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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

New Year, New Brand!

If you and 2010 have had a bumpy go of it, then the New Year can't get here soon enough for you. Lost a job, lost a spouse, lost your house - then putting 2010 in your rear view mirror is just what the doctor ordered. There's no delicate way to put this, and academia hasn't found a more profound way to parse it - sometimes things just suck!

So, let's change it up for 2011. And, as any fan of pop culture will tell you, the first step in transforming your life is through the time-tested quick-fix - the Makeover!

Now, look, this isn't one of those ambush jobs like you see on TV where some unsuspecting, fanny-packed rube is sentenced to the scrutiny of criminally-botoxed, self-appointed arbiters of style and millions of viewers.

I'm talking about remaking your brand. We experience branding in every moment of our waking lives. In the morning we shampoo our hair with the dependable tonic that will eliminate those telltale white flakes and that they stock at that W Hotel we stayed in, and we wash ourselves with the soap that's soft and gentle on our skin that we read about in InStyle. We eat a great-tasting cereal that's high in fiber and low in calories that the other moms in your daughter's playgroup swear by, and we grab a coffee at that pricey coffee shop because, as their marketing says, they ethically source their high quality coffee beans.

Branding goes beyond marketing. BusinessDictionary.com defines branding as the, "entire process involved in creating a unique name and image for a product in the consumers' mind, through  advertising campaigns with a consistent theme." The goal is to attract and retain loyal customers.

So what makes up your personal brand? Are you the gal who's always late to things? Are you the fellow who has a new "serious" girlfriend every month? Do you look like an unmade bed when you roll into the office? Does your vocabulary consist of 5 out of the seven words from George Carlin's bit? If you answered yes to these questions, then your brand would be that of an insensitive, self-centered, profane, lazy slob.

I know, I'm being a smarty-pants, but how many of us take an active inventory of not just who we are, but who we project to the world? How do we attract and retain loyal friends and family members?

Movie stars and CEOs hire an army of stylists and consultants to create and maintain their brand, but, we'll have to do it on the cheap here. So quick, pick your theme, that thing that makes you "you". Try it out in a sentence, like this, "Oh, that's [your name here], she's really sweet and she's great to talk to." Now, you have to create advertising campaigns that are consistent with your theme. So if [your name here] is really sweet and great to talk to, then she must consistently do things that will reinforce this - she must always be a good listener who is active, responsive, and engaged with all who bend her ear. She must always be sweet, doing all she can to make those in her company feel appreciated, smart, respected, or whatever they need. And, if our sweet, good listener is having a bad day where she doesn't feel like being her brand? Well, she could take a personal day and shelter in place at home; plaster on a smile and stick with the theme; or, blame her out-of-sorts feelings on a cold/headache/broken pinkie toe, apologizing profusely.

But beware! (I know, now she gives us the word of caution?) Branding can be a double-edged sword. The traditional definition of branding is, "to put a mark of disgrace on." Corporations wage wars against those who would dare to damage their brand, and there are those in your circle of friends, family, or work colleagues who may not like you taking an active hand in your personal branding. Maintaining your consistency in the face of attack can be difficult, but maintain it you must. But that's not enough. Be ready to be tough and protect your brand. If there's some frenemy taking to Facebook to post nasty jabs at your new job/new boyfriend/ new nose, first, delete their comments, and then, delete the frenemy with the time-honored "de-friend." You can invite them back if they learn to respect you.

And here's to 2011 and the brand new you:)

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