You Are a Brand

"Your brand is what other people say about you when you aren’t in the room."

- You Are a Brand!, page 13

Catherine Kaputa’s second edition of You Are a Brand! is an essential guide for both careerists and entrepreneurs alike. This book is for anyone looking to differentiate themselves in the marketplace, for those who are employed and those unexpectedly unemployed. It is for those who need to rebrand after a setback, and those who would like to elevate their game.

The author communicates how to create your own personal brand with similar processes and tools that a company or ad agency uses to brand and rebrand, applying the same principles to create Brand You to get noticed in the real and cyber world. She incorporates useful concepts that you may have already come across, such as making ideas stick (Made to Stick by Dan and Chip Heath), to mention one. She also includes vintage concepts in business, such as the SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats), USP (unique selling proposition), crafting your elevator speech, and how to network. She doesn’t leave anything to chance! Kaputa provides tips on “visualizing your brand” which is all about how you dress, how you show up, how you sound. Everything has to align to the personal brand you’re creating, including your business card and online persona.

You’ll find that there are certainly more than two GEMs in this book that you could apply to effectively self-brand and land that dream job!

The Golden Egg

Golden Egg: The biggest takeaway from the book

It’s all about perception

"We’re all entrepreneurs today, whether we work for a company or work for ourselves… Take charge of your brand, or someone else will…"
- You Are a Brand!, page 11

You’ve heard some folks say that they don’t care about what other people say about them. They should, because perception is everything when it comes to brand. Self-branding will help you take control of how you are perceived by others and tip perception in your favour.

It used to be that only companies developed their brands. Brands have a distinct look and feel. Brands get noticed and purchased. Brands are better than generic products. This is the perception. I, myself, am not immune to the tyranny of brand perception. For the longest time I would not buy a generic bottle of Ibuprofen. I would always reach for Advil.

If you’re an entrepreneur, branding your business and self-branding are key things you must do. But what about careerists who work for companies? Should you self-brand, too? The answer is yes, you should. The author cites several stories of clients passed over for a promotion for various reasons: higher ups having an out-dated understanding of the person’s work but doesn’t know her recent accomplishments. Another client was constantly being excluded from important meetings even when she did all the work. It turned out that she was not in sync with the corporate dress code. Between her demeanor and her appearance, she was perceived as not presentable, but also not promotable.

It isn’t just about the hard work or the great work you do. If no one knows about them, then they don’t count.

There are certainly elements in this book which remind me of Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn without Blowing It by Peggy Klaus. Why? Because creating awareness of your skills and accomplishments is an integral part of self-branding. It’s essential in creating and managing others’ perception of Brand You.

Gem #1

An actionable way to implement the BIG takeaway (Golden Egg) into your life

Know yourself and the market place

"That person in the mirror is the only one you can rely on. But that’s not sad. It’s powerful."
- You Are a Brand!, page 17

Before you can market yourself, you’ll need to do a personal inventory to understand your assets that lead to success. Your goal is to align your strengths to market opportunities. Catherine Kaputa provides tools to help you define your brand idea and promise to prepare for building your brand strategy, including the classic USP: Unique Selling Proposition, which is defined as: “The distinctive idea that brands are always searching for – a USP provides a compelling value proposition that resonates with the target audience.”

She also makes use of the SWOT Analysis – identifying your strengths and weaknesses. These can be skills, experiences, accomplishments and personality traits. Weaknesses could be things you’re not good at or don’t enjoy doing. Opportunities and Threats are extrinsic to you. What’s happening in the business? In the industry? With change comes opportunities.

Gem #2

An actionable way to implement the BIG takeaway (Golden Egg) into your life

Don’t market yourself as a generalist. Create a niche for yourself.

"Being jack-of-all trades is not a smart strategy. It is smart to be an expert in one area. Focus is powerful…The narrower the focus, the more powerful the brand."
- You Are a Brand!, page 62

This might be one of the toughest things you’ll do in your journey to self-brand. You might have years of experience working in different aspects of the business. Narrowing it down to one thing seems, well, limiting. What if we alienate other prospects and the opportunities they bring? Once you understand your target market, this will be easier to do. Strategizing and narrowing your focus will showcase your strengths and will differentiate you from your competitors. There are ten self-brand strategies you can play with to see which fits you the best:

  1. The Innovator: You’re the first person who _______ (insert claim to fame here). Think Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook.
  2. The Leader: You’re a leader in _______ (industry, job function, basis of leadership claim). Think Warren Buffet.
  3. The Maverick: You are the opposite of the established leader _______ (insert name). Whatever the leader stands for, you stand for the opposite. Think Tony Hsieh of Zappos.
  4. The Identifier: You are known for _______ (list attribute). Own an attribute which will become a buzzword synonymous with you. Think BMW for driving performance.
  5. The Engineer: You developed _______ special ingredient or _______ new process. Think Tony Horton of P90X.
  6. The Expert: You are an expert in _______.
  7. The Client Advocate: You are preferred by _______ (target audience).
  8. The Elitist: I’m hard to get, expensive and worth it. Good to use once you’ve achieved a certain status in your field or if you’ve been endorsed by a celebrity.
  9. The Heir: You’re the best because of your _______ heritage. Think about your national origin, prestigious school or a stint at a well-known company.
  10. The Crusader: You are synonymous with _______ (cause). Think Blake Mycoskie of TOMS shoes.

There are other GEMs in You Are a Brand, and underpinning all of them is authenticity. Be honest with yourself about what you’re great at, what you enjoy doing, what you dream of doing. Then go and use this book to create and live that dream. I enjoyed reading this book and am already working on a plan to re-launch Brand Me.

How about you? Do you have a plan to self-brand or rebrand?

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Maria Donohue

ABOUT Maria Donohue

“You cannot fill a cup that is already full. Empty your cup.” Maria Donohue is a coach, trainer, and change leader. She works with leaders to elevate skills in team motivation, negotiations, and in relationship and business building...
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