Personal branding forms unbreakable bonds

Personal Branding

Personal BrandingPersonal branding is the most overused and most misunderstood of all the branding jargon I come across in my job title (Brand Strategist).

Luckily I have never been asked to work on a personal brand in my professional career.

The whole idea of personal branding caused Google to reconfigure the search engine dynamics of my branding category about four years ago.

Too many of the so called brand companies that specialized in personal branding were practicing what the industry calls black hat SEO.

This means they were using less than respectable practices to score higher in Google searches.

Like the snake-oil salesman of years ago, these personal branding charlatans took peoples hard earned cash for little or no return.

However, the idea of personal branding is not completely stupid

I try to help companies understand their brand equities by using VERY personal examples. I have been known to ask CEOs of fortune 100 companies to “pretend for just a moment that your brand was a person and not a corporation. How would you describe that person?”

Personal brandingIt is an important realization exercise because I want business executives to understand the emotional fabric of their brands.

When you bring a person to mind, it is not just a list of attributes that define that image in your mind’s eye. It is mostly a rag-tag conglomeration of feelings that color and form that memory.

Go ahead for just a moment and visualize your grandmother. When her image comes to mind do you FEEL more or THINK more? Proves my point.

Brand is an emotional connection that defies dissection in a rational manner. Personal branding, as it turns out, is the foundation of all branding. It is how we feel about everything in our lives.

The picture of personal branding is an intricate oil painting

The painting is created by a renaissance master. You.

So many corporate and product brands fail to see this that my work docket is always full. Sure, we talk to our clients about stealing market share and how their brand is the permission-switch that persuades the target audience that their brand is important (and therefore takes and grows market share).

Personal brandingBut, while we all are able to tap our imagination when thinking about personal branding we remain relatively blind when thinking about product and corporate branding.

Corporations are so sold on the rational benefits of their product or service that they can’t get out of their own way. When asked to talk about their own mother Chief Marketing Officers will freely admit that their moms are angels of love.

They describe them as beautiful (even if they were as ugly as a barn door). They attribute to her emotional ideas like caring, loving, considerate, gentle, self-sacrificing and tender. Even if they jokingly speak about her shortcomings they are emotional attributes like angry or formidable.

They NEVER list rational attributes like height, weight, eye color or dress size.

Corporate Brands

Personal brandingBut, contrast that with their business brands and most times all they can list is product attributes and measurable words.

Words like effective, better, new, revolutionary and the new term of the day— disruptive technology is about all they can think of.

So I remind them that the people, music, ideas, books, thoughts, beliefs and even loves in their life are ALL emotional connections. They are NEVER rational.

You might be willing to switch soap powders (read about packaged goods here), even if you are convinced that your first choice cleans better, for another cheaper brand.

But you would NEVER be willing to switch families no matter how dysfunctional yours might be. Emotional bonds are forever.

Emotional brand bonds last forever and can be stretched and contorted beyond belief but they seem never to break. They are self-healing and eternal because we don’t EVER need to think about them. We just KNOW them.

Personal Experiences Recalls Personal Branding

Personal experiences often give us glimpses into personal branding. When I heard that Leonard Cohen had died at age 82 on November 10th 2016 I was sad. Like all of his fans. Was I sad because I knew I would never have the pleasure of hearing his songs again for the first time?

Personal brandingNope. I was sad for me because someone and something I loved had passed away (you can read my blog on Leonard Cohen’s death here). He was not a songwriter and singer to me. He was a part of me. He was a part of my personal brand. His death was personal to me.

When we think about personal branding we envision a world not unlike our solar system (read an interesting article on Ptolemy here— and alternative theory on the universe).

We are the SUN and everything we hold as important revolves around us. It is the gravity of our nuclear furnace that provides the energy to keep the solar system alive and functioning.

But the SUN as metaphor is greater than the description provided to us through physics.

Personal brandingThe Sun, according to science is just a mass of gasses imploding and creating immense power and light through nuclear fusion.

It is, when described in this way, nothing more than a nuclear power plant like the one at Three Mile Island or Chernobyl. Very inspiring don’t you agree?

But, when you think about the Sun (yourself in my metaphor) How it works is not as important as what it represents. It is the source of life, warmth, and light. It is the promise of a new day and awakening. It IS life.

Rebranding as science

When branding or rebranding a company or product we distill its essence down to those emotional values that are in fact the only immutable values you can ever own.

They form for us the basis of our attachment to things, ideas and people. They defy rational understanding and never ask us to consider the basis for that affection because it is in so many ways unknowable.

We just feel it to be so. That’s plenty enough by the way.

When rebranding is needed. We will remind you that all branding, at the end of the day, is personal branding.

 

 

Leonard Cohen Dies at 82. He was important.

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen died yesterday at the too young of an age of 82. He was part of my personal brand.

What is your personal brand? You can read about it in other articles I have written on the subject in the rest of the site. It suffices to say that it is who you project yourself to be to the world around you and their perception of you.

My personal brand is an accumulation of all the influencers, ideas, teachers, peers, bosses, colleagues, friends, books, TV shows, movies, individuals, discoveries and belief systems that formed my own perception of what it means to be Tom Dougherty today. Without my brand, I would wake up every day confused and without a rudder. It is exactly that memory of myself that directs how I live today.

Leonard CohenThe importance of personal branding helps my small society of human beings function. When we think about the orbit of objects in our lives, we all see ourselves as the center of that universe, The Sun, if you will, around which everything else orbits.

In a small way (even as it is ego centric), it is true. Others can navigate our foibles and tap into our strengths because they are aware of our brand and feel confident in predicting our actions and their reactions to it. It’s different than reputation because it is not simply an accumulation of facts. It also is a measure of our emotions.

Leonard Cohen is representative of branding

As I get older, I have come to realize that many of my brand precepts are older than me. The religious beliefs that influence me are more than 2500 years old. The heroes of my youth have long since died. Most of my heroic figures, as I think about it, are at least my age. I have respect for many people who are younger than me, but they are not part of the foundations of my personal brand.

Still writing and singing until days before his death, here is a single from Cohen’s heralded new album— You want it darker.

Leonard Cohen was one of those building blocks. I was touched by the fire of his music and poetry in my youth. He has helped form my sense of self and forged part of the preceptive fabric of ME.

Lyrics From Suzanne

And Jesus was a sailor

When he walked upon the water

And he spent a long time watching

From his lonely wooden tower

Leonard CohenAnd when he knew for certain

Only drowning men could see him

He said “All men will be sailors then

Until the sea shall free them”

But he himself was broken

Long before the sky would open

Forsaken, almost human

He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone

And you want to travel with him

And you want to travel blind

And you think maybe you’ll trust him

For he’s touched your perfect body with his mind.

Leonard Cohen is not the first part of my brand to pass away. Much had passed away long before I adopted them or it. But part of my sense of myself died yesterday. It is with a reflective heart that I wanted to say thank you to Leonard Cohen for a life well lived. You touched my perfect body with your mind.

Leonard Cohen, rest in peace.  9/21/34-11/10/2016

The Pat Summitt Brand

The Brand of Pat Summitt

Pat SummittPat Summitt knew, but you might not know, that many many years ago I owned a scouting service for Division 1 NCAA basketball programs. Women’s Division 1 NCAA basketball programs.

I was privileged to meet and get to know many of the basketball coaches of the day in a sport just beginning to feel its oats with Title 9 funding.

This was so many years ago that Pat Summitt had yet to win her first NCAA title. In my second year in business, that all changed and Pat’s Lady Vols cut down the nets. I was there for that game.

I will leave the tributes to others and there will be many well deserved accolades. She was as gracious in private as she was tenacious in coaching (and as a player years before). I don’t claim to have known her well but just meeting with Coach and spending a short time with her was an unforgettable moment.

She was legendary before she was at the pinnacle of her sport and EVERYONE knew it was just a matter of time before Pat’s teams dominated her sport. I know now why that was. It was the Pat Summitt brand.

Joining the Vols

To become part of that brand, to have the Tennessee Lady Vols logo on your jersey MEANT you were a relenteless and hard as nails competitor who worked tirelessly to be the best you could be.

Pat Summitt Tennessee LogoPlayers improved and grew under Coach Summitt’s tutelage. But she also recruited and won better athletes. The good ones wanted to be part of that brand. No matter how great they were in high school, they believed they were going to a special place and were going to be coached by greatness. The brand was a reflection of Pat Summitt.

What did that mean to the athletes? Everything.

Why the Pat Summitt brand was so powerful

Pat SummittThe basketball court was a microcosm of the world of Pat Summitt. She believed in the transformative power of PRESSURE. There was the pressure to become better. There was the pressure to eliminate mistakes. There was the pressure to be a complete human being and there was the legendary pressure of her man-to-man defense.

Everyone was subjected to her pressure. Especially the poor NCAA victims of her teams rise to greatness.

Pat Summitt was indeed a brand with a capital B. It meant identifying yourself as a player with that brand. It was your identity and it was lived with great dignity and charm by the woman who created it. She did not invent it.. Its just who she was.

Rest in peace Pat Summitt. You are missed.

John Wooden’s Wisdom

John Wooden was a marketing genius

Facebook Politics. Keep it private.

Facebook Politics are NEVER persuasive

Facebook Politics
Trump or Clinton or Sanders?

Facebook politics (posts about political identification) seem to be more and more commonplace today. I’m not so different from you. I have deeply felt political loyalties. However, if you are like me at all, you just cringe to see opposing views posted on Facebook by your friends. However, I don’t cringe when my friends post messages that agree with my bent. What’s going on here?

Its easy to dismiss this personal hypocrisy and blame it on the idea that we all Facebook Politicslike it when others agree with us.

I think that is true, for the most part. But it feels to me that we get our nose out of joint most often when our social media acquaintances post confident opinions on religion or politics.

Other topics don’t seem to bother me too much. I read them but they never ruffle my feathers. Facebook Politics and Facebook religion… well those are different beers altogether.

Facebook is an interesting and timely example of personal branding

For many of us, our Facebook page is the banner of our private brands. We use it to tell the world where we have visited, what we have eaten, what we have seen, who we love and.. what we believe (insert politics or religion here).

I’m no different. A search of my Facebook page reveals posts from my business’s blog, trips I have enjoyed with my wife, restaurant meals that were (sometimes) memorable, pictures of my family and grandchildren and very little more. I try not to post things that express my views on religion and try (sometimes I fail) to ignore political posts.

Facebook PoliticsWhy? Is it because I look at Facebook as a branding tool? Is it because I find posts from others on these topics occasionally offensive? I wish it were so simple.

The truth is that I avoid posts that talk about politicians, politics and religion because I am a student of persuasion. It’s part and parcel of what I do for a living. As a brand strategist, my goal is to position brands in a way that they become persuasive to prospects (and at the same time reassuring to customers).

Facebook politics as a focus seems futile to me. I know how difficult it is to change someone’s mind and I use every tool available to me as a professional brand guy to make the effort successful. I utilize research, competitive and market analyses, switching triggers and a projectable research based understanding of beliefs.

I know that the best way to change a behavior is to align a brand message with an existing belief held by the target audience you want to influence. When done with aplomb, you are not changing behavior insomuch a realigning a behavior with the self-definition of the target audience.

This process works because we are all prisoners of our belief systems. What we BELIEVE to be true (note that it does not have to be true, just believed) always controls our behaviors because it creates the needs and wants that control all of our actions.

Brand is self-identification

Coke is a major player in consumer packaged goods
Are you a Coke?

Usually, this self-identification is general—it forms a philosophy of our lives that gives us personal meaning and eliminates internal conflicts between what we do and what we believe.

Human beings naturally seek refuge in agreement and are repulsed by conflict. When you engage in a behavior that seems alien to your belief systems I can pretty much guarantee that you will eventually cease that behavior. We may be emotionally attached to Coca-Cola but we are not a COKE.

Religion and Politics are a different story. Depending on your bent, you ARE a Christian, Muslim, Atheist Buddhist, Hindu, or Jain. You ARE a Republican, Democrat, Independent, Socialist or Libertarian.

These are the fiber of your belief systems. Rarely are they challenged (as adults) without a catastrophic event.

What this means is that we form attachments to these ideas WITHOUT cognitive introspection. They are emotional beliefs not rational ones.

I know from commercial experience that ALL purchase decisions are emotional choices. They are not cognitive. We may believe we have rational reasons for the things we buy but they most often are rationalizations of an emotional choice. We back-fill the rational to defend the emotional precisely because we can’t abide internal conflicts.

An exercise in futility

Hillary Clinton LogoSo I ask you the question I ask myself, why post your religious views or political polemics on Facebook? Is Facebook politics worthy of your time and effort?

Nothing you say could possibly change someone’s mind because rational arguments, from either side of an issue, will not change anyone a jot. It is an exercise in futility.

A mentor of mine once told me that communication without purpose is at its best unconstructive and at its worst destructive. I think that has never sounded more true to me than hearing about Bernie, Donald or Hillary on Facebook.

We all are where we are and all we risk is offending those who do no agree with our own beliefs with a ZERO chance of changing someone’s mind. I actually believe that it makes others more entrenched in their beliefs. It’s human nature after all.