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.

Read More

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.

Read More

Upcoming session on Building Brand YOU! in Karachi – February 21st, 2014.

I am conducting a two hour introductory workshop on Building Brand YOU! under the auspices of the Pakistan Advertisers’ Society. The session is in Karachi on Feb 21. The content & material is based on the upcoming book “Building Brand YOU!” that I have been posting chapters from on this blog.

The link with logistics information is below:

http://www.pas.org.pk/pas-briefing-session-building-brand-you/

It should be a fun and energy-filled session so please do join in if you can.
Look forward to seeing you there!

Read More

Chapter 7 & 8 – “Building Brand YOU!” – by Omar Abedin

Chapter 7 The Road to building YOUR brand equity (definitely the road less travelled)

Step 1: Spend some time understanding the real needs of your “customers” – your family, friends and employer.

In the business world, this is called “consumer insight development”. Find out what is important to the people who matter in your life, how they feel about you and your role, what really makes them tick… Once you know what counts, you can start positioning yourself to maximize the way your efforts are recognized. The important thing to remember here is that “Perception is Reality”. At work, if you are not able to make your contributions transparent to your boss, your co-workers and the management, the chances are that your efforts will be minimally recognized, and you will find yourself with feelings of bitterness and anxiety. Now, please understand – I am not for one minute advocating that you try to create a perception that is not founded in reality, or try to take credit for the work of others. That puts you squarely in “pointy-haired boss” category and you will rightly become the target of your co-workers’ wrath. No. I’m saying do the work, and do it in such a way that it could only have come from you. The same applies at home, and in your social circle.

But how do you leverage the insights you develop to maximize your “value” and the “revenue” that flows from it?

Step 2: Develop your Brand Identity (Brand ID). We will talk at length about this later, but it involves developing a signature style for the way you do things – an unmistakable stamp that tells the world that this is something only you could have created, only you could have worked on and delivered. Its like a watermark on a document – it always shows up, even in photocopies, and it is easily recognizable as yours.

In order to build a powerful Brand ID, you need to know what you stand for currently – what your Brand ID is today- and what you are going to stand for in the future – in the minds, hearts & wallets of the people who matter in your life… your family, your friends, and your employer.

So, how do you find out what you stand for now? It’s easy – just ask. Be prepared for the answers to be very different to what you have in your mind, though. As brand managers are often shocked at how consumers actually perceive the brands that they manage when they get the results of research, you will almost certainly be surprised at how people perceive you, and how they attach value to the things that you do, your behaviour, personality and so much more… But ask, and say thank you for the feedback you receive.

Step 3: Bring your desired brand identity to life. How do you go about bringing your desired perceptions alive in the minds of the people who matter? What do you have to do to be seen the way you really want to be seen? Again, let me stress that I’m not talking about smoke-and-mirrors. People see through that sooner rather than later. No, you have to take action – but in a planned, concerted effort that maximizes the perception value of what you are doing. It helps to think of this is a bank account, with deposits that build your perception and equity, and withdrawals that don’t.

Remember, in the words of the inimitable Dan Adams – “every step or action you take will either be a deposit into, or a withdrawal from, the bank of your brand equity.”

So – be careful. You can spend years building the balance in your brand equity bank, and blow it all because of one stupid thing that leaves you high and dry – and deep in the red.

Step 4: Invest. Your time, energy, and focus needs to be dedicated to building the desired Brand ID in the minds and hearts of your constituents. And it will take time, energy and focus. Think of any iconic brand, and you will find a history and a heritage of actions taken by that brand that have gone into building the perception that you have in your mind today… it’s the same with people. Richard Branson has a well-known penchant for a certain type of activity – and all his “stunts” are cleverly designed to build his personal and business brand equities in a particular direction. Love him or hate him, you certainly can’t ignore him.

Step 5: Close the loop. Talk to your “consumers” on a regular basis. See how your perceptions are varying, changing… and they will change. Monitor them, and you will know whether you are on track to achieve your goals. They will appreciate the effort you are making to improve, and they will help you. Those who won’t provide you with feedback probably wouldn’t help you anyway, so don’t worry about them. Do what needs to be done, and move on. Be all that you can be – start today.

Chapter 8 Measuring Brand Equity (measure progress or forget it!)

Brands spend a lot of time measuring the key drivers of their equity (or they should be!). They have teams monitoring how they are doing in the market, and how consumers are thinking, feeling and talking about them. Now, you don’t have a team that can help you track your brand equity, right? Wrong.

Your team is comprised of those people who are important to you, and those who care about you. Possible “Team You” membership could comprise your boss, your mentor (if you don’t have one, get one!), some close co-workers, your wife (or significant other), and some of your close friends and confidantes.

Set-up a process – formal at work, and informal at home and with friends – to gather the feedback that you NEED to know whether you are moving in the right direction or not. Once the process is set up, you need to decide what you are going to track. This really depends on what your brand is going to stand for, but here are some examples of possible things to measure or track on an on-going basis, and the people to ask the questions to:

BOSS: On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the highest), how much do you, my BOSS, agree with the following:

1. I’m your go-to person for issues in my area.
2. I’m trustworthy.
3. I’m aligned to your goals, and do everything in my power to help you achieve those goals.
4. I’m an expert in my area.
5. I’m the most valuable member in your team.
6. I work well with others.
7. I demonstrate & embody the values that you expect of members in your team.
8. I’m likeable, and I make an effort to get along with co-workers and colleagues.
9. I’m networked internally and externally.
10. I’m well regarded by senior management (your constituents).

CO-WORKERS: On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the highest), how much do you, my CO-WORKER, agree with the following:

1. I’m your go-to person for issues in my area.
2. I’m trustworthy.
3. I’m aligned to your goals, and do everything in my power to help you achieve those goals.
4. I’m an expert in my area.
5. My inputs are valuable to you in your daily work.
6. I work well with others.
7. I demonstrate & embody the values that you expect of members in our team.
8. I’m likeable, and I make an effort to get along with co-workers and colleagues.
9. I’m networked internally and externally.
10. I’m well regarded by senior management (our constituents).

SPOUSE / SIGNIFICANT OTHER: On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the highest), how much do you, my SPOUSE, agree with the following:

1. I’m there for you when you need me.
2. I’m trustworthy.
3. I’m aligned to your goals, and do everything in my power to help you achieve those goals.
4. I’m an expert in my area, and I use my expertise to make our lives better.
5. My inputs are valuable to you in your daily life.
6. I show you how much I care on a regular basis.
7. I demonstrate & embody the values that you expect, and that we agree on.
8. I’m likeable, and I make an effort to get along with our family and friends.
9. I love you.
10. We are in it for the long haul – I see us together till death do us part (not in a creepy way ☺).

Once you get the results, put them on a spreadsheet and really understand what they mean to you. Again, the statements above will vary from person to person, and will hold different levels of importance for different people. You might have only 5 really important ones and that’s fine. The key thing is to not stop this process, since the initial reading is just that – a start point. It’s where you are today, or where you are seen to be, which is the same thing. What matters is the NEXT reading, and the one after that – have you managed to move the needle on the things that matter to you? And in what direction?

If nothing has changed, don’t worry about it. Moving the needle on important things takes time, and maybe enough time has not passed yet for your behaviour changes or new actions to be noticed. Don’t sweat it. Keep on doing it.

If on the other hand, scores on some key parameters have moved downwards, then probe to find out why in a non-confrontational way. You need to understand what is not working, and why, so that you can fix it. Once you do fix it, put your head down and make it true. You & only you can do it. And you must.

Make this a life-long discipline, and once you have it down, and your scores on your key metrics are moving upwards nicely, you can reduce the frequency of the feedback. But don’t stop it because you then run the risk of backsliding and losing all the gains that you have made in your development. And that would just be a shame.

Read More

A conversation on Positioning – Part 2

Lara Samuels: Good question….is it really dated though? Or is it just that people prefer to call it something different? I think it’s central to any brand, otherwise how can you define yourself? I work with lots of clients on market positioning/brand proposition etc. I would say that it’s about being able to convey who you are, what you do, and why you’re different, and anything connected with that could in theory be part of the positioning.

Brand assets should absolutely be based on the positioning – they’re the next step on from defining what it is…making the proposition tangible and relevant. What do you think?

Cliodhna Purcell • Brand positioning exists in people’s heads whether you like it or not!

I like to think of it as being the space it occupies in peoples’ minds when the name is mentioned or logo is seen.
The trick is to align it with what you DO with your brand and to make sure that what you think the brand stands for is what consumers perceive it to be!

It’s a difficult one but given the wealth of feedback tools available today, it’s one that should not be too hard to track.

Omar Abedin • I agree with you Cliodhina! I like to use a theoretical approach that says “If you wake up a consumer in the middle of the night, and yell your brand name at them, what would they play back?”

Please note that this is a purely theoretical approach (we never recommend actually trying this :)

The Brand Essence that would emerge then leads in to the Brand Positioning – how the brand differentiates itself from its competition. It really is the heart of the brand identity, don’t you think?

Read More