Tag Archive: brand

The more you reach back and share with someone else
the greater your success will become

Where has the year escaped to? We are quickly approaching the end-of-year holidays: a time for joy and sharing. So I am going to close out the 2012 series of articles with a reminder that the best way to enjoy your success is to share it with friends and family. 
I have been using building your “dream house” as a metaphor for building your perfectly aligned and promoted brand, and I believe it is an apt comparison. After all, your brand should serve as a home where all your professional skills and aspirations reside and draw strength, so that you can go out into the world and compete in today’s ultracompetitive marketplace. 
But imagine for a moment that you have invested the time, effort and expense to spend most of the year building your dream home, decorating it exactly the way you want it to look and getting settled in. Now the holidays are coming – don’t you want to have friends and family over for a sumptuous holiday feast, so they can share in the fruits of all your efforts? Why create your dream home if you aren’t willing to share your dreams with those close to you? 
Likewise, you need to share your brand success with those close to you – be they relatives, friends, classmates, co-workers, spouses/romantic partners – whoever means something in your life. This doesn’t mean rubbing your success in their faces, but it does mean perhaps picking up the tab for a nice dinner or inviting an old friend to play a round of golf. If you are successful enough to buy a fancy car, boat or other grown-up “toy,” make sure the people you care about get some enjoyment from it, too. The point of building a successful brand is not to become a recluse or miser, but to become someone who gets maximum enjoyment from life and is willing to share some of that enjoyment with others.

How Slammed is Your Door?

Following is a test to help determine whether your door (so to speak) is wide open to sharing your brand success, partially open, or slammed shut. Rate how strongly you agree that each of the following fresh statements applies to you today from 1 to 5, with 1 equaling strongly disagree and 5 equaling strongly agree
5♥ Wait, that’s really, really true about me- Strongly agree
4♥ That would be me- Agree
3♥ 50/50 sometimes, sometimes not- Somewhat agree
2♥ That absolutely has nothing to do with me- Disagree
1♥ Let me take the fifth on this- Strongly disagree
1. When I experience success, I see it as an opportunity to help others. 
2. I am not foolish with my money, but when I am doing well financially I’m willing to spend some on the people close to me. 
3. Success does not prevent me from staying in touch with the people I care about. 
4. Success does not lead me to forget about the people who helped me achieve it. 
5. I do not use success as an opportunity to engage in “one-upmanship” or pettiness. 
6. I do not feel that success makes me superior as a person to others who might be less successful. 
6.5 I always remember that in the end, people mean more than money or material goods.

What’s your digits?

Now that you’ve taken the test, let’s analyze how well you are securing your brand image: 
If you scored from 7 to 13, your door is slammed shut to sharing your success. Your selfish attitude may provide some shallow, short-term enjoyment, but ultimately it will cause you to become lonely and dissatisfied. 
If you scored from 14 to 20, your door is open a crack to sharing your success. You might pick up a check once in a great while, but you’re not really being generous with what you have earned. 
If you scored from 21 to 26, your door is open halfway to sharing your success. You remember who your friends are and show some basic goodwill, but still keep a lot of your success to yourself. 
If you scored from 27 to 33, your door is open three-quarters to sharing your success. You make some genuine attempts to share your good fortune with others, but still don’t fully put your heart into the effort. 
If you scored a 34 or 35, your door is wide open to sharing your success. You do not attempt to show off or buy people’s affection, but you realize the intrinsic value of helping others around you and put people before material items and wealth. You are enjoying the best kind of success – that which nourishes the spirit and mind as well as the body.

GAP – Great Action Plan

I will conclude today’s look at sharing your success with a Great Action Plan. To truly share your success, you must determine exactly what steps you must take to be generous without being careless or boastful. 
Now, using the information above, what will you do to close the GAP? What’s your Great Action Plan for nailing a brand that will yield personal, economic and professional success? 
What will you do today? __________________________________
What will you do this week? _________________________________
What will you do this month?_________________________________

Happy Holidays! 
Exponential Happiness, Peace, and Overflow

Learn to Conquer the ‘P4’s:’ Pain, Pleasure, Pressure and Persecution

I don’t need to tell you that negativity surrounds you in this world. Even emanating from your friends, family and colleagues, it is all around. Your responsibility is to not waste your precious time and resources dealing with negativity. Remember, you are building a foundation that will lead to a stellar job or career with opportunities for enhancement, a thriving business, a new venture, or perhaps even the chance to be your own boss. Omitting the negative will be an extremely useful skill that you should carry with you throughout your professional and personal life.
When you encounter a negative experience – learn from it. Don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on it, you don’t need to let it consume valuable real estate in your head; you have so much more ahead of you.

Of course, you must realize that there will inevitably be negatives that come your way, and omitting them will not always be an easy task. In particular, you will have to successfully deal with the dreaded “P4” – Pain, Pleasure, Pressure and Persecution. On this journey to personal and professional success you will have to deal with these four major obstacles and your challenge will be to not let any of this derail you. P4’s have a strong potential to have a negative impact, and the way in which you tackle and overcome these potential derailments is critical to your obtaining and sustaining success.

Remember, you must go through each aspect of P4 to learn from them, but don’t let them lead you, consume you or cause you to lose focus. You will need to omit these potential negatives both proactively and reactively. Find the lessons that all this negativity can teach you and use them to write the next successful chapter. Do it right, and pretty soon you will be experiencing exponential personal and professional success.

Omitting the negative does not happen by itself, you will need to make some effort to truly banish negativity from your life. But it can be done with highly impressive results. Take the experience of the George Mason University men’s basketball team in the 2006 NCAA championships as an example.

Although the George Mason Patriots won an impressive 23 games during the 2005-06 season and even were ranked in the top 25 for a week, the experts all agreed they were lucky to reach the championship tournament and agreed they had no chance against their first round opponent, the basketball powerhouse Michigan State. George Mason’s subsequent victory was deemed one of those fluky things that often happens in the early rounds of the NCAA basketball finals.

However, the George Mason players and coaches continued omitting all the negativity surrounding them, including that coming from some of the most highly respected analysts and journalists covering college basketball. Specifically dealing with the “Pressure” and “Persecution” aspects of the 4 P’s the team reached the “Final Four” round of the tournament, meaning one more win would take them to the championship game.

Although George Mason lost to eventual champion Florida State, the Patriots proved that by omitting the negative and maintaining high goals, you can succeed beyond any limitations or expectations the outside world tries to place on you.

To avoid the P4, you must constantly guard against the negativity which is always trying to creep into your life. Following is an NCAA tournament-themed “heart check” to measure how closed off you are to negativity. In this case, the lower your score, the better!

5: Wait, that’s really, really true about me- Strongly agree
4: That would be me- Agree
3: 50/50 sometimes, sometimes not- somewhat agree
2: That absolutely has nothing to do with me-Disagree
1: Let me take the fifth on this- Strongly disagree

1. I find myself spending a lot of time worrying about negative things that were said about me.
2. I internalize 40% or more of the negative feedback that people say about me.
3. If you want to stop me dead in my tracks, just give me negative feedback.
4. I learn very little from negative feedback.
5. I know how to extract the positive out of negative feedback and use it to strengthen myself.
6. I often times elect to do something fun and pleasurable even when I know I should be working on something that will bring me a greater degree of success.
6.5. I crumble very easily under pressure.

Now that you’ve taken the test, let’s analyze your openness to negativity:

If you scored from 29 to 35, you don’t make the tournament. You are extremely sensitive to the opinions and judgments of others and are constantly second-guessing yourself for fear of doing something that will bring criticism. As long as you carry this self-defeating attitude, you will not be able to build a successful brand or achieve your aspirations. You need to start strengthening your resolve and following the 6.5 steps to omitting negativity before you find your career completely derailed. Remember that negativity can just as easily leave through an open door as it can enter!

If you scored from 21 to 28, you get bounced out of the first round. You are not completely dominated by negativity in the way a wide open colleague is, and probably function in a fairly positive manner if you are not facing any outright negativity. But once negative people and influences appear, you quickly come under their sway. Negativity instinctively senses and pursues its most vulnerable targets, so you probably encounter it often.

If you scored from 14 to 20, you make the “Sweet Sixteen,” the third round. You have managed to remove yourself from the run-of-the-mill negativity that most of us encounter on a regular basis. You do not allow yourself to become snared or distracted by offhand comments and petty political maneuverings. But closed doors are not the same as locked doors. Serious negativity, the type that damages lives and ruins careers if left unchecked, can still open your door and find you. You have taken some good first steps, but do not assume you are now safe. You still have plenty of work to do.

If you scored from 9 to 13, you make the “Elite Eight,” the fourth round. You understand the threat negativity poses and the many different forms it takes, and have developed effective strategies to deflect or neutralize it. Your door is locked, making it extremely difficult for negativity to get through. But your door still has a peephole, indicating that you find it hard to resist occasionally glimpsing at negativity and letting it invade your thoughts. Like most things that are bad for us, negativity holds a peculiar attraction. Resist it – there are much better ways to spend your precious spare time than focusing on negativity!

If you scored a 7 or 8, you are in the “Final Four,” meaning you’re a true championship contender. You are located behind a reinforced steel door with a deadbolt lock. You have erected complete defenses against negativity. Your door is impenetrable to the intrusion of negativity, unless you choose to open it. The lack of any type of peephole indicates that you have learned to ignore the dangerous allure of negativity and instead put it completely out of your life. You have truly omitted negativity, bringing you one major step closer to building the best possible brand and achieving all of your aspirations.


You Know How Great You Are – Don’t Be Afraid to Tell the World!

Selling your value means understanding your return on investment (ROI). You have confidence in your fullest potential, and you are constantly searching for new opportunities that will help you meet and potentially even exceed that potential. Whatever the opportunity may be; forget the advice about opportunity knocking. You have to go out knocking on doors, as many as you can find and at all times.

Now it’s time to let the world know who you are. You must convey what makes you different, distinctive and competitive (i.e., your brand). This statement is your definition statement. You will use this during networking, interviews to alert your current company and the outside world, your customers, potential and current employers about just how much value your brand truly provides.

Your statement has to be competitive internally to the organization, company or business that you are in, as well as competitive externally to the marketplace. If you are an entrepreneur, your statement must inspire and maintain the respect of your employees; and even if you work as a solo contractor, you must develop a statement you truly believe in yourself!

This is critical to gaining exponential personal and professional success internally while keeping you competitive on the open market, which provides you with the critical back-up plan in the event of downsizings, rightsizings, and economic slowdowns that may affect your current organization. In plain English, make sure your eggs can produce the world’s best omelet, no matter what basket they end up in.

Also remember that a closed mouth will starve you to death. You must passionately communicate both how great you are and how your greatness will spread throughout any organization you join if you want to dine on your aspirations.
For a perfect example of someone who always sold his value and never kept his mouth closed, let’s a take a look at the world of boxing.

Muhammad Ali in his prime was as great a boxer as you will ever see, and he would be the first one to tell you that. He first entered the pro boxing scene in the early 60s as a brash young upstart named Cassius Clay who simultaneously shocked and charmed America with his outlandish behavior and egotistical statements, always delivered with a wink and a nod that made them entertaining rather than annoying (except to his opponents!). The fact that he backed all his trash talk up by truly “floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee” in the ring also made it easier for the public to accept.

Ali’s combination of exceptional athletic talent and natural showmanship made him one of the world’s biggest celebrities. Principled actions he took which at the time were socially controversial, such as converting to Islam and refusing to be drafted during the Vietnam War, did not lessen his public appeal and over time actually added to his heroic mythology. Post-retirement, he has strengthened his brand even further through numerous charitable and goodwill endeavors and the courageous way he has publicly battled Parkinson’s disease. Ali’s eggs truly produced the world’s best boxing omelet, and nobody since has come close.

To effectively sell your value, you must constantly check up on yourself to make sure you are properly equipped to do the best sales job possible. Following is a boxing-themed “heart check” to help you keep your sales efforts at their peak performance.

1. I have a clear understanding about my worth; I know what I should be paid.
2. I am comfortable with selling the value that I bring.
3. I know my ROI.
4. I have made the people who can add to my success aware of the value that I can bring to them and/or their organization.
5. I have a set of skills that is competitive internally (in my current job, business or career) and externally (in the open marketplace).
6. I have a fresh way of succinctly explaining my unique value proposition that will get me noticed, heard, rewarded and paid.
6.5 My passion is authentically represented in how I explain my value proposition.

Now that you’ve taken the test, let’s analyze your score:

If you scored from 7-13, you’re not answering the opening bell. Rather than examining yourself to find the unique benefit, value and ROI you deliver, you simply present your basic professional experience and qualifications with a smile and a firm handshake, like you’ve always been told to. Yawn.

If you scored from 14-20, you get knocked out by the first hard punch you take. You have probably discovered one or two unique selling points for your personal brand, but lack any originality in how you get them across to potential customers (i.e., employers and clients).

If you scored from 21-26, you can last a few rounds, but are not truly a contender. You are aware of your brand’s unique strengths and focus on them in your pitches, but still haven’t figured out how to truly differentiate yourself in an ultra-competitive marketplace.

If you scored from 27-33, you’re a contender who can go the distance, but may not be ready for the championship belt. You clearly demonstrate the benefit, value and ROI you deliver in a way that is fresh and engaging for the listener. You have gathered the skills and information to cover the many different scenarios you may be asked to justify your brand against. But you still hang back a little bit, are you waiting for opportunity to knock instead of kicking down its door (or laying it flat on the canvas)?

If you scored a 34 or 35, you are ready to wear the championship belt. Anyone you come into contact with knows about your brand and what it can do in any given situation, and you are constantly refining how you deliver your pitch to make sure your message is up to date with what you have to offer, what you are looking for, and what best suits the needs of the marketplace. You float like a butterfly and sting like a bee!


Magic and Michael Knew What It Takes to Be a True Champion: Be Prepared!

You Can’t Build a Fresh, Competitive Brand without Preparing Yourself First

Preparing yourself helps you get a large part of the substance for your brand-building. Earlier in your career, this can be used to help you conduct stellar interviews with the best companies and have your pick of jobs. Later in your career, preparing yourself can help make you a top performer and obtain the promotions and accolades that will propel your career forward at a breakneck speed.

For college students, preparing yourself means taking steps like maintaining a consistently high GPA, test-driving potential careers and impressing potential future employers through internships, participating in extracurricular activities, and doing a “heart check” on your major – are you majoring in something you excel at and that truly captivates your interest where you can be passionate about it?

For professionals, preparing yourself means continuing your education, building and contributing to formal and informal networks, maintaining an active intellectual interest and knowledge capital in your career and your life, staying current on the latest business trends and demands in your field, taking on project assignments, asking your boss what you can do to become a better performer, and seizing every opportunity to stay front and center by volunteering for committees and gladly accepting additional work.

If you doubt the value of preparation, or perhaps feel you are already so good at what you do that you can slack off a bit when it comes to preparing, a brief look at the careers of pro basketball legends Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Michael Jordan will be instructive. They are undoubtedly two of the best players in the history of the NBA (many experts rank them one-two, in both orders) and both were explosive forces on the court from the moment they started their careers till the moment they ended them (of course, Johnson retired and unretired once and Jordan did it twice!). Blessed with immense natural athletic ability and incredible knowledge of the game of basketball, these men could easily have shown up at games with minimal preparation and still won championships and probably made the Hall of Fame.

But they didn’t. Both were notorious for being the first to arrive at practice and last to leave, every single time. Both put in huge amounts of personal time in the offseason staying in shape and working on basketball fundamentals so they would be able to start the season at peak performance level. Less talented teammates couldn’t help but be inspired to practice harder when they saw how seriously two of the all-time best players took their preparation.

It is also not a coincidence that both men have had highly successful post-basketball careers as business executives and corporate spokesmen. Their dedication and preparation helped give them sterling reputations as true “winners” which everyone wants to associate with, and undoubtedly they take the same no-nonsense, hyperprepared approach to their business lives as they did their basketball lives. If Magic and Michael needed lots of preparation, so do you!

Wondering how your efforts to be prepared stack up against the pros? Let’s compile a basketball–themed “shootaround” to measure your preparation. Rate how strongly you agree that each of the following preparedness statements applies to you today from 1-5, with 1 equaling strongly disagree and 5 equaling strongly agree:

1. I have a fully realized ideal of personal and professional success around which I build all my preparatory efforts.
2. I have the utmost confidence that I am truly prepared to achieve success and have no doubts about my ability to overcome any obstacle, no matter how unpredictable.
3. I have mastered the specific skills necessary to achieve success by being a branded expert in my chosen field, organization, business and or company.
4. I have obtained all the credentials necessary to achieve success by being a branded expert in my chosen field , organization, business and/or company.
5. I feel a burning competitive desire that pushes me to always take additional steps toward being prepared rather than feel satisfied with my preparatory efforts.
6. I know the skill sets and the mental attitudes of three people who have achieved success in the area that I want to succeed.
6.5 I gain a new competitive skill on at least a quarterly basis.

Now that you’ve taken the test, let’s analyze your score:

If you scored from 7-13, you launched an airball. You haven’t taken any real steps to prepare yourself for success and are relying on blind luck and last-second thinking to overcome whatever obstacles come your way.

If you scored from 14-20, your ball glanced off the rim. You have taken a few quick steps to get ready to succeed, but hurrying now will only make success take longer to arrive later.

If you scored from 21-26, you hit a free throw, worth one point. You have done all the obvious things it takes to prepare for success in your chosen field, organization, business and/or company, but so have most of your competitors. Those who take extra steps and think outside the box in their preparation are the ones who will stand out.

If you scored from 27-33, you hit a regulation two-point basket. You have gone above and beyond the norm to prepare and are ready for some serious competition. But are you ready to win?

If you scored a 34 or 35, you hit a three-pointer. Congratulations! You have taken the lessons of Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan to heart and have thoroughly prepared yourself for all contingencies, including unknowns, and done the groundwork necessary to truly stand out from the rest of the competition. You are fit to compete for a championship and maybe even have a Hall of Fame career!


Clients, Colleagues and friends continue to exclaim to me that they would work on creating and enhancing their personal brand – if they had more hours in the day. Well, getting more hours added to the day will not happen. The secret is to get more productivity out of the day- you heard me? I can share with you hundreds of examples of clients who have created the time and space to take themselves from generics to world-class personal brands- where they are experiencing exponential personal and professional success.

To help you maximize your productivity (yes you can get 30 hours out of a 24 hour day) I want to recommend a fantastic program that my colleague Jason Womack delivers. Increasing your productivity will afford you the time to create and execute your world-class personal brand.

Mastering Workplace Performance Online

Learn professional productivity and performance techniques to achieve your objectives. Equip yourself with the tools and the processes to get more of their
work done, on time, with fewer resources and with less stress. Manage the details that create effective workdays and successful professional careers.

Lessons designed to:
▪ Study your own productivity and performance habits, strategies and actions
▪ Understand and apply current time and action management techniques
▪ Learn and practice effective learning and communication processes
▪ Save time through the application of front-side workflow processing


Your partner for fresh results,
Michael D. Brown

Bakeries often have two options for their bread customers: fresh and day-old. No big surprise, the fresh bread typically sells for more than the day-old variety, which people only buy if they are short on money or possibly making croutons.

Brands are a lot like bread – fresh brands are more in demand and bring in more money than brands that are old and stale. People who achieve meaningful and long-term success personally and professionally understand the critical importance of staying fresh. You can’t just land your newly developed personal brand today, put it on a shelf and expect it to carry you throughout your career and life while you sit back and reap its rewards.

Anyone who has ever been in love (or even thought they were in love) can attest to this. The initial courtship is passionate and you can’t see enough of each other. But as you know, time goes on, competition enters, and that once passionate flame begins to flicker and eventually burns out. If a relationship is to have any chance of thriving long-term success you’ve got to keep it fresh, right?

You are essentially in a relationship, or pursuing a relationship, with bosses, clients, co-workers, customers, teachers, etc. For your relationships with the people who consume your brand to thrive long-term, your brand needs to stay fresh, current and vibrant enough to retain their interest and outshine the other brands vying for their hearts.

Or to use another analogy, right now Major League baseball teams are in the heart of spring training. For about six weeks before the start of the official season, teams practice, work out, bring in minor leaguers and possible free agent signees for evaluation, and play exhibition games.

Even the most experienced and accomplished veterans can be seen at their team’s spring training complex (which to lessen the sting are generally located in either Florida or Arizona), running sprints, chasing ground balls and performing other repetitive, mundane tasks to help them prepare for the upcoming season.

Why do some of the world’s most highly-paid athletes subject themselves to this often dull and grueling annual routine? Because they realize that after a long winter away from baseball they need to sharpen their skills and improve their physical conditioning so they are fresh as possible once the season starts in April. If people who in some cases already earn upwards of $25 million a year can make the effort to stay fresh, so can you!

Wondering how your efforts to stay fresh stack up against the pros? Let’s compile a baseball–themed “box score” of your freshness. Rate how strongly you agree that each of the following fresh statements applies to you today from 1-5, with 1 equaling strongly disagree and 5 equaling strongly agree:

1. My friends and colleagues come to me for the most up to date information.
2. If you are looking for fresh ideas, I am the one.
3. My current skillset is the most competitive out of anyone I may come up against for a job and/or promotion.
4. I am aware of the latest technology that can help me personally and professionally.
5. When my friends and colleagues want a fresh perspective or strategy I am the first person they call.
6. The last book that I read was one that was published within the last 12 months.
6.5 My resume is current, up to date and competitive.

Now that you’ve taken the test, let’s analyze your score:

If you scored from 7-13, you have struck out. You know what that means: nobody wants to purchase your brand and you’ll soon be taken off the shelf.

If you scored from 14-20, you hit a single. There is minimal demand for your personal brand, but only at a steep discount and when the more popular and competitive brands are all sold out.

If you scored from 21-26, you hit a double. Your brand will sell if it stays on the shelf long enough, but anyone seeking real fresh results will look elsewhere.

If you scored from 27-33, you hit a triple. Your brand is a respectable choice for the discerning connoisseur, but not the top choice.

If you scored a 34 or 35, you hit a home run. Congratulations! You have the brand that is most in demand and fetches the highest prices. You sell out early in the morning, when only the most competitive shoppers are out evaluating the available brands.


Packaging is Key to Your Brand Image
After developing the substance of your personal brand and landing it, you need to nail, package and market it to your audience (employer, group, organization).

Answer these questions: Who am I? What do I want to be? How do I want to be perceived? Most of us don’t think of ourselves as “a package,” but all of us are packages (i.e., “she is so plain, don’t depend on him he will never deliver, he is just boring”). Here is the trick; you want to make sure that you control your packaging (the look, feel, and experience) and the message that illuminates from it.

Or to look at it another way, since we are in the holiday season, think of your personal brand as a gift. Because it is; you are offering your time, expertise and talent to serve the needs of the marketplace.

Now think of gifts you have received over the years. The first thing you always notice about a gift is how it’s wrapped. Does it come in a solid package covered in colorful paper with a fresh, original pattern and a shiny bow on top? Maybe a nice personalized card attached? Or is it stuffed into an old shoe box with a ripped-up edition of last week’s Sunday funnies halfheartedly thrown around it, held in place with fraying twine?

While this example has been exaggerated for effect (especially the second part), honestly, how many times have you received a gift and had your heart sink before you unwrapped it because of the dull, generic packaging? That’s the main reason we also want to pay less for generic products on the shelf – the packaging is uniformly dull. When we see a package that shouts “Energy, Invigoration, Crispy, Clean, Colorful, Beautiful, Sophisticated, Expensive,” we get excited when it comes as a gift and we are willing to pay more when it comes as a product for sale.

In essence, good packaging helps speed the purchasing decision and leads people to pay top dollars (and that’s what you want your packaging to do right?). Packaging is how you express your personality. So think about how you want to be perceived, what competitive edge you want your packaging to send.

Remember, the way you decide to package your unique brand should be evident in everything that you do and attach your name to, the way you walk, the way your talk, the way you dress, the content and appearance of your resume/cover letter, your award winning interview.

Also remember, the market can spot a phony a mile away! Your brand needs to reflect your core substance. Build your brand around your genuine strengths, not the ones you think the market wants to pay a lot of money for right now. You will always do better in the long run by being yourself, both in business and in life.

Nailing your brand is not something you do once and walk away from, it is a constant process of fine-tuning and adjusting your brand to the changing needs of the market and your changing interests, abilities, experiences and skills.

How have you tweaked your brand’s “packaging” to make it shiny and new? Share your story!


Now that November is here and the ghosts and goblins have gotten their treats, our thoughts turn to Thanksgiving. In many ways Thanksgiving is the most American of holidays, not only because it celebrates the Pilgrims who helped settle several of the original colonies, but because it is totally dedicated to overindulgence. What could be more American than gorging yourself on delicious food in the name of people who devoted themselves to hard work, sacrifice and austere living?

Different people follow different eating habits on Thanksgiving Day. Believe it or not, how you eat your Thanksgiving feast can say a lot about how you approach your branding effort. Some people start with the appetizers (such as cranberry sauce or rolls), move on to hearty slices of turkey with maybe a little gravy and plentiful sides of stuffing and vegetables, and then save room for a piece of pumpkin pie.

However, some people have a tendency to skip right over the main course to the sugary stuff, rather than work their way through the nutritious part of the meal. Not satisfied simply with the prospect of a enjoying a giant meal with family and friends, many people ignore the turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce etc. and jump right into the pumpkin pie. Some folks will even stuff themselves on candy and nuts before the meal starts (but probably still have room for dessert even though they are “too full” for the mashed potatoes and green beans).

Which style of Thanksgiving eating best reflects your brand-building efforts? Do you dig in heartily and with joy, but without skimping on the meat and potatoes (i.e., networking, skill development, education, taking on extra work, researching your marketplace); rather than immediately indulging in the sweet stuff that follows (taking a long vacation, buying expensive things, celebrating your success with a night on the town)? Or do you skim through the meat and potatoes of your meal (and your effort) in an attempt to obtain instant gratification that you have not really earned?

Anyone guilty of eating in the latter manner, and we almost all have been at one time or another, knows the results. Honestly, I used to eat this way, and also used to brand this way. However, one day I woke up and realized the choices I was making (both at the dinner table and in life) were leaving me bloated, but still empty. Dessert food left me empty of real nutritional value to fuel my mind and body, and mindless “easy living” left me empty of a fresh and competitive personal brand that would deliver exponential personal, economical and professional success.

Just as dessert is better enjoyed and more satisfying following a filling and nutritious dinner, your branding success is better enjoyed and more satisfying following all the hard work and effort required to truly achieve success at an exponential level.

Mind you, you don’t have to be a fuddy duddy. Nobody ever said having a chocolate or two before your meal is off-limits, and taking a weekend trip to a favorite hot spot to mark a branding milestone is totally appropriate. I’m just suggesting hold off on the three-week jaunt to Cancun during your clients’ busy season until you know you can do it without damaging your brand equity (or emptying your wallet!).

So have a Happy Thanksgiving, and remember that pumpkin pie doesn’t count as a vegetable!

How do you eat your Thanksgiving meal? Does it reflect well on your branding?


Make Sure You’re In Touch with Your Customers!

You may have heard the recent hoopla surrounding The Gap’s brief experiment in changing its classic logo, which has been around since the department store chain opened in 1969, to a newer, more futuristic “2.0”-looking kind of logo.
The Gap thought it was time to update its 1960s relic of a logo with something sleek and contemporary to show it is a retailer of today, not the past.

However, The Gap’s customers thought differently. As soon as The Gap unveiled the new logo on its website, negative feedback poured in from all corners. Overwhelmingly, customers wanted the “blue box” logo they had known and loved for 40-plus years.

Of course, had The Gap asked its customers how they felt about the logo first, all this trouble could have been avoided. At least The Gap was smart enough to preview the new logo online before going ahead and slapping it on storefronts all over the country (I bet Coca-Cola wishes the Internet had been a mainstream phenomenon when it launched “New Coke” in 1985!), but it generated enough ill will to prompt Marka Hansen, president of Gap Brand North America, to issue a public apology.

Before pointing a finger at the Gap for its branding blunder, ask yourself, do you really know what your customers (current employers, clients, colleagues) think about your brand? Do you know what your potential customers (future employers, clients, colleagues) think about your brand? How are you perceived in the market? Does your brand image need to be refreshed and modernized, or do you have a well-respected “classic” brand your clients would hate to see altered?

Don’t follow in The Gap’s footsteps and make a major branding move before obtaining client feedback. Ask trusted current and future clients, as well as friends, relatives, etc., how they perceive your brand. Is everything in order, or are some changes in order to maximize your market potential?

One thing The Gap did correctly, if a bit too late, was use the web to offer a preview and collect feedback. You should have a professional website as well as an active (and professional) presence on major social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Use them to their fullest advantage – you can collect much more information from far more people much faster online than through any other method. Of course, also be aware that online is permanent, sometimes things that sound harmless when spoken aloud can take on unintended connotations in writing, etc.

Don’t let a gap between you and your clients hamper your exponential success. The Gap used to have an advertising tagline, “Fall into the gap,” but you’re better off closing the gap entirely!

Have you ever made a change to your brand or image that proved to be a mistake? How did you rectify it? Share your story!


Offer Structure, Be Early and Be Patient!

The time of year has come when many people turn to fishing as means of getting out on the water and enjoying the summer weather (plus hopefully the taste of fresh seafood!) Whether you’re heading out alone for some peaceful solitude on a deserted pond or getting together with a bunch of friends to charter a deep sea trip on the open ocean, fishing can be a great way to spend a warm day.

Fishing is also a great metaphor for building your brand. Beyond the painfully obvious comparisons about “baiting a hook” for clients and the like, many of the elements that make for a successful fishing excursion also make for a successful branding effort. Following are three key takeaways someone looking to build their brand can glean from experienced fishermen (and women).

1. It’s all about structure. Fishermen know that fish congregate around structure. This can be pilings, a coral reef, a sunken boat; anything solid sitting beneath the surface of the water will do. Likewise, customers and bosses congregate around brands with “structure,” meaning brands with something of solid substance to offer. Fish do quite poorly when exposed to hot air, so do the targets of your branding efforts!
2. You can never be too early. Fish bite the most before most people wake up. When the sun rises, they are hungry and eager to snap at whatever may look like a tasty worm or bit of smaller fish. But even by mid-morning, the best fishing hours are usually over. The same is true for your branding efforts. Start branding at 6 AM and see how many more leads you get than if you start at 10 AM.
3. You can never be too patient. Fishing carries no guarantees. Even the most proficient fisherman will occasionally spend the day hunkered over a rod and reel and have nothing more to show for it at the end of the day than a great story about “the one that got away.” Experienced fishermen also know that sometimes a whole day without a bite can be quickly redeemed if you have the patience to wait for the one big fish that is ready to be reeled in.

Branding, like fishing, is often a painstaking process with no clear reward. The best brand-builders often spend countless hours trying to win a prize client or assignment and lose out to a competitor. Like the best fishermen, they pack up their gear at day’s end and head out bright and early the next morning. They also realize waiting a little longer for results often pays off.

So use a little fishing strategy and wisdom in your branding efforts. Or better yet, reward yourself for your next major branding accomplishment with an afternoon casting your line in the water. Invite a valuable prospect or contact along if you want to make it a “working holiday.”

What are some of your best “brand fishing” stories? Did you land a “big one,” or do you have any secret “fishing spots”?