Most readers will be familiar with notion of branding, maybe less so with the notion of love marks. The term was used some years ago by Saatchi & Saatchi, one of the best known advertising companies on the planet. Read more
You may know the life-shows, where candidates walk from the backstage to the front stage in a few seconds….and we have “that impression”…, very often a lasting impression. Why are some candidates or some groups particularly like-able? Like-ability, like many concepts, is quite difficult to define but we, sort of, all know what it means.
Have a look at the X –Factor UK 2015, the girl group called the “Fourth Power”. It is magic, like one soul that would have chosen four different bodies to be on this planet. The first audition is worth noticing but even more so the six seat challenge. One of the judges, Rita Ora, called it “perfection”. As a professional trainer, I love that word! What could be better than perfection? Simon Cowell, the ultimate referee called the performance, “amazing” and the future mentor of the group throughout the competition, Cheryl Cole, now Cheryl Fernandez-Versini called the group’s performance: “phenomenal” whilst adding: “You and I together can create magic”. Another one of my preferred words.
What makes these singers so likeable? I have not all the answers yet and promise to revert but, for sure, I have the conviction that they worked hard, very hard on it. They form like one personality. They are hug-able. There is something about them. There is a personal good factor there, emotions, cool, natural, joyous. They provoke a smile on the faces of the judges and the shouting of the crowd when they appear. They are powerful, dancing, charming and singing of course. I almost forgot that they are singing!
I took them as an example for a like-ability factor. In case you might wish to check what I just wrote, have a look on YouTube, the X Factor UK 2015. But this is not just about them. Quite a few participants have this, like my other favourite, the seventeen year old Louisa Johnson. Simon Cowell told her: “You are seventeen and singing like that; that is not possible!” In an interview he qualified her as the likely winner of the 2015 competition. The odds are certainly in her favour unless the like-ability factor plays in favour of Cheryl with her strong brand and her singers, the Fourth Power. As a matter of fact, Louisa has also this amazing like-ability. She is a teenager looking like the flower people of the sixties. Long hair, smile, determined, emotions and cool.
One of my preferred colleagues specialised in appearance, the way to be dressed, presentation and all the factors which improve the perception of who you are and ultimately shape you and allow you to be different. In my courses on branding I always announce the aim of branding to be seen as different and, if possible, better than the others. However, like-ability is more, it is more emotion loaded. It goes deeper than branding which is often visual and verbal. Here we talk about what happens with substance, hard work, deep believes and just being the way you are at your best, no, at your very best. Getting close to perfection is certainly part of this like-ability linked with this amazing charm which makes you want to see these people over and over again. You know: this repeat button!
My latest articles were on monetary policy. This is a change, in fact my hobby, an article on branding! As a professor of United Business Institutes, Brussels, in Decision Making and market research I increasingly spent time on branding and I am fortunate to lecture on that exciting subject at the European Commission.
Branding is a very rich subject and the word brand has a lot of
associations, such as distinct, different, promise, value, perception, more than advertising, colors and logos. Most brands are associated with what we see. However the final success of a brand depends on what we do not see. What is known is usually the top of the iceberg. Where it happens is under the water level. The difference between brands lies in the substance. It is the hard work behind the stage.
My attention was caught, thanks to the X-Factor USA by the singers of the now increasingly known group called FIFTH HARMONY, to the extent that I love to write a blog about them. Sorry for the readers who
prefer my blogs on economics!
FIFTH HARMONY is a charming group of young ladies, now between seventeen and twenty years old. Each had a great audition at the X-Factor. They were not selected as solo artist but were, thanks to the judges, put together as a group. Imagine realizing your dream! The group worked hard, blended well with each other and made it to the final third position on the competition in 2012. What attracted a great number of followers is that two of the group members, Camila and Lauren, had a unique friendship, and shared their happiness and fun with the
audience. This worked as magic, attracted attention and undoubtedly contributed to the
success of the group. Sadly, because of various pressures, the magic for us disappeared but hopefully not behind the screens.
The brand of the group evolves. There is less magic but the level of professionalism is increasing with different clothing and choreography. It will be interesting to see how the brand will now evolve. The questions that the group needs to address are – apart from a good marketing plan, and this is in super hands of, it could not be more professionals, i.e. Simon Cowell and LA Reid – the issues related to what makes a great brand. The group is now really airborne. What will keep them in the air?
Could FIFTH HARMONY succeed the SPICE GIRLS? If they get that far, it would certainly not be a coincidence but the result of what makes the ingredients of a great brand, i.e. an unwavering respect for their fans, and today they are outstandingly good at it already, a focus, a team effort, discipline, not letting anything interfere with their goals, not being distracted, and
if possible keep some of that magic which happens to be amazingly charming.
According to Gerry McGovern, author of Killer Web Content, “This is an age in which we need to brand ourselves, an age in which professionals have become—to a lesser or greater degree—an organization of self-dependence!” Branding is, after all, about differentiation. The origin of the word stems from the mark given to cattle so that they could be recognized by their owners. Thus, being recognized is the first step. However, personality is the key element behind your brand and what it stands for. Branding is your story.
There is a lot of noise out there. How are you going to get people’s attention? How can you apply the lessons of branding to yourself? What’s in it for you?
What does a brand mean?
A brand holds many associations. Think about Citibank, for instance: “Citi never sleeps”. The association created with this brand is that it is possible to do your banking 24/7. In another field, take Audi’s “Vorspung durch Technik” (roughly translated as “Advancement through technology,”), meaning that Audi has technical superiority and the association being that Audi cars are indeed technically advanced. A brand is usually associated with a logo and typical brand colors and slogans. Citi, for example, is associated with the well-known Citi blue, while HSBC uses red and white, ING uses orange, and so on. These colours become quickly identifiable with their respective brands. Individual colors have a variety of cultural associations such as national colors and are associated with emotion and activity. The same is valid for logos that represent a brand. Think about the new logo of Starbucks. It does not highlight what the company is selling, just shows a Fairy in a green circle calling for an association with a moment
of peace, a moment for you, a bit of magic in the middle of a hectic world. Words are no longer needed as we just know what it stands for.
The design of a solid logo is partly the graphic designer’s concern, but is the company behind the logo professional? Is the action of branding about design or about the quality that is behind that design? Is it about selling wind or selling substance? Is it merely a logo, or is it about the search for excellence? Factually, a brand equals a promise and should match expectations. Think about the brands of perfume which sell much more than perfume—some also sell a lifestyle, a personality. To take a great example, think of the enduring success of Chanel—its print
bad because then!
ads, videos and more sell more than a fragrance. They sell the idea of a pleasure, a luxurious lifestyle, a moment for you. It means doing something special for you.
Using Branding to Your Advantage
Today, more than ever, the professional has a double challenge: first, being recognized, as there is tough competition in every field; and secondly, being seen as not just different, but better than the competition. Even if you are a real professional, you still have to ascertain that others know it. One might think that with new media this is easier than it was before, but keep in mind that not all of us use the same channels. Your voice is quickly lost in the noise.
Your challenge is selling yourself as a brand by all possible means in a coherent, systematic manner using all the tools of classical marketing. Look at yourself as a product. Most successful products are successful because of their quality but even more so because they are sold using all the tools of pure marketing as described in the marketing books, about fifty years ago. Think about yourself not just as a marketable product, but as an augmented product which has its own unique, sellable features. There are a lot of excellent singers out there, but Lady Gaga has over 58 million Facebook “likes” mainly because of
raw marketing techniques! She uses every single available marketing tool. Harvard University introduced a course covering the ingredients of her marketing success.
Tips for Personal Branding
The following is a short list of things you can do on a day-to-day basis in order to be branded. Many of the items on the list are also key features of a successful corporate culture, as one might expect. To effectively brand yourself, try to:
- Be a person open to learning.
- Create a disciplined environment.
- Possess a strong code of conduct.
- Have a team spirit when working with others.
- Be people-oriented and deepen your relationships with others over time.
- Be conscious that people pay for added value only.
- Stay involved.
- Have an audience mentality.
- Write the way you talk to convince someone.
- Chat, even when there is nothing really that dramatic to say.
- Be highly motivated.
- Have the capacity to listen.
- Be on a permanent search for excellence.
Why is your personal branding so important?
Scott W. Ventrella, in his book Me, Inc., writes, “Remember you are the CEO of yourself. If you were an employee of your company, would you follow you? Taking control of our lives has never been as challenging or as important as it is today as we can no longer depend on our employers or even partners to provide for us. We must be self-reliant.”
Through branding, you will first and foremost get a reputation. Your reputation will precede you. The remaining challenge will be to keep up with your reputation, which is much more fun and rewarding than the first phase of branding! You will achieve this by applying above tips as a matter of routine, without thinking about it. True, it will require an unwavering discipline day after day but that is what success requires. Getting “there” is difficult but staying “there” is even more difficult!
Finally, remember this sentence from Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com: ”Branding is what people say about you when you leave the room” and a very last thing by Gerry McGovern, something to really keep in mind: “People read everything in the way they read road signs as they are driving down the motorway – if it is not obvious they won’t see it!”. You can stand out.
What is a brand?
In a farm, how on earth could you recognise cows from each other? To bridge that challenge, cows got a mark on their hips. It is the origin of the word branding. Branding is thus recognition. Being recognised is the first step.
Linked to a brand are the numerous associations that people have with the brand. Think about Citibank, for instance: “The Citi never sleeps”. The association created with the brand is that it is possible to do banking business 24 hours out of 24 and 7 days out of 7. In another field, Audi:”Vorspung durch Technik” (being better than the others due to technical superiority) and the association is that the Audi cars are indeed technically advanced, hence
the amazing success of the brand. A brand is usually associated with a logo and typical brand colours and phrases. To keep the same example: Citi is associated with the well-known Citi Bleu, Raiffeisen with yellow and black, HSBC with red and white, BGL BNPPARIBAS with green, …
What does a brand mean?
If you find the right artist you may have the right logo, but is the company behind the logo professional? Is the action of branding about design or about quality that is behind the design? Is it about selling wind or selling substance? Is it attuned to the fashion of having a logo or is it about the search of excellence? Factually, a brand equals a promise and should match expectations. A brand could match dreams. Think about the perfume brands which sell much more than perfume, but a living style, a personality. See the enduring success of “Chanel”.
How can you use what we know about branding to your advantage?
Today, even more than ever, the professional has a double challenge: being recognised as there is a tough competition in every field, and secondly being seen as, not just different, but better than competition. Even if you are a real professional, you still have to ascertain that others know it. One might think that with the new media this is easier than before. This is not the case as all of us use the same channels. Your voice is quickly lost in the noise.
Your challenge is to sell yourself as a brand by all possible means in a coherent, systematic manner using all tools of classical marketing. Look at you as a product. Most successful products are successful because of pure marketing techniques, which are not that different from the original ones. Think about you
not just as a marketable product but as an augmented product, which its own unique, saleable features. There are a lot of excellent singers out there, but Lady Gaga has 57 million likes because of raw marketing techniques!
How can you brand yourself?
The answer to this question represents a long list, which is the same list as the key features of a successful corporate culture, as you would expect. Branding requires goals to be reached such as:
- Being a learning person
- Creating a disciplined environment
- Possessing a strong code of conduct
- When working with others, doing it with a team spirit
- People oriented
- Individual responsibility
- Being conscious that people pay for added value only
- Your on-going involvement
Above is a short list amongst other goals which need to be reached to get branded. In addition to the list, should be mention the need for a, attitude of motivation, of listening and of excellence. Think about the PC which is the result of a permanent search for excellence, i.e.
could it be smaller, faster, cheaper, simpler, more powerful?
Why is your personal branding so important?
Let me quote Scott W. Ventrella (Me Inc., John Wiley & Sons, 2007) to which I fully subscribe: “Remember you are the CEO of yourself. If you were an employee of your company, would you follow you? Taking control of our lives has never been as challenging or as important as it is today as we can no longer depend on our employers or even partners to provide for us.
We must be self-reliant”.
Foremost, through branding you will get a reputation. Your reputation will precede you. The remaining challenge will be to keep up with your reputation, which is much more fun and rewarding than the first phase of branding, which was to build your reputation!