Wednesday, October 21, 2009

YOU are the Biggest Brand

Dove, at least one of its products is readily available in most of our toiletry kits. As a portfolio, Dove delivers ~400 crores INR as sales per year, being the largest premium brand in the Hindustan Unilever umbrella (Ref: The Economic Times). Yes, undoubtedly, a huge chunk of the population delivered sob stories on how the soap finished in just 1 week or how expensive it was, etc, etc…however; today, despite using no supermodels to endorse it, we trust the mildness of the soap. This is exactly how difficult it is to build a brand. No one becomes a brand overnight or in fact, even in a week. Selling without associating yourself with celebrities and supermodels is a challenge, especially today, when more than branding your company; you have to learn to brand yourself. “In an over-communicated society, it is getting harder to compete for business and the need to differentiate oneself is no longer a luxury but a necessity,” says Desmond Chua, Entrepreneur, Speaker, Sales Trainer and Relationship Coach.

Not branding yourself unconsciously refers to others branding you and that certainly is not a very rosy picture. Your reputation is at stake, your image gets affected and the perceptions and ideas that other people have about you are at a gamble. The question is, ‘Does anyone know you?’ ‘Do they acknowledge the skills that you bring to the table?’ ‘Do they think of you as an indispensible resource?’ ‘Would they do anything to hire you?’ – Do you really have an answer? Carol Katz, the director of recruitment at Warner Brothers said, “Establishing a brand and becoming known in your field are key. This has always been true for creative jobs, and now it holds true for people in almost every line of work.” (Reference: The Chronicle).
It is imperative to indulge yourself in personal branding in order to differentiate yourself from others in similar fields. It positions yourself clearly in the minds of people around and projects your credibility. The main outcome of your personal branding should be clear, deep and profound understanding of who you are, what you stand for and what would you like to be remembered as. You would want people to believe that you are the BEST or probably the ONLY solution to their problem. For example, there are plenty of people who cut hair for a living; however, I will only go to my hair stylist Chris (name changed) from Keune because I trust HIS brand – his brand of allowing me to have conviction when I tell him, “…just make me look different, yet presentable”. People might recognize Keune as a big brand, but the abstract quality that Chris brings to the table is what pulls me towards it every time. Let’s take another generic example on these abstract qualities. Nike markets sneakers and other sports gear; however, in actuality it identifies the inner athlete, the talented, competent and successful competitor lurking inside.

Once you have made a decision to develop your brand, think about what are your values as a person? What are you insanely great in doing? What do you want the environment to know about you? Mind it, these sound easy, but are few of the most challenging questions. Just remember, the idea of branding yourself goes far beyond promoting and marketing yourself to others since these are temporary facets. You have to be true to yourself because here is when you strip down to the most basic elements of what you REALLY are. This certainly requires a lot of introspection and looking at the ceiling fan with a lost look. “Self honesty is the starting point, it is the key”, says Amr Anany, IT Services Delivery Manager at Saudi Expert Co. Don’t worry, the best solution is, don’t do it alone. Conduct a 360 degree for yourself and seek feedback from a sample population of your colleagues, family, friends, etc... Dive deep into the ocean called SELF and evaluate your authenticity as a brand, your consistency in delivering quality and your clarity of thoughts. Define yourself and prepare a social tagline to launch yourself, a tag line that people identify with even after 10 years. A very good example is Raymond Suiting. After the Singhanias took over The Raymond Woolen Mills in 1944, they became a world-class factory and the brand got synonymous with fine quality woolen fabrics. Even today during every Indian wedding, a Raymond suit for the groom becomes unconsciously a part of the kitty. Mathew Davis, CEO and Co-Founder of Training Folks rightly states in this regard, "Differentiate yourself. Simply being qualified or competent is not enough. Hone in on your areas of expertise and develop multiple profiles or resumes that showcase each one, whether it is a specific subject matter or industry-specific knowledge.”

After you have developed your brand, you have to package it…don’t forget, first impressions matter! A package should always be eye-catching, edifying and finally, should sway the audience to buy it. Your name, personal style, speaking suavity and staging factor, count to the hilt. “Dress according to what you want to be, not what you are at present” says Arundhati Menon, Senior Manager-HR, Orange Business Services. People develop preconceived connotations about you as a person as soon as they see you and you certainly don’t want to leave them thinking, “Oh My God, thought he is a Business Unit Head, he has absolutely no dressing sense” or “I think the junior software engineer dresses up more formally and is more presentable than his project manager whose JD includes client interface. What a shame!”

Finally, communicate your brand because of you don’t appear, you are disappearing for sure. It is not just important to know your worth in the industry, it is mandatory for you to sell it to the industry. You have to make people meet you and listen to you and experience you. Start networking through social websites or meeting influential people in your field, but that does not mean you will ignore other domains…you never know where your best contact emerge from. Within your team at your workplace, start volunteering to deliver presentations. Participate in discussions and chats…just make your presence felt. Flaunt your river to the ocean in the industrial world.

Today, self-branding is the essence. The market is over-loaded and has become highly competitive. To carve a niche for yourself and rise above the noise pollution, you need to have a clear idea of who you are and what makes you different. If you believe in yourself, you can make the toughest sales call, a cake walk. Become a pro in the industry; an expert in your field.
“Make yourself desirable in the market”


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