Brand, Brand, Brand
At the height of its strength in the early 1990s, discount shoe retailer “Payless Shoes” was selling over 250 million pairs of shoes per year. The combination of variety and affordability made Payless standout in its crowded retail sector; the brand consistently drew clientele from all age demographics and all walks of life. Of course, you know where this fairytale story is headed, don’t you? When newcomers like Target entered the value end of the shoe market, Payless banked on brand loyalty to keep sales and profits up, instead of taking a fresh look at its branding to see if it was still relevant and differentiated. Big mistake. When a brand isn’t distinctive and differentiated, it’s unlikely to be successful. Big Box retailers could match Payless’s variety and price points while simultaneously providing shoppers with a large, mall-like store to create a differentiated shopping experience that spoke to its consumers. This isn’t only important for business brands, but personal brand as well.
The Essential Piece
How you curate your personal brand has significant impact on how you are perceived amongst colleagues, clients and more broadly across your industry or network. In my speaking engagements, I speak to my audiences about how a unique and differentiated personal brand builds credibility, visibility, and networking prowess while giving the individual control over their image and their professional and personal goals. Let me say it again for those who weren’t tuned in earlier: A unique and differentiated personal brand helps you stand out and thrive in a competitive environment.
While there are many important facets to creating and maintaining a strong personal brand, one facet of your brand will always rise above the others. YOUR STORY. All of us have a compelling story to tell our audiences. I assure you; people want to hear your story more than they want to hear about your credentials or stops on the corporate tour bus. Some, like me, have a painful origin story to tell. Don’t hide it, share it to all those who will listen. Others may have a softer origin story or less dramatic lived experiences, but still have a lot to say about the ebbs and flows of their personal journey. Tell that story too. Remember, your audience is looking for authenticity and relatability from their heroes, gurus, and peers – they want to build rapport through shared experiences, interests, and passions. If they can see their story in yours, then big things are possible. Remember – people want to do business with people that they trust, like and therefore WANT to do business with.
Without real-time changes, a great brand will not be a great brand forever. Ask Blockbuster or whatever iteration of Chrysler is the current one. In the realm of personal branding, one’s content strategy must be elastic. Just because your personal brand is well-established, doesn’t mean you can coast on the strength of your legacy and the love of your loyal supporters. And, very importantly, we evolve and change over time and pivoting is OKAY. Good branding means you have a keen eye on the movement of your audience and the trends that are impacting your audience’s lives, and therefore how you choose to share “brand you” to connect with the shifting needs of your audience. From new tech to the pandemic, your people are moving within currents that can be erratic at times. Elasticity means you “have the ability to be where your audience is.” A quick example… I had just settled my family into a Manhattan apartment when Covid arrived. My audience heard plenty about the eerie emptiness of Manhattan’s streets, and how we coped through exercise and takeout. At that point, my story was aligned with millions of other stories. The point? Fate provided me with a unique opportunity to share personal experience and insight with my network.
Your Brand, Your Why
Repeat after me: I am more than a job title at a company. True story. Thoughtful branding work helps you showcase the authentic you – the whole you – to people looking to you for meaning and mentorship. Take good care of your brand and take good care of you. Assume everyone is watching.