Brand Central


   Who are you?   Who do you want to be?

Question:  What do Apple, Starbucks, Facebook,, Coke and Pepsi have in common?

Answer: They are all highly-recognizable, distinctive and wildly popular brands.

Question:  What do Nelson Mandela, Hillary Clinton, The Dali Llama, Justin Bieber and Santa Claus have in common?

Answer:  They are all highly-recognizable, distinctive and wildly popular brands.

What comes to mind when you hear the word, “Apple”:  a sleek, highly efficient and very cool i-product?  Or when you think of American Eagle do you equate it with chic, up-to-the-minute fashion?   And, how about Coke, a product that’s been around a long time and has had generations to build its brand, employing a wide variety of images and messages?  See how this vintage Coke commercial from the 1970s featuring teen and 20-somethings makes you feel about Coke.

When people watched this spot way back then, they no longer thought of Coke as just a soft drink, but rather the embodiment of international goodwill.  Presenting its product as the tie that binds young people from all over the globe in “peace and harmony,” the Coca Cola Bottling Company demonstrated in the most dramatic terms the power of branding by making an emotional connection with its target audience.  In 60 seconds we learned that by drinking Coke we spoke a universal language.  Not only that, but Coke positioned itself as the authentic soft drink with its tag line “It’s the real thing.”  Peace, harmony, authenticity – that’s what you got when you drank Coke.  And just try to get that tune out of your head!

People have brands, as well.  Check out this video of the talented Stefani Germanotta before she solidified her brand by morphing into Lady Gaga.

The concept of personal branding is not new, but its modern resurgence and popularity could be attributed to business management guru Tom Peters, best-selling author of In Search of Excellence, who talks about >“The Brand Called You,” in a 1997 Fast Company Magazine article.   More recently, Chris Gay and her colleagues at Bridge Consulting offer training in personal branding to employees of their clients.  I was fortunate to take Chris’s professional skills course a few years ago.

And, this brings us to your brand.  Everyone has a brand, whether or not she or he realizes it.  As you begin planning your transition to college, trade school or career, however, it becomes more important to analyze and shape your brand, which will be central to your career planning.

Why is your brand so important?  According to Chris Gay, Tom Peters and other experts, your personal brand can:

  • Define you as a unique and authentic individual.
  • Distinguish you from others; make you memorable.
  • Enhance your chances to be selected as a student, employee, club or team member, club president, board member, ambassador, manager, and so on.
  • Communicate your expertise and create interest.
  • Build your self-confidence.
  • Promote your positive qualities, can-do spirit, professionalism, smart appearance, top performance, culture, taste, trustworthiness, honesty, integrity, excellent manners, joie de vivre and savoir faire.

Creating your brand is a process; it doesn’t just happen.  You should approach it with the same forethought and organization that you approach any goal.  In this case, the goal is to develop an image to present to the world that is attractive, polished and powerful, but also true to your core values and personality.  To begin, become reacquainted with yourself by pondering these questions:

  1. What’s your favorite school subject? Job assignment? Cause? Charity?
  2. How would your teachers, professors and classmates or boss and coworkers describe you?
  3. Name your favorite activity outside of your school or job.
  4. Describe your greatest strength, and your greatest weakness and how you plan to overcome it.
  5. Who’s your role model?
  6. Which public figure, past or present, you do admire most?
  7. Which of your actions or achievement are you proudest?
  8. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
  9. Who do you admire?  Why?
  10. If you received a full scholarship to the college or other learning institution of your choice, which would you select and what would be your major or course of study?

Central to your brand is identifying your primary area of expertise, which will prompt people to associate you with that expertise when they are seeking it.  Of course, you can achieve proficiency in more than one area, but for the sake of brand development, think of that which tops your list of competencies.  Is it math, writing, performing arts, fine arts, sports, fashion, web design, event planning, politics, organization and management?  To illustrate this point, match each product or attribute below with the company or individual that you feel best personifies it.

Technology Designers
Kellogg, Quaker, Malt-O-Meal
Levi, Lee, Wrangler
Michael Dell, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs
Hunts, ShopRite, Heinz

Once you’ve nailed down your brand, you’ll need to convey it to others through multimedia outlets – in person, on the phone, via the Internet, etc., in a consistent and professional manner.

The basis of your communication strategy will be your spoken positioning statement, or as it’s also called, your elevator pitch, that is, a summary that takes 30 seconds or less.  Having a well thought-out statement will change the situation in which some asks, “Tell me about yourself,” from one of panic to one of opportunity.

Example:I’m a political science major at Pace University, with a minor in Spanish.  I’ve worked on local political campaigns for mayor and county legislator and one Congressional campaign.  After graduation this spring, I plan to enter a master’s program in public administration, and will be working part time in the office of Assemblywoman Jane Doe.  I’ve found that I enjoy and have become exceptionally well-versed in campaign finance research, call-time, event planning and publicity.

You can build on this statement to use in cover letters and your resume.

Finally, you’ll continue to manage your brand.  Just as Coke and Lady Gaga continue to tweak and transform their brands to achieve maximum success, you’ll need to ensure that your brand is on target with your goals and reflects your current strengths, professionalism, maturity, credentials and industry knowledge and encompasses your appearance, Internet presence, leadership qualities, interpersonal skills, command of language and written and oral communication and mastery of business etiquette and protocol.

Stay tuned!  We’ll be addressing these brand components in future posts.

Until next time,



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