Undergraduate students from PLNU's Fermanian School of Business, many eager to begin careers in the field of marketing, dressed in their professional best to hear a group of five experts present insight on successful branding for the "Successful Branding: From Corporate Brand to Personal Brand" event sponsored by the Office of Strengths and Vocation (OSV) on February 6, 2014. Each panelist shared insight from their specialized area of expertise, with one unmistakable overarching theme: authenticity and passion.
Scott Schimmel, a professional trainer and coach at YouSchool, Inc., kicked off the night sharing the concept of "developing a story" in personal branding; he told a story of his friend who, not knowing what exactly he wanted to do in life, went into law because that is what his brother did. Although this made for a "good story" it wasn't his story. "Who would want to walk up to the pearly gates and hear God say, 'Hey, why did you do someone else's life?" he asked the attentive audience.
While Scott generally works with youth, panelist Simon Vetter, who works with corporate leaders and managers, was in agreement. He encouraged the students to start with what is important to them and find what they are passionate about.
Simon has worked with corporations like Microsoft and Dell to address and solve leadership issues. He shared an experience where a leader was innovative and great at solving problems, yet his coworkers hated working for him due to his inability to listen and tendency to stifle creativity from his workforce. Simon helped him learn to listen better and the employee feedback was encouraging.
For Simon, corporate internal branding is about reputation. In conversation during the networking portion of the event, he shared that unfortunately many times people are not good leaders but their brand remains in high esteem. "Take NBA, the highest scoring basketball player can be a real jerk but he's still the highest scoring basketball player and they're not going to fire him," he said. If the reputation can be sustained in the absence of integrity, what is the motivation behind trying to improve a leader's interaction with their coworkers? What is the point if they are going to be successful anyways? Panelist Denise Yohn had an answer. For Denise, it is not about how the public perceives you. It is about being the way you want the public to perceive you.
Denise Yohn has worked with companies like Frito-Lay and Oakley, helping them find their company's target range and conveying it to the entire team. She dislikes the term 'branding' and swaps it for the term 'brand building.' When conversing with Denise, a marketing sophomore student mentioned the word "reputation" - an idea favored by Simon - only to watch her cringe. For Yohn, the implication is that the company has to be good at putting up a convincing facade.
Liz Goodgold, branding expert and motivational speaker, is not 100% in agreement. Liz shared that there is a "7-second-hook." In other words, we have only seconds when meeting someone to impress them. For Goodgold, it is about presentation.
Liz shared three important keys in branding: consistency, alertness, and relevancy. In regards to being alert, Liz encouraged students to "R&D" or rather "Rip-Off and Duplicate." The panelists shook their heads in agreement with this idea of noticing what great brands do well, and emulating them. Her relevancy concept was very similar to Scott's message of "authenticity."
One of the most impactful things Liz shared in regards to authenticity was that it takes great courage to maintain a brand. Some companies may not want to hire you because your personal brand is inconsistent with theirs. When this happened to Goodgold she said, "Good!" She does not want a company to hire her if she cannot stay true to her authentic brand.
Perhaps the most unique of the panelists was Terry Hogelucht, a graphic designer who unlike the other panelists took a much more tangible angle of branding. Though he went a different route, the theme prevailed. This first questions he asks his clients are "Who are you? Who do you want to be?" After grasping these answers, Terry proceeds to the design phase to find a visual representation that is timeless. Later during networking conversations, Hogelucht mentioned that once a logo is developed, it stays with you. Like the other panelists mentioning consistency and authenticity, Terry's logo and visual brand development equally emphasizes a similar theme.
Scott Schimmel said it best when he said, "What does God want me to do? Is there one thing? ...I don't think God cares what we do nearly as much as we think He does." When discovering your personal brand, he advised the students to not get caught up in searching for a predetermined plan. "Find what you're passionate about," he said, "Find what irritates you." Often what irritates you reveals what you are passionate about. Discovering who we are uncovers what our personal, timeless brand will be.
Written by Alicia Wagoner