As promised, we continue with a discussion of personal branding. We are on a research trip to unpack an idea. Did you see the latest flap about the new Starbucks logo? Read about it here. “Thar she is” at left. For all the mythology fans and history buffs out there, you may have seen her ancestor, the Baubo Siren, somewhere in the corner of an ancient map along with other fanciful sea creatures playing in the “Ocean Sea” at the edge of the world. The new logo retains the sea maid with the hint of her double tail, but minus the words, “Starbucks” encircling her. It suggests that this image is so well known, as is the Nike “swoosh”, that nothing else is needed to suggest the Starbucks name and its reputation.
Get it? Images. Association. Reputation. Brand.
The jury is out on whether or not this change will “take”. Some other logo changes (“logo” is short for logotype) clearly were a bust, like the Gap Stores new logo, or seem like an attempt to play safe, like the new NBC Universal one. The point of all this is to make clear what a brand is not. The “golden arches” is the visual symbol for the McDonald’s chain stores. The ball split into a red half and a blue half by a white wave is the visual symbol for Pepsi Cola brand cola.
A brand will occasionally update its “signature”/visual symbol. (I was so glad the Aunt Jemimah lady got a makeover! Girlfriend even lost weight!) The visual symbol is not the brand. It is the brand’s signature. Some companies, like big families, have many offspring and branches or brands. Each brand has it’s own signature (Google, “Pepsico”). Some signatures/symbols are so identified with successful brands that there are attempts to use them to defraud.
Brands are about reputation; good reputation is built over time upon trust. How, then is anybody to be sure a product really is from a certain company? This is one reason for registering signatuares/symbols or “trade marks”(see the TM beside the Starbucks logo). Consider the core issue in cases of identity theft. Is it not stealing another’s good name? Is it not making a reputation dirty?
Let’s get this merchandising talk over to the job seeker and personal branding.
The generic is homosapiens female. Anywoman. The woman has a given name, Anny. Anny is known in her family and her neighborhood for her behavior in certain situations; her style of dress; her walk; her laugh. That is the “total Anny experience”, or what you expect to get when you encounter Anny.
People form their own opinions about what they see and feel when they encounter “the Anny experience”. You may say Anny’s “brand” is her name. People come to associate certain things with that name. Those certain things are collectively called, reputation. Reputation in the neighborhood, I do not have to tell you, is important. In Shakesphere’s Othello, Iago says, “…who steals my purse steals trash…but he who filches from me my good name robs me of that which not enriches him and makes me poor indeed…”
Your brand— your good name– your reputation– is distinct from your image, or others’ perception of you. The one is not equivilent to the other or vice versa. Job seekers sometimes make a mistake in equating “brand” with “image”. We humans can only judge from what we can see. Upon first meeting we can only guess about a person’s reputation in whatever area of life we are concerned with. Therefore, we read facial expressions, apparel, and manners like we would read tea leaves. In the United States, the presence of some leaves suggest good. Some other leaves do not. That is why having the “best leaves”–image– counts to a job seeker and finding the “best leaves” counts to a potential employer. Each must trust that the other person in the transaction is a person of integrity proven by good reputation in the neighborhood.
This is the major hurdle to jump in the job search: how to convey trustworthiness. A potential employer might not have grown up with Anny or kissed her after the prom. Anny is an “unknown factor/unknown reputation”–“Brand X”.
We spoke about Starbucks. I walk into a Starbucks cafe. I taste the coffee; I have exchanges with the personnel; I form my opinion on several levels of the “total Starbucks experience”. I associate certian things with Starbucks. When I see the maid of the sea graphic anywhere on the planet, I associate that symbol with what I have smelled, seen and felt in a Starbucks cafe.
In relation to the job search, a personal brand is that total experience a certain human being is symbolized by her name. Every symbol; every presentation; every marketing piece should be an authentic representation of what anybody meeting that potential hire can expect. A potential employer wants to be confident that the new hire is the “genuine article”, not a paste copy or a theatrical set.
People have names. A person’s name is her brand and stands for all she is. For good or ill, a name denotes reputation. Reputation is built on trust over time. Rome was not built in a day; neither was Starbucks.