Chapters 25 & 26 – the FINAL chapters of “Building Brand YOU!” – Omar Abedin

Chapter 25 Elements of the “Marketing Mix” for Brand YOU! (media, packaging, price, promotion etc…)

The great Dr. Philip Kotler in his seminal works on the business of marketing created the 4 Ps that every marketer in the world is aware of. They stand for Packaging, Promotion, Place and Price. Since then, these Ps have multiplied and become more and more narrowly defined.

The crux of it though is simple. There are certain levers that you get to pull, certain buttons you get to push, when you are trying to build any brand, and many of them are applicable to Building Brand YOU.

To keep things simple, I’m going to try to list some of them for you, but this list is by no means exhaustive. If you can think of things to add here, please let me know and I will make sure they are incorporated in future editions (hopefully there will be more than one edition ☺).

 

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Chapters 23 & 24 – “Building Brand YOU!” – by Omar Abedin

Chapter 23 Putting your Brand Identity together (don’t forget what differentiates you from anyone else!)

So far, we have been traveling through the Brand Funnel TM and we have built a capsule, a positioning, a heritage, product attributes and a brand persona for Brand YOU.

But there were 6 pieces to the Funnel if you refer back to where we started. The 6th and final piece is the Key Differentiators.

What are your Key Differentiators and where can they be found?

Review the work you have done on the Funnel so far. Keeping in mind the Brand Firedance, select the 3-5 most powerful, differentiating and memorable associations that you can. Ideally, each should trigger the others and together they should mean only one possible Brand – YOU!

These associations will be key in building your brand in the future. You will need to keep them in the forefront of your mind as you move forward to ensure that you are building your brand on a consistent platform.

So now it is time to put together your completed Brand Identity. Here is how it should look, and ideally you want it to fit on one page.

JON STEWART
The brilliantly funny American liberal pundit

For those people sick of the right wing conservative media with its clearly defined agenda,
Jon Stewart is the must-watch political pundit / satirist
That uses well-researched & scathing humour to expose the foibles & follies of those who would take America down a conservative, right wing path
Because his unique delivery, style, East Coast sensibilities & unerring sense of humour make his show the most-watched in its segment, and great fun to boot!

Product Attributes

– Immaculate suit & tie
– Ability to do creative impressions (specially Old Jewish Grandmother from NY)
– Shorter than most people (and focuses on this with taller guests in typical self-deprecating style)

Heritage

– New York Jewish upbringing
– A decade of hard-hitting journalism
– Ownership of humour & satire as a weapon of truth

Personification

– Archetype: The smart & funny liberal pundit who can be relied on to tell it like it is!

– Values
o The truth needs to be told
o Integrity above all else
o Humor drives home the point better

– Personality
o Passion for the truth
o A self-deprecating & irreverent sense of humour and
o An uncanny ability to frame the important issues of the day for the American (and global) public

Key Differentiators

– The brilliantly funny American liberal pundit
– His unique delivery, style, East Coast sensibilities & unerring sense of humour
– New York Jewish upbringing
– Ownership of humour & satire as a weapon of truth

Now that your Brand Perception plan – the Brand Identity – has been carefully laid out, it is time to start bringing Brand YOU! to life. Before you do that though, run it by your key consumers. See what they have to say. Ensure that at least your key consumers are fully aligned to where you are going – and then move forward with confidence knowing that you are on the right track.

Chapter 24 Bringing your Brand Identity to life – planning your communication strategy!

If you remember the earliest chapters, the process we are following starting with consumer insight (knowing what your consumers need and want, and what itch you are trying to scratch), followed by building your perception plan (your Brand Identity).

Now we start breathing life into your Identity through a Marketing Mix that best tells the story of your brand. The challenge here is that your consumers already have a perception of you, so if you are going to create a new perception, you need to get them to notice that there is something different about you. So you need to keep three things in mind as you try to communicate your new Brand Identity:

– Disrupt: In order for your consumer to actually notice a shift or departure from the norm, you have to disrupt the norm of your relationship dynamic. Think of it as a reboot – where new settings kick in and perceptions change.

– Engage: You need to engage with your consumers at the new level that you have decided upon in your perception plan. Once people start looking at you in this new light, half your job is done.

– Convince: As you embark on this journey, remember that every action you take is either a deposit into, or a withdrawal from, the bank of your brand equity. If you stay consistent to your new / improved Brand Identity, there should be little or no convincing required as you build towards your desired Equity.

As you think of this, keep in mind that Brand YOU! is just like any other brand. You need a communication plan that tells the story of Brand YOU! in a holistic way, and brings the brand alive for your target consumer in an engaging and interesting way. After all, you want your target consumer to WANT to engage with Brand YOU!

So… when is your target audience most likely to be open to seeing the new & improved YOU? In marketing jargon, we try to catch them when the clay is moist… when they are attentive, receptive and at a point of need. So when your boss comes to you with a new project, or is desperately looking for a point person on a major new assignment, that would be a good time to introduce them to the new YOU! Or when your spouse wants to ‘talk’, you actually switch off the TV and listen – without interruption. And then respond in a way that brings your new Brand Identity to life in a positive and recognizable way.

Is it possible to predict when your target will be receptive, so that you can be better prepared? I mean, it would be helpful to know just when to bring your new game, right? It would allow you to be more relaxed, and more focused on a better Brand YOU! Well, here’s how you can figure out when the clay is more likely to be moist than other times.

1. Day In the Life Of (DILO): Take a very close look at the day of your key consumers – your boss, your spouse, your family, co-workers, friends. Is there an early morning ritual that your boss always indulges in, like a cup of coffee before he / she heads for their desk? Perhaps a colleague enjoys a stroll in the park during lunch? Does your spouse look forward to a quiet breakfast with you after the kids leave for activities on Sunday? Maybe your children value the time they spend with you just before bed? This exercise can be extremely informative if you are trying to figure out when your key consumers are most likely to be receptive to the new YOU!

2. Year In the Life Of (YILO): Do a similar exercise for the year at a macro level. During the year, there are certain times when your consumers will be more open than others. For example, your boss will certainly appreciate the new YOU! more during the annual business planning cycle, as your spouse would appreciate you more during the summer months when the children are home and cannonballing around the house.

3. Life Itself: There will be things happening in the lives of your consumers that give you windows of opportunity as well. The boss’s daughter’s going away to college? Your mother-in-law is having knee replacement surgery? A colleague is going through a painful divorce? These are all opportunities to bring the new Brand YOU! to the fore.

So, once you have figured out WHEN to communicate the new Brand YOU, here is HOW you communicate to maximum advantage.

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Chapters 21 & 22 – “Building Brand YOU!” – by Omar Abedin

Chapter 21 The Heritage (where do you come from – and how does that help to differentiate you from the crowd?)

One thing that most of us do – whether we are in the ‘biz’ or not – is that we think of brands as companies. Think about it. When we see two leading brands of anti-dandruff shampoo, how many of us realize that both brands come from the same company? The same is the case for two leading brands of soaps. So how is it that one company is able to implement such a strategy so successfully? Because the brands have such different positionings, they are perceived as completely different, and hence consumers don’t really make the connection. (This relates to a separate point that strong brands are forgiven many sins by their fans ☺)…

Most brands start out as entrepreneurial efforts – and guess whom the entrepreneur behind YOUR brand is? If you said ME (referring to yourself) – you are correct. As mentioned earlier, you are also the CEO, CFO, CMO etc. etc.

So how do you go about defining your “heritage”? Some useful areas to consider are:

1. Your mission! What do you think you exist? Is there a purpose to your existence? If there is, what is it? If you don’t know, then you really need to think about it. It’s a tough question to answer, so give it the time that it deserves.

2. What is your core expertise? Do you have any unique capabilities that set you apart, that define you, that define the way you see the world? Try to look at it from the point of view of your “consumer”. Is it something that they would be willing to “pay” for in some shape or form?

3. Is there something special about the people you hang out with? At work? At the gym? At your club? Are you an influencer in an online community? Our parents used to say that your friends define you – boy, were they right!

This is a deceptively challenging part of your Brand Identity. It must be done well, and it must be authentic and believable – and most importantly, it must make you more desirable to your ‘consumer’.

Chapter 22 Personifying Brand YOU (seriously… figuring out WHO you want to be, focusing on Values & Personality)

One of the exercises that marketers find useful during market research is to try to get consumers to describe the brands that they like or dislike in terms of the people they might be. We call it Brand Personification. “If your brand was a human being, and they walked through the door right now, they would look like…”

The answers you get in terms of male / female, young / old, educated / not, urban / rural, etc. are extremely interesting – and sometimes quite shocking to the Brand Manager. You see, sometimes the person who is closest to the brand – the Brand Manager – is the one least able to see the brand objectively.

I read somewhere that 99% of people who regularly drink either Pepsi or Coke believe that they can identify their brand by taste alone in a blind taste test. Less than 1% actually can. That’s astonishing. But less so when you think about it…

You see where I’m going with this ☺.

You would think that it would be relatively easy for you to ‘personify’ your own brand. Like heck it is. We are, with very few exceptions, largely blind to our own imperfections, and yet we believe, some of us with entirely misplaced confidence, that we know ourselves like the proverbial backs of our hands. We don’t.

So – how would you go about defining YOU as a person? We are looking for a real archetype, a clearly recognizable persona that people can and will identify with. The descriptors we are going to be looking for are way beyond ‘friendly’, ‘fun-loving’ or ‘sociable’. These are more than just words – they will help define the relationship between you and your consumer(s), and the nature of the bond that you have.

Here’s how it looks:

1. The Archetype: defines who YOU are to your consumer – and the role you play in their lives.

2. Values: three things YOU believe passionately.

3. Personality: three traits that YOU always exhibit.

These of course have to mirror the positioning you have defined for yourself – and help bring it to life.

Let’s look at an example. Who is this?

1. The smart & funny liberal pundit who can be relied on to tell it like it is!

2. Passionately believes & values:
a. The truth needs to be told
b. Integrity above all else
c. Humor drives home the point better

3. Exhibits the following behaviours consistently:
a. Passion for the truth
b. A self-deprecating & irreverent sense of humour and
c. An uncanny ability to frame the important issues of the day for the American (and global) public

Yes, Jon Stewart is the embodiment of this, his brand persona. This is what makes his show so compelling, and his Daily Show into such a powerful and globally recognized brand.

There are several steps you could take here:

Step 1: Write down your existing Persona as you see it today. Dig deep. Make it meaningful. Try to describe yourself in real terms, not how you think other people see you, but how you actually are. Can you write an archetype statement for yourself? What are your values – the things you believe in passionately? How would you describe your personality – those traits that make you who you are? Do you know what they are?

Step 2: Validate this with ‘consumers’ who know you well. I would suggest starting with your spouse or significant other, close friends, your boss and close colleagues. The easiest way to get this feedback is through a simple questionnaire designed to make it easy for your consumers to give you feedback in a safe and non-critical environment. A series of statements with a sliding scale (1-5 with 1 indicating complete disagreement and 5 indicating complete agreement) should be helpful.

e.g. I am innovative. I balance work and life well. I am trustworthy.

It depends on what values or personality traits you are asking about. Framing the statements properly will be critical. You should allow the respondents to add statements that they feel are reflective of your persona. That will ensure that all points of view are captured, and that the feedback you receive is more holistic than you might be able to ensure on your own. (Remember what we said earlier about the Brand Manager having potentially glaring blind spots when it comes to their own Brand?)

Step 3: Once you have the feedback collated (throw it in to a spreadsheet for easy tabulation), identify the gap between your perceptions and others’ perceptions of you. Understand this gap. Internalize it. Even if the gap is vast and not entirely complimentary, accept it for what it is and move on to the next step. (This BTW is much easier said than done but at some point you will need to BABAGOI – Build A Bridge And Get Over It!).

Step 4: Write down your desired Persona – complete with an Archetype, Values and Personality. Remember, at this stage, don’t focus too much on the ‘how’ you are going to achieve that, although a little bit of grounding in reality is probably not a bad thing.

Now that this last critical piece of the Brand Funnel TM is done, you are now ready to put the entire Brand Identity together.

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Chapters 19 & 20 – “Building Brand YOU!” – by Omar Abedin

Chapter 19 Putting together your competitive positioning (3 parts, 1 thought!)

The positioning statement has three parts – the core target (your audience), the frame of reference (your competitive set) and the benefit (what you offer).

So, how do you know if the statement you have is a good one?

Here are some criteria that can help you evaluate whether the statement that you have built does in fact work:

1. Is it cohesive? (Does the statement hang together?)

2. Is it credible? (Is it reasonably believable?)

3. Is it compelling? (Does it offer something worth buying?)

4. Is it capsulable? (Can it be summed up succinctly; can it be nutshelled?)

So overall, if you want to check the quality of your work, here’s a summary of the criteria we use:

Target Market: Meaningful Identity, Motivation, Mass
Frame of Reference: Significance, Simplicity, Scale
Owned Benefit: Desirable, Deliverable, Ownable
Reason To Believe: Plausible, Persuasive, “Put Away”

The Whole Statement: Cohesive, Credible, Compelling… and CAPSULABLE!

There are some problems that you might face in writing the statement. E.g. Don’t put selling language in your frame of reference – try to be as descriptive as possible without selling yourself in this area. Try to avoid circular arguments – for example, putting your benefit in to your target audience descriptor usually is not helpful. But generally, if you have really put your mind to the tasks so far, the positioning statement should really come together nicely now.

Chapter 20 What next? Product! (The tangibles Brand YOU always delivers!)

This is where your brand earns its positioning. Here we deal with those things that your “consumer” will experience with their five senses. So, how can you, the product, prove that you, the brand, are worthy of the positioning? Here are some useful areas to start considering:

1. What are some adjectives that come to mind when you and other talk about you? I.e. what is your product halo or Brand Firedance of Associations?

2. What is the “stuff” about you that other people “consume”?

3. What does your “packaging” look like?

4. What are some of the “symbols” or “signals” that you are known for?

Let’s do a creative exercise here. I’d like you to design a logo for your brand based on the brand positioning that you have built in the last few chapters. This should be as “good” as you can make it. If you can afford to work with a professional designer, then do. (BTW, this is not as expensive as you might think. There are quite a few web-based designers who will do a logo design for you for $100 or less.) If not, do it yourself; it’s challenging but fun. Put some thought in to it. Like anything else, the more effort you put in to it, the better the result is likely to be.

But be careful. It does need some thought ☺

You need to be realy really careful with your logo :)

Start with a good look at your name. Most people are comfortable with their names, but many people never truly come to terms with theirs. Certain names in certain contexts lead to generalizations being made about you that are undesirable but unavoidable. The sooner you figure out how your name adds value to, or detracts from, your Bank of Brand Equity, the better off you will be. Of course, if you do a good job of owning it, then it almost doesn’t matter what your name is – over time, or in an instant, it can become synonymous with what you stand for – or want to stand for.

But the product is YOU. Everything tangible about you – from your clothes to your makeup, your accessories to your personal hygiene, your preferred mode of transport to your degree of organization at work and at home. Anything that people can “experience” with their five senses. People say that 90% of communication is non-verbal (and that % may actually be higher than that). If that doesn’t scare you, I don’t know what does.

How many of us actually take the time to ‘manage’ our ‘tangibles’? If you are an on-air personality, then of course you do. You have stylists and teams of PR people in place to manage the image of Brand YOU. But if you are Joe or Jane Professional trying to build a career, then generally you clean up as best as you can, and get out there hoping for the best.

If you agree that our first impression of people is made in the first few seconds of meeting them, then that approach is simply not going to cut it for Brand YOU.

Things that you need to take an objective look at, and evaluate through your own eyes, as well as the eyes of your ‘target consumers’:

1. Clothing / sense of style
2. Hair cut / hair style
3. Makeup
4. Accessories
5. Footwear
6. Personal grooming & hygiene
7. Handshake (the initial impression)
8. Inter-personal skills
9. Listening skills
10. Speech patterns (tonality, nasality, pronunciation etc.)
11. And so much more…

It might seems obvious that if you aspire to be a part of the senior management team in a large multinational corporation, then you might consider losing the blue hair and various pieces of metal in your face. If you do decide to keep them, then you shouldn’t wonder why you never get promoted to management. I’m not saying it is good or bad – but you have to dress/act the part that you are aspiring for. You don’t see too many CEOs or CFOs with over-the-top expressions of their personalities in their personal tangibles – and there is a reason for that. The exceptions, like Richard Branson, have a good reason for being exceptions – and let’s face it, if you have decided that you want to model yourself on Branson, then that is a long and tough road that you have embarked on ☺. The maverick CEO is a much-desired Brand Image – and one that is notoriously hard to deliver on.

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Chapters 17 & 18 – “Building Brand YOU!” – by Omar Abedin

Chapter 17 Owning a powerful benefit (what is the ‘itch’ that only Brand YOU can scratch for your consumer?)

What is a benefit? A paycheck? A social service cheque? Unemployment payments? How about a bonus payment at the end of the year? Yes, these are benefits of a sort. But the type of benefit we are talking about is different. What benefit do YOU – the brand – offer to your consumers?

The benefit we are talking about is the consumer’s real reward that they get from your being a part of their lives. It goes much beyond money, a home, food and clothing, toys and other ‘things’. They can get those things elsewhere. Sometimes, they can get much more elsewhere – hence the high divorce rate prevalent in society today.

No, we are talking about providing a real scratch for an itch that the consumer has – and you are the scratcher. We are talking about the result of a deep understanding of what your consumer – your boss, your family, your co-workers – need and are currently missing in their lives, and being able to fill that gap, scratch that itch for them in such a way that the result is nothing short of a gigantic AAAAHHHHH for them.

Are you with me? Good. But, how do you go about building your ‘owned benefit’?

Start by reviewing your capsule. What was the core idea there? You have to push past the simple descriptive features of what you offer – these can be replicated and matched easily enough. No, you need to offer real benefits, and there are three types of benefits that you can offer:

1. Functional Advantage:
a. Brand X – ‘Helps you go longer, stronger…’
b. Brand Y – ‘Strengthens the digestive tract!’
c. Brand YOU – ‘Makes sure his family has the best lifestyle money can buy!”

2. Emotional Payoff
a. Brand X – ‘You will feel primed to pounce on every opportunity!’
b. Brand Y – ‘It will give you wings!’
c. Brand YOU – ‘Stands by her spouse through thick and thin!’

3. Experiential Reward
a. Brand X – ‘You’ll feel that second wind kick in…’
b. Brand Y – ‘Tastes like a blast of cold Rocky Mountain air…’
c. Brand YOU – ‘When I delegate a task to her, I have total peace of mind because I know it’s going to be done!’

Your owned benefit must meet the following criteria:

1. Is it Desirable: “I want that!”

No explanation should be required. It should answer the simple question – ‘What’s in it for me?’

2. Is it Deliverable: “I can tell this person can do what they say”

Will the consumer see the promise as being fulfilled? Don’t disappoint your consumers… you will lose them!

3. Is it Defensible: “Only this person owns this, and it is unique to them”

Can you own the association? It must be seen as your promise, and nobody else’s!

Remember – the benefit you own must be singular. The old adage of “you can’t be all things to all people” is never more true than here. Choose carefully.

A quick look at the technical difference between a Feature, a Function & a real Benefit might be helpful at this stage, as you start to work out your unique owned benefit, because the sad thing is that even seasoned marketers sometimes get this wrong.

1. Feature: a descriptive fact – something a product HAS.

E.g. The car you drive, the suit you wear, the accessories you carry.

2. Function: an operational advantage – something a product does.

E.g. The charities you support, the job you do, the sports you play.

3. Benefit: the real reward from the features & functions.

E.g. the real itch that you scratch for your consumer, which comes from what kind of a person you are, the values you hold. That makes you the father you are, the boss, the co-worker and the colleague.

Let me introduce you to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In 1943, psychologist Abraham Maslow postulated a theory that has come to be central to helping marketers understand consumer behaviour as it pertains to brands. It basically says that there are five stages of needs that all human beings evolve through:

Maslows Heirarchy of Needs

The hierarchy helps us to understand the way our needs – and those of our target consumers – develop and evolve over time, and in different situations. Why is this important? Because the benefit we offer our consumer has to answer that need – and any tool that can help us to reach a better understanding of needs and need states must be used!

Basically, the model says that until basic physiological needs – food, water, shelter etc. – are met, we cannot worry about higher level needs, such as health, friendship, self-esteem or overcome our prejudices… indeed, the hierarchy is a very powerful tool to help us understand ourselves and our reactions in various situations as well.

Look at the hierarchy – what happens when one level of needs is not met? Is it possible for someone to be successful in love when he or she is concerned about his or her safety and wellbeing?

So, if you are to be successful in offering a true benefit to your consumer, you need to truly understand your consumers’ as well as possible. Since we are talking about multiple consumers, you need to really dig deep and build a broad-based understanding that will stand you in good stead as you try to offer benefits that make you irreplaceable in the lives of those people.

Another useful tool is called the “mental mirror”. Here’s how it works:

a. HOW DO THEY FEEL NOW?
b. HOW ARE YOU MAKING THEM FEEL?

a. Sheepishly confused by the complexity of financial documents
b. Publicly confident with the ease of the numbers as explained by you, their go-to person for accounting enigmas

a. Defeated & lost because of the flu
b. Calm and relaxed, resting in bed, knowing that everything will be alright

a. Exhausted & bitter from lack of sleep because the baby is teething, and crying all night
b. Positively refreshed by the respite that you bring by staying up all night with the baby

a. Dejected by the onset of old age
b. Jubilant at the way you make them feel about their future

Take your time with this. Identifying the real benefit Brand YOU offers, or are going to offer is central – and vital – to your long-term success.

Chapter 18 RTB (Reason-To-Believe – why should anyone buy what you’re selling?)

In an ideal world, you wouldn’t need an RTB – a reason for people to accept the unique brand that is YOU. They would simply see YOU for what you are – an invaluable, irreplaceable part of their lives.

Unfortunately, that is often not the way it is. People can be quite cynical sometimes, specially when the new Brand Identity you have developed and are trying to bring to life is a significant deviation from what you have demonstrated and owned in the past. At least initially, it will need some convincing – and a good Reason To Believe can be essential part of your new Brand ID.

If you can do without, please do. If you can’t, then remember to keep it simple. Ask yourself if your consumer will demand ‘proof’ of what you have promised – the benefit you will deliver. If the answer is “Yes”, then choose the simplest proof that is directly related to the benefit – and the key word is ‘simple’.

There are three major criteria to keep in mind when selecting a powerful RTB:

1. Is it plausibly unique?

Is it unique, first? If not, then it could be hard to own. For example: ‘dependable’. You might indeed embody this trait, but can you own it entirely? And second, is it uniquely true about YOU? Only YOU? If it isn’t, then it may not work. Now if you can tweak it so that ‘dependable’ becomes something more, then it might be more powerful. “Never misses a ball game”. “Never fails to deliver insightful commentary that is bound to have you in stitches.” And so on.

2. Is it persuasive?

Does the Reason to Believe that you have come up with really ‘prove’ the benefit? Will your consumer nod his or her head upon hearing this and say – yes, I get that! If not, probably needs a bit of re-thinking. Remember, if it is needed at all, it must be convincing, or it is worse than useless.

3. Is it a ‘put-away’ shot?

Does it nail the positioning as YOURS? Is it a slam-dunk? Again, if it isn’t, then perhaps don’t bother with it at all. Because this is your final attempt to convince someone of the benefit of starting / continuing to engage with your brand, and after this, there is nothing else left in your arsenal. It better work.

Where can you find a “Reason To Believe” that meets the criteria above? Here are some possible areas:

1. Is there something about you that is unique – anything? How about your heritage? Ethnicity? Education? Experience? Character? Personality? Passions? All or any of these might make an interesting start point. Remember, what and who you are IS actually unique – and if you are struggling to find a uniqueness, its only because you have never actually looked at yourself in this way before. Also, if you are struggling to define your own uniqueness – guess how hard it must be for someone else to identify what makes you into a brand worthy of attention and engagement?

2. What are your passions? What do you believe in, strive for, drive towards? Are you a scoutmaster? A calligrapher? A football coach for the local primary school? These passions can provide a unique and compelling RTB that supports the benefit you are trying to own.

3. Who are the people that choose to be with you – choose your ‘brand’ – and why? Do they ‘get’ the benefit that you want to offer and own, or is it for other reasons? E.g. do you want people to acknowledge you for your creativity – but the real reason that they hang with you is that you are wealthy and can spend money fecklessly when you are with them? Or are you striving to be recognized for your accounting skills – but the boss only sees you as someone safe to flirt with (because you might not openly reject him / her for fear of consequences).

So, in a nutshell – have an RTB only if you must have one. Having said that, if your desired Brand Identity requires a significant departure from the Identity you currently have (not the one you THINK you have) then you will almost certainly need a powerful Reason To believe. And it better be a slam-dunk.

Because after you present your RTB, that’s it… if your target audience still doesn’t buy into Brand YOU, then they are probably never going to. Let’s hope that it doesn’t come to that, but if it does, I will do my best to help you re-evaluate the work you have done so far, and get you on the right track. My e-mail is omar at brandhotline.com. Hopefully, you won’t need my help, but if you do, I’m here to help.

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Chapters 15 & 16 – “Building Brand YOU!” – by Omar Abedin

Chapter 15 Who is your target market? (Pick the one that suits you best!)

Your target market is the people that you – the product – is designed to please. Who is it that you are doing all this for? If you are a psychopathic personality (according to the clinical definition), then that is a small audience of one. You. And just so you know, between 4% and 6% of the world population fits the definition of psychopaths ☺

And BTW, CEOs in today’s corporate world are four times as likely to fit that profile. Are you surprised, given the callous & uncaring behaviour that we have seen, and continue to witness today?

So, assuming that you are not a psychopathic personality, which group of people are you trying to influence? How are you the solution that this audience is looking for – the ‘itch’ that they ‘need’ to scratch?

There are three major criteria that you can use to decide who your target audience should be:

1. A meaningful identity. If you defined the audience properly, and read them the definition you wrote, would they recognize themselves – and would they care? Would they say – ‘Hey, that’s me!” You can’t give a generic definition of this identity – something like ‘the boss that wants the best from their employees’ – because that is every boss. It can’t be that general…

To know if you have indeed developed a meaningful identity for your audience, you can use what we call the “Window Test”. If you were to climb up to the 10th floor of a building on a busy street and yell down to the street below – “Hey, all mothers who want the best nutrition for my children!” – the chances are you would attract all the women above a certain age. That’s no good. If on the other hand, you said something along the lines of – “Hey, all those who want to motivate, excite and drive their team to new heights of achievement!” – well, you would certainly get a different group, wouldn’t you?

Similarly, if you defined your target audience as “senior management” – that would probably be too broad. On the other hand, a more meaningful identity might be along the lines of “forward-thinking, tech-savvy, members of the senior management team who are devoted to building the technical backbone of your company”… now that’s a different bunch. Might be the same people – just defined differently. And I humbly submit – more meaningfully for you and for them!

2. Motivation. Does the definition you wrote clearly contain the itch that needs to be scratched – and show how YOU are going to scratch it – the unique benefit YOU offer? Let’s take a look at Jon Stewart. Implicit in all that he does and says is the clear benefit to you, the viewer, that he will take a certain point of view about the hot button topics of the day. You tune in – or tune out – for that exact reason! You appreciate – or not – his take on topics as varied as the Republican primaries, the situation in the Middle East or the peccadilloes of certain politicians, some of whom may or may not be his friends.

What about Richard Branson, the charismatic (despite being slightly crazy or perhaps, because of it!) chairman of the Virgin group of companies? Why do people – especially media and members of the press – turn out in droves for one of his events? Because he can be guaranteed to do something that will be newsworthy – that is the unique benefit he offers to the 24-hour news cycle. And boy, does he deliver column centimeters ☺ usually with gripping visuals!

3. Mass. Is the target market you offer this benefit to as big (or small) as it needs to be? You don’t want to restrict yourself, but you don’t want to go too wide either. At the same time, you want the category of people in your target market to want to be a part of the market – the way you have defined it. They need to want to be a part of the club – the exclusive club – that you are inviting them to – and they should be proud to be associated with it.

Who wouldn’t want to be a part of these groups?

“Those with the guts to push themselves past their own limits!”

“Executives who have earned the power that prestige brings!”

“Career women who know how to be a great mom!”

So – who is your target audience? Think about how you are going to define them to your maximum advantage…

Chapter 16 With whom are you competing? (You get to decide your frame of reference!)

Who are you competing with in your professional and personal lives?

By the way, if you don’t think you are competing with anyone, you are way too Zen for this book. Read no further. Relax. Take another chill pill. (Please note – I am not advocating pharmaceutical solutions of any sort!). Continue down the path you are on, and I hope to join you on that path in a few years (or not).

If on the other hand, you recognize that – whether you like it or not, and whether it is fair or not – you are in a competition, then let’s continue.

Many times, it is not a fair competition. How many people do you know who have lost husbands to younger women? Been ‘reorganized’ out of jobs that have gone to younger people? What about parents dying alone, having lost relevance in the lives of their children, and their children’s lives?

The good news is that the competitive sets we live with are not necessarily those that we were born with. You – YOU – can choose who you are going to compete with. If you do this properly – you can actually make your competition irrelevant.

An example of how a brand has done this effectively is Apple. An iconic brand, yes. But most importantly – there are only two types of computers in the world today, as far as the public is concerned. Apple – and PCs. In one fell swoop, Apple (through a concerted and focused effort) made all the other brands of PCs redundant. They basically said – either you are an Apple user, or you are not. If you are not, that’s OK. But when you, Mr. or Mrs. User are ready to graduate to Apple, we will be here for you…

In marketing terms, Apple redefined the Frame of Reference so that it works only for them. Powerful stuff.

So how do we make this work for you? Here’s what you need to do.

1. Start by reviewing your competitive landscape – your Frames of Reference – all the landscapes available to you.

2. Determine the Frame of Reference (FOR) you can win in – and that’s worth winning in!

3. The Frame of Reference you choose must meet these criteria:

a. Simplicity: “I know exactly who I’m competing with!” Is the Frame of Reference that you have chosen understandable by your ‘consumer’ without explanation or effort? Most importantly, does it answer the following three questions simply and directly:

i. What ARE you? Father. Athlete. Accountant. Manager. Sales Rep. And so on.

ii. What do you DO? Provide an amazing home environment. Run the 4-minute mile. Provide accurate financial statements. Run your team like a well-oiled machine. Exceed your targets every single quarter. And so on.

iii. What Emotional Benefit do you provide? Always there for your children. Driven to excel on and off the track. Guaranteed to get the numbers right the first time. A job given to you is a job done. The go-to person in the sales team who always takes up the slack.

b. Significance: “I can demonstrate how the benefit I offer is unique, and stands out from the others in this group.” Does the Frame of Reference you have chosen set up a meaningful differentiation?

Remember, every Frame of Reference you choose will automatically have both positive and negative associations that go with it. This is just the way it is. Embrace it.

For example, take the category of ‘weight lifters’.

What are some of the positive associations that this category comes with? Strength. Muscles. Focus. Determination. Passion. Energy. Did I mention strength?

What about the negatives? Not very attractive to look at. Prone to injury. Linked to drug use & abuse. And so on.

So – understand well the category BEFORE you choose – think it through because it will stay with you once you define it for your ‘consumer’ to see, and invite them to view you in that light.

c. Scale: The Frame of Reference should be as large as the other two will allow. Remember, a bigger scale is not necessarily better. The issue is that of the ‘Zone of Authority’ (ZOA). How far does your ZOA stretch? It is often better to succeed as a power player in a smaller category – be a big fish in a small pond – than try to play in a category that is unnecessarily large…

And don’t forget to consider direct and indirect competition – many a brand has been knocked off its perch by competition that it never even saw coming. For example, the biggest selling camera in India a couple of years ago was actually Nokia – not Nikon, or Canon, or any other ‘actual’ camera brand. Do you think they saw it coming?

So. What is your frame of reference? Where in your world can YOU best compete & with whom do you compete? On what benefit can YOU win? Do you know? If not, well, you’d better find out.

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Chapters 13 & 14 – “Building Brand YOU!” – by Omar Abedin

Chapter 13 Positioning (how are you positioned against competition and what’s your strategy to WIN?)

A brand’s competitive positioning is the foundational discipline upon which the brand’s identity is built. It highlights the source of the brand’s advantage – the source of its differentiation.

It is the brand’s unique promise in comparison to competition…

The brand positioning answers the consumer’s four big questions with regards to any brand:

1. What kinds of people use it?

2. What kind of thing is it?

3. What makes it the one for me?

4. Why should I believe that?

A positioning statement looks like this:

To the (Core Target Market),

Brand X is the (Frame of Reference)

That delivers (an Owned Benefit)

Because (Reason to Believe)…

Let’s see if you can guess what brand this positioning statement is for:

“For those who do creative things with computers, Brand _____________ is
The computer brand
That’s their creative partner
Because it is easy to use, and very, very cool.”

If you guessed Apple, you were right. In fact, this positioning could not be true for any other brand. Therein lies its power. Now do you understand the power of a truly differentiated positioning?

Let’s try another one.

“For those planning a vacation the whole family will love,
Brand _____________ is
The theme park
That pleases the child in everyone
Because it is a magical world of characters that they love.”

Could it be any other park than Disney? No, not by a long shot.

So, the next question is – can this be applied to a person? Well, let’s see if you can figure out who this is?

“For those people sick of the right wing conservative media with its clearly defined agenda,
___________________ is
The must-watch political pundit / satirist
Who uses well-researched & scathing humour to expose the foibles & follies of those who would take America down a conservative, right wing path
Because his unique delivery, style, East Coast sensibilities & unerring sense of humour make his show the most-watched in its segment and great fun to boot!

Who could this be? Well, if you guessed Jon Stewart, the erstwhile host of the late night Daily Show on Comedy Central, you would be right? Could it be anyone else?

How about this person?

“For those who enjoy liberal political views and a heavy dose of satire in their political commentary,
___________________ is
The ‘faux conservative’ political pundit
Who plays a self-obsessed, ultra-conservative, right wing, ‘job creator’ on his show
Because he can make his point most effectively while keeping his audience in splits the entire time.

Anyone? It’s Steven Colbert (pronounced Col-berr as you well know :) of course. Who else could it be?

Those who are affiliated with these ‘brands’ would be able to tell you many, many things about them. What do people affiliated with you say? What does your brand’s positioning look like?

There are some rules of positioning that you need to be aware of:

1. If you are going to ‘compete’ in a particular category, you need to deliver on the ‘cost-of-entry’ factors in the category. E.g. if you want to be known as the go-to guy in the Finance team, you better be hot stuff in Finance. If you want to be Dad #1, then you will need to invest the time with, and put out the love to, your family – that leads to being awarded this highest of honours.

2. After you have delivered on the ‘cost-of-entry’, realize that you can’t differentiate yourself on this. This is simply a factor you have to deliver on just to be considered. As an example, if you are not capable of running the hundred metres in 10-11 seconds, don’t even bother trying to compete in the category of “world-class sprinters”…

3. Whoever is considered the leader in your chosen category, owns all the perceptions related to that category. For example, if one of the moms on your block is currently regarded as “Best Mom”, she will automatically be seen as the most caring mom, the one most likely to go the extra mile for her kids. If that’s you – great. If its not, and you want it to be, recognize that you will need to find a different Brand Essence to own.

4. You cannot be all things to all people. Its simply not possible, and the sooner you recognize that, the better off you will be.

5. Anyone trying to take on the mantle of leadership has to position relative to the leader. If you are the leader in your particular category, realize that everyone else is positioning relative to you.

6. You know the old adage “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression”? Well, it’s absolutely true. The first impression is also the last impression – and it is terribly difficult to change. So put some thought into your positioning – it is a long-term decision, with really long-term ramifications.

7. And last but not least – every way the brand – YOU – touches your consumer must be consistent with the Brand Positioning. Inconsistency is Death.

Remember, the brand positioning answers the four big questions with regards to any brand:

1. What kinds of people use it?

2. What kind of thing is it?

3. What makes it the one for me?

4. Why should I believe that?

Before we start detailing each of these areas together, let’s take a step back and decide what your overall strategy options are. This is straight from the war manuals of Sun Tzu, and others. It is deep. Think it through. After all, it is your future we are talking about. Let’s go on.

Chapter 14 What’s your positioning strategy?

There are six major positioning strategies that are generally available to brands in today’s hyper-competitive world. They can work equally well for Brand YOU.

1. Remain the leader

If you own something unique and sustainable in the hearts & minds of your audience – never let it go. Even if it goes out of fashion, or becomes less popular for some reason… Don’t abandon it, instead build on it. You can shape it, redirect it – but walking away from it is not even possible, even if it were desirable. No, own it – really own it. Make it yours, so that no one can take it away from you. E.g. If you are the go-to person in the sales support team that the entire sales team relies on for timely and accurate data – BE that person. Embrace it. Build on it to branch out into new areas of expertise that you can also bring in to your ‘franchise’.

2. Take the leader head-on

For the record, strategy #2 is rarely recommended, because if you try and take away the leadership mantle from someone by trying to stand for the exact same thing that they stand for – you will end up strengthening their position, and they will not even bother to thank you for it. The only time this works is when you can demonstrate a tangible, ownable benefit that is currently not being offered – and deliver that benefit with a bang that you can own. E.g. If you want to be seen as ‘the power finance guy’ in your outfit, but this capsule currently belongs to someone else, you will need to do something major to take that mantle from them. Go back to school. Get another degree. It will require a major investment, and there are sometimes better and faster ways of achieving similar results. BTW, I’m not for one second recommending that you NOT invest in continuing education – I think it is a must in today’s competitive environment, and is one the few enduring sources of competitive advantage you can own – truly own. But sometimes, there are practical reasons that prevent you from going back to school immediately. Don’t lose heart – there is always another way.

3. Assault the leader’s relative weakness

Every leader, no matter how powerful, how strong, has an Achilles’ heel. A weakness. If you can find that, you can exploit it to create a powerful positioning strategy for yourself that will endure – and really help you to differentiate yourself in the long-term. E.g. If the capsule you are trying to own is ‘Best Dad Ever!’ and it is currently owned by a neighbour who seems to do everything right, invest some time to study the real needs of your ‘consumers’ – your kids. Do they really need you to be buying them stuff? Or would they prefer that you take out an hour in the evening to play outdoors with them? How important is that to you? Can you come home at 5pm to be able to do that? How about making it a point to go out camping with the kids on the weekend – even if it is only in the back yard? Once you find the thing that your neighbour is not doing, despite being seen as Dad #1, and start doing it with heart, consistently, you will find that you will soon become that person and own the capsule that you are looking for.

4. Take a vulnerable target market

Find a consumer group that the current leader is not speaking to, not appealing to, and speak to them in a way that they ‘get’ you, and truly understand the benefit that you bring to the table versus anyone else. E.g. If there is already a ‘go-to’ person for the sales team to turn to, is there another group of under-served ‘customers’ that you can impress with your work, your credentials, and your attitude? Perhaps your own team? Perhaps the operations team? Who knows how many people or groups of people are not currently aware of your abilities, your amazing skills? Find a new group and wow them.

5. Turn the tables

If the capsule you want – or are angling for – is owned by someone else, here’s another strategy that can be quite effective. Find the source of their strength, and turn it into a weakness. E.g. If someone works 24/7, that can be construed as a person incapable of achieving work-life balance. A person who leaves on the dot at 5pm – because they have a life – can be presented as someone unwilling to go the extra mile for your boss (your number one customer at work, remember?)… And so on.

6. Open new territory

Sometimes, despite all your best efforts, your unceasing attempts to differentiate yourself go unanswered and unrewarded. At that point, it is time to change the game. Whether it involves leaving an unappreciative boss, or getting out of a negative relationship, the decision to get out is always a difficult and sometimes painful one. Remember this – there will always be a situation out there that works better for you. Keep looking. Don’t compromise. Life is too short to be unappreciated and unrewarded – and underpaid. Find what you are good at – what your real identity is – and be that person.

Be the brand.
You can do it.

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Chapters 11 & 12 – “Building Brand YOU!” – by Omar Abedin

Chapter 11 Building Your Brand FunnelTM (your perception plan!)

In the world of marketing and brand development, there are a hundred different models used by companies around the world to create, build & manage the way their brands are perceived.

They all have certain elements in common, though, and these are the elements that you need to understand and focus on to build your own brand equity.

1. It all starts and ends with the Brand Capsule. The true essence of a brand, distilled down to three or four words. Every true brand has a capsule, and we know many of them without even realizing that in fact, the words themselves represent the truth behind the brands. For example… If I say the word ‘Nike’ to you, chances are you will say “Just Do It!”… Or you may even make a gesture with your hand that resembles a tick mark, or swoosh… and that would be enough for someone to understand everything you need him or her to get about the brand. What about Coke? “Happiness”. Mont Blanc? “I’m a success!” It works the other way around, too. “The Safe Car” will always be Volvo. Remember, this does not mean that BMW, Mercedes, Lexus or other car manufacturers are not safe – it’s just that their brands stand for other things in the consumers’ minds… So, what is your capsule? Start thinking about those few words that might be the essence of YOU. If you can’t identify it in a positive and unique way, chances are no one else can, either. You will see why this is really important as you read on.

2. Arguably the most important element of a perception plan is the Brand Positioning. This is how brands build their uniqueness, and make clear how they stand out from their competition. The Brand Positioning answers four major questions:

a. Who is the product for? (Your target market…)
b. What type of product is it? (How is it categorized?)
c. What benefit does it offer? (What itch do you scratch for them?)
d. Why should anyone believe you? (No, really!)

In your case, you need to really define your audience – based on a deep understanding of their needs – and then figure out your true uniqueness. This is the thing that makes you special, your gift, your talent… but in order to build and sustain meaningful relationships with your target audience, this uniqueness has to be meaningful to them – a true benefit to them. We will talk a lot more about this in Chapter 13, but start thinking about what makes you unique. And if you can’t think of at least one thing, don’t worry … it’ll come to you! Or we will make one come true before this book is done ;)

3. The product is the third piece of the perception plan – the tangibles that the brand delivers. Coke will always own the stylized font that its name is written in, the red colour in which it is written (called Coca-Cola Red!), even the shape of the bottle is instantly recognizable, even if the bottle is nothing more than a pile of broken shards… So – what are the tangible reflections of you? The way you dress, obviously. Hair & make-up, yes. Accessories, perhaps even more so. Pretty much everything about you that another person – particularly your target audience – can sense with one of their five senses. So that includes your choice of soaps, shampoos, fragrances and so on. Think about how your tangibles are building or hurting the brand that is YOU.

4. The fourth piece of the puzzle that is a brand’s perception plan is – it’s heritage. Where does the brand come from? Where are its roots? So, when it comes to brand YOU, this hardly needs any explanation, right? Well, its not that simple, because sometimes we tend to play down what makes us unique so that we can fit in better, and nowhere is that more true than in our heritage. How many Hispanics speak ‘American’ with a stronger accent than others because they believe it’s the only way to fit in? What in your background makes you unique? Is it your ethnicity? Your language? Skin colour? The way you were raised, or where? Until you are ready to embrace that which makes you different – and hence unique – you are missing out on a great opportunity to brand yourself even more strongly.

5. A critical – and sometimes ignored – piece of the Brand FunnelTM is the Brand Personality & Values. Think of your favourite brand. Now imagine that brand is a person, and about to walk through the door. What do they look like? Male or female? Old or young? Educated or not? Urban or rural? Give them a personality and values, just like you would a real person. Now, take a step back and look at yourself. What are the top three personality attributes that you display, or are well known for? What values do you hold dear? These are not superficial things we are trying to get to here… these are the bedrock of your personality, the things that you can not, or choose not to, live without. Go deep. These are those aspects of you that you are not going to be YOU without. Conversely, these things make YOU… YOU.

6. So, looking at the areas above, we come to the Key Differentiators of a brand. These are the things that make any brand unique, and they can be drawn from any area of the above five. In fact, if any brand hopes to succeed in the long-term, it needs to know what those differentiators are, and learn how to leverage them to the max. So… what your key differentiators? Which of the five areas of the Brand FunnelTM make you unique?

Are you ready to start building your own Brand FunnelTM? Let’s get started!

Chapter 12 The Brand Capsule (the top-of-mind idea you own)

Let’s get into it.

If you were to sneak in to your target consumer’s room in the middle of the night and wake up that poor, sleepy and bemused person and yell your name in their face – what will they yell, mumble or slur back at you?

Think about that for a minute. (By the way, please don’t actually try this exercise on any of your stakeholders – it’s a theoretical exercise ☺ I suppose you might try it with your spouse or significant other, but you do risk being sent to the doghouse or worse…)

So, you yell you name at that them. What do they say back?

Your capsule – the essence of what they remember, believe and think about you – is what they spit back. It’s what they can access right away, and play back at you. It’s unvarnished, boiled down, the essence of what you represent to them.

It’s easy when we talk about brands, right?

“The cool computer.” Apple

“The real cola.” Coke

“Internet search.” Google

But does it work that well when we talk about people as brands? Let’s take a look…

Mohammed Ali (Cassius Clay) “Floats like a butterfly”…

Pele “The greatest soccer player ever”…

Steve Jobs “The creative genius behind Apple”…

Richard Branson “The maverick CEO of Virgin”…

But these are world famous celebrities, you say. How can I hope to emulate these guys? Well, take a look around your circle of friends and family, colleagues & co-workers.

They all have certain views about you. Do you know how they see you? I mean really know? The challenge is – each major group of stakeholders will have a different capsule for you – if they have one at all. BTW, they probably will have one, but it may not be the one you imagine, or wish for.

E.g. To your spouse or significant other, you might be

“The best hubby ever”, or

“The best mother to my kids!”, or even

“Bob the Builder”…

And how about “My cash machine” ☺

To your kids, you might be

“The best dad/mom ever”, or

“My dad the math expert”, or

“My mom the best cook”, or

“My dad the car nut”…

To your co-workers, you could be

“The accounting whiz”,

“The go-to guy in the team”, or

“The royal suck-up”…

And to your boss, your capsule might be

“My wing man”, or

“My go-to guy for any client issue”, or

“The top ranked sales rep in the country”…

Do you see how challenging this is? Trying to come up with a capsule that you can own is very difficult – and it needs to be ownable because otherwise your replacement can very easily step into your shoes – literally & metaphorically. The challenge is that while your capsule may be different – or at least appear to be – for each one of your stakeholders, it needs to be rooted in a set of values & beliefs that is consistent, and credible and again – ownable by you.
Now, while you think about your capsule – those critical two or three words that represent the essence of YOU – let’s move on and figure out how we are going to differentiate ourselves in the mass of humanity that we are competing with. We will come back to the capsule later, once you have gone through the rest of the process.

Remember, this is a process, and you may need to go through the cycle a couple of times to get to a point where you have something that you are comfortable building the rest of your life on. It will pay off.

On to the next step – developing a brand positioning that will set you apart and set you up for success.

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Chapters 9 & 10 – “Building Brand YOU!” – by Omar Abedin

Chapter 9 Doing a Quick Take on YOU (much harder than it sounds)

Remember the quick take you did on the burger brands in Chapter 4? Now, you need to do the same exercise for yourself. A quick review of who you are… through the eyes of a marketer. Remember, you are the Chief Marketing Officer of Brand You. Here is the form – please keep your responses simple and be truthful, because if you kid yourself, you are only kidding yourself…

Brand ‘YOU’

Product Offerings
(What are you ‘selling’?)

Characteristic Attributes
(What people can always expect you to be!)

Symbols & Signals
(What colours, styles etc. are you known for?)

Brand Personality
(3 descriptors of your personality)

History & Reputation
(What reputation do you have? Baggage?)

Associated Benefits
(Functional, Emotional and/or Sensorial)

Core Consumers
(Who loves you the most?)

Position / Role
(Leader/Follower, Father etc.)

Brand Capsule
(What is your Consumer’s core idea of YOU in 3 words?)

Once you have completed the quick take, share it with your key consumers – your boss, your spouse or significant other, and a few close friends who you can trust to give you honest feedback – firm it up and lock it down. If there are areas that you find you are not happy with, figure out what you would like those areas to say… we will figure out how to make that happen in the coming chapters.

A few tips on how to approach your quick take.

Be tough on yourself. If you find weaknesses, or ‘areas of opportunity” as they are often euphemistically referred to as, recognize them for what they are, so that you can fix them over time. Ignoring them won’t make them go away anyway.

If you find strengths – and there will be some! – note them down so that you can build on them. Those are your leverage points – they will come in very handy as you are building your brand identity, and trying to move forward with strengthening your personal brand.

Chapter 10 Your “consumer” & the “categories” you play in (how is this a source of advantage for you?)

What are you? In marketing terms, into what category of product do you fall? Who do you compete WITH for the rewards that you seek? To make it easier to understand, let’s use McDonald’s as an example. McD’s is a fast food brand. So is Burger King. So, what are you?

For example… Athlete? Banker? Pediatrician? Plumber? Ad executive? That’s easy, you say? Well, here are some things to think about.

1. The categories you choose must be in consumer terms – e.g. to your spouse, the categories might be husband, handyman, father to your kids, and so on. To your boss, they might be analyst, chief cook and bottle washer, accountant, sales person, or whatever. And to your friends, the categories might be completely different – support mechanism, designated driver, chess wizard or music aficionado.

2. You – and your brand – will likely fit into multiple categories. Understand that, embrace it, and manage it.

3. Know with whom you are competing in each of your roles. In the office, it’s fairly clear. You and your co-workers are vying for the attention and praise of your boss. Right? Well, once you are properly branded, you stop competing on the stupid things, and start competing where it really matters – on your terms.

4. Choose the category that suits you best. That’s right, you get to choose the category that suits your unique strengths and allows you to position yourself for the most flattering exposure, in the best light possible. This takes some creativity and thought, but if you are able to define the category properly, you become the only – and therefore the default – option. A classic example is the way Apple computers chose to define the category they play in – personal computers. They divided the world into two types of people – PC users and Mac users. How powerful is that? Just brilliant. So how do you find the perfect category for you? It’s simple, but not easy. Define it in such a way that makes it impossible for it to be anyone BUT you.

So, take a few minutes and think about the four points above. How do you want to define yourself relative to everyone else? That is the beginning of true differentiation, and the source of your greatest strength as a brand.

Now, let’s talk about who you are competing FOR – your consumer… their hearts, their minds, and in many cases, their wallets. You want to be first and foremost in your consumers’ mind, right? So when your boss has a problem, he turns to you first. When he or she has to let people go from their team, who do they never even consider axing? When your spouse has issues, to whom does he or she turn to first? What about your children? Your friends?

You need to truly understand your consumer to have any chance at dominating their thoughts and actions in any given area. And more importantly, recognize that knowledge is not absolute, it is relative. If you know your boss better than the other members of their team, that is a source of competitive advantage for you… but if you don’t, then it puts you at a disadvantage.

What about your spouse? Do you know him or her better than anyone else? How many marital infidelities occur and long and otherwise ‘healthy’ marriages end because one person “doesn’t understand” the other in the relationship? I’m sure you know someone who’s life has been thus affected… if it’s important to you, if this person, your spouse or significant other is truly a “consumer” in your life, you NEED to know them well, better than anyone else does, and they and everyone else in your life needs to acknowledge that.

So remember – knowing your consumer really, really well is a source of competitive advantage for you. Or it can be. And if you don’t know them as well as someone else, you could seriously lose out. Here’s how to ensure that does not happen.

The consumers in your landscape – even the ones that really matter – are unique. They have completely different needs, wants and desires. Different genders, different ethnicities, different ages, different lifecycle stages… so different. Yet these things are easily recognizable and it’s hard to build a true understanding of a book by looking at its cover. So, you need to go deeper. You need to understand their values, their habits and their self-image, because these things drive the perceptions that drive their behaviour. In order to get the behaviour you are looking for – e.g. that raise or promotion from your boss – you need to understand the perceptions that you have to create in your boss’s mind to make that happen. He has to believe that you are the best candidate for the job, the ideal candidate… in fact, the obvious and only choice.

Our perceptions are driven by our values, and those, along with our self-image, create the habits that we live our lives by. Here’s how to build a deep understanding of your consumers – and you should answer these questions for all your key consumers, but at the very least, for your boss, your spouse, your family and your friends.

1. What do they do in life to express who they are? What do they care about? You need to understand their passions, their hobbies, and their interests, and not with a cynical view either. Remember, you are trying to truly understand what makes this person tick.

2. How involved are they in your life? Are they ‘into’ you, and what do they do to reflect that? Do they like to spend time with you? Are your interactions positive or negative?
3. What do you mean to them? What is your role in their life? Are you the chief whipping boy on your boss’s staff, the guy who gets lumped with the worst assignments? Are you the spouse’s true valentine?

4. What triggers them to think of you? Are you the go-to person in times of difficulty? The person your child turns to for comfort? When do they turn to you? Or not…

5. What criteria must a replacement for you meet in order to be considered? I know that’s cold, but heck, how many people do you know that have been replaced overnight by someone younger, smarter, more qualified, and less expensive than the person being replaced? I bet you can think of one or two people who fit that description… and this happens in business and in our personal lives. Ask yourself the tough questions now, and you may save yourself a great deal of unnecessary soul-searching later on…

6. What behaviour, attitude or belief would cause them to reject you, or someone else, entirely? For example, if you continually display a chauvinistic attitude towards the women in your life, you may end up without a spouse or a job. Which would be worse, I wonder?

7. What type of people do these consumers tend to gravitate to? Who do they identify with? Are you that type of person? If you don’t even know with whom they want to be, you can’t answer that with any certainty.

8. How important are you in the lives of your consumer? Is their importance in your life matched by your importance in theirs? While the balance is seldom exactly equal, it should at least be in the same ballpark; otherwise you are doomed in the long term.

9. And at the end, demographics do matter. If the age difference between you and your boss is 25 years (you are the older one), the chances of increased levels of strife and discord are higher. It makes the answers to all the above questions even more important for you as you try to build a real understanding of your consumer… so that you can do an even better job of being the unique and differentiated brand that they choose every day, every time.

So, let’s assume that you are on your way to building a deep understanding of what motivates and drives your consumer, and the attitudes, values and beliefs that they hold. Let’s get to work putting together a powerful perception plan that can get them to believe what you want them to believe about you – so that you can get that next promotion, land the big job, or marry the girl of your dreams. And in case you were wondering, that’s actually the easy part… ☺ It’s much harder to bring that to life through your action plan, but there’s no need to worry. We will get there together. Read on.

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