social initiatives and are as integral to Chobani’s appeal as its taste.
A better example may be Nike. The brand still might stand for aspiration, but lately that’s been subjugated to a vision of personal freedom and patriotism as represented by Colin Kaepernick. The company is plainly telling us, “buy our sneakers because of what we stand for.” It’s a very different twist on “be your best possible self by buying our brand.”
The same thinking applies to your personal brand. Your skill set is the price of entry. You better be competent. But if you really want to stand out, you want to be a Mac, not a PC. You want to be Chobani, not Dannon.
In addition to what you stand for, what is your personal brand’s “origin story?” How does that lay the foundation for your unique brand personality, and how does your that personality transcend the accomplishments you list on your resume? Was there a moment of epiphany in your life that shaped your worldview or your mission? What is it that that elevates you, that makes you a more compelling choice than the thousands of others who, more or less, can perform competently?
I define my brand personality as a “Creative guru. A renaissance man, iconoclast and visionary. One who values high-touch, human understanding and empathy.” That’s not something that I broadcast externally (until now, anyway). It is how I try to behave and communicate – which is never a problem because it’s who I am.
There is no right or wrong here. It’s about presenting myself with authenticity. As I like to tell new hires and people I work with, it is likely that 60% or more companies probably “don’t get me” at all, 30% or more might get me, and 10% or less are really going to get me. I focus on that 10% primarily and the other 30% secondarily. There’s plenty of business in that slice of the overall target.
And there are plenty of job opportunities for you. If you’re job hunting, all you need is one good job.
Coming Next, Part 3: Mental Health and the Challenge of Objectivity