At the risk of sounding extremely materialistic yet I always tell budding entrepreneurs and future leaders that an education in management teaches one among other things to become an expert in marketing products. It teaches one to understand the needs of the consumers and position the brand in such a manner that the consumer feels he / she needs the brand and goes and buys it. Most of the students of management are quick to learn this and by the time they graduate they are ready to impress the corporate world with their newly learnt skill of ‘marketing’. As david ogilvy once said “a great marketer can even sell snow to an eskimo”. Many management graduates pride themselves upon the fact that they can ‘market almost anything to anyone’, and most of them are actually pretty good at it too. So then all these so-called expert marketers must also be greatly successful in their careers?
Surprisingly that is not true. This is because these marketers learnt to market everything and anything but forgot to learn to market the most important thing and that is ‘marketing themselves’!
FORGET THE RESUME FIND YOURSELF FIRST
The traditional way of marketing oneself was with the help of a good resume. Today you need to go a step further than that. You need to ‘brand yourself ’. Just listing your achievements in a resume will not take you far. You need to be able to ‘sell and market’ your achievements effectively. Here are some points to keep in mind.
Be Distinct: Now I see you
This is a fact that we all are being judged all the time, and whether we like it or not, whether we realize it or not, we are constantly selling ourselves. In the business world it’s all about branding. The most ‘well branded’ product rules the market share and the hearts of the consumers. To be really successful in the corporate world you need to ‘brand’ yourself. You need to ‘position’ yourself correctly so that people see you as you want them to see you. Do not wait for people to discover for themselves your real qualities, your true potential and your strengths. You need to show it to them yourself through correct branding. You need to find out that one thing you are best at and use all possible resources to build upon it.
Look at it this way, who was the ‘angry young man’ of Bollywood? Yes, it was Amitabh Bachchan. Even though he gave stellar performances in other roles, he ‘branded’ himself as the angry young man. Who is the most generous Bollywood star? Salman Khan. In fact, his charitable organisation ‘Being Human’ has helped him make his branding as the ‘most charitable star’ even stronger.
Social networking sites are an interesting platform for one to start their personal branding. In June Former Secretary of State (US) Hillary Clinton joined Twitter. However, the thing that got the maximum attention was her bio that she had posted more than her tweets. She branded herself as “wife, mom, lawyer, women and kids advocate, FLOAR, FLOTUS, US Senator, SecState, author, dog owner, hair icon, pantsuit aficionado, glass ceiling cracker, TBD…” Where TBD stood for ‘to be decided’, with many interpreting it as a sign that she might join the Presidential race in 2016. If she does join, then it’s her personal branding that will help her differentiate herself from the other candidates, just the way Obama did. He came out of nowhere, but his personal branding was so strong, so bang on target that he was noticed and remembered and voted for. He branded himself as the man who could do it. ‘Yes we can’, “Change you can believe in”, have become slogans that you associate with him only. No wonder when Narender Modi chanted ‘Yes we can...’ in Hyderabad as he flagged off the BJP’s election campaign he came under a lot of criticism with some even labeling him as ‘fake Obama’. That is the power of a strong branding – nobody can copy you. As in business – Coke is the ‘Real Thing’, and Pepsi can never be known as that or Nike is ‘Just do it’ and Adidas can only say ‘Impossible is Nothing’ but cannot ask its consumers to just do it! When you find a distinct way to brand yourself people start seeing you that way too. So don’t just be an expert in marketing for its too vague. Make it more specific. An expert in social marketing is probably a little more specific.
Apart from people and products today cities are branding themselves too. One of the most well branded cities is Las Vegas. It promotes itself as the place where you can do what you want and nobody will bother you, for its tagline says “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”! Yash Raj Films branded Switzerland as the country for lovers and Switzerland can never thank him enough for the countless couples who started going there after seeing Switzerland in Yash Chopra’s films.
The more focused your branding the more easy it is for people to remember you and identify you, for now they see you more clearly and distinctly.
A successful brand is one that is built on a unique concept but more importantly one that is built on the foundation of honesty. The reason Oprah is one of the most passionately loved celebrity (read brand) is because of her total honesty. She was brutally honest about her poverty-stricken past, her failures, her struggles with her weight and just about everything. So on her talk show when she motivated people and told them they could overcome their problems, they believed her. It made her a success and her show the biggest talk show in the history of television. The reason ‘Comedy Nights with Kapil’ today has the highest TRP is not only because of the clean honest humor its host Kapil brings to the show but also because his total demeanor has sincerity and honesty around it, for he does not pretend to be someone else, and the audience love him for that. In just the same way the people loved Steve Jobs. It was not just his marvelous products but his honesty about his weaknesses his failures along with his successes that endeared him to his customers making the brand ‘Steve Jobs’ iconic and him a legend whose tales will be told and retold many times over.
Be Relevant: Keep upgrading
We are all pretty much like softwares. Just as they need constant upgrades so do we. Once you have identified your unique and distinct branding strategy and started branding yourself most honestly you will see success but if you stop now you may be lost once again. You need to keep moving and keep modifying yourself to suit the needs of the changing times. If I go back to my old example of Amitabh Bachchan, then from the ‘angry young man’ to ‘the most stylish superstar’ the man has constantly changed and upgraded himself to remain relevant to the new generation too. Coca Cola is still the ‘Real Thing’ and it has managed to remain relevant by constantly finding new ways to brand itself.
Branding is all about standing out so that the target market chooses you over competition. If you want to be successful start by branding yourself first. Be as distinct as the McDonald arches, as iconic as Apple, as loved as Nike, as admired as Facebook, as desirable as a Rolls Royce. Look at any success story and behind that you will find a well planned branding strategy. It’s time you started thinking like a brand and crafting your own branding strategy. In today’s fast moving world only the distinct and the distinguished make it to the top. Remember the golden rule that success starts by first selling yourself and never forgetting that you too are a product!