Saturday, March 05, 2011

Building a Personal Brand

There's a proverb that talks about how millions of tiny raindrops eventually create a magnificent lake. What has this got to do with building a successful brand? Not a lot, at least not on the surface.

Sometime last year I came across the idea that individuals could leverage the brand concept in the same way companies do. I mean imagine walking around with a metaphorical Nike sign floating over your head. Your participation is synonymous with: success, a great team experience, things going to plan, excellent quality, creative thinking, fun, etc etc. That would be pretty cool. But I found the concept difficult to implement. The advice seemed like common sense and there wasn't much detail on how to build the brand. I also sensed it was quite easy to fall into the trap of trying too hard at the cost of being genuine. So I left the outcome to the hands of fate and moved on. Then a couple of weeks ago I started reading "Delivering Happiness" by Tony Hsieh and a lightbulb went off.

Blog7 Slide1

Tony is the CEO of Zappos - an online retailer focused on footwear. In his book, Tony talks about the role "core values" have played in making Zappos the company it is today (USD$1.2 billion company with a reputation for providing extraordinary customer experience). What's interesting is that Tony suggests that he never focused directly on developing the Zappos brand. Instead he obsessed about their core values; If you focus on the core values, culture and brand naturally follow. And that's about the time the light bulb went off in my head.

Blog7 Slide2

I suddenly understood that trying to ensure that the 1000's of decisions that I make everyday are somehow consistent with a brand image is difficult. Especially when compared to defining a set of core values I'd like to live by. That's incidentally where the analogy of the raindrops and the lake come into this. The raindrops are analogous to the decisions we need to make everyday. If the decisions are aligned the results can be amazing. But how do you align all these decisions, especially when there are so many of them and they're potentially about vastly different topics? (e.g. Do I wake up early or late? Eat fruit or cake? Change job or stay?) I think having a set of core values can help focus the decisions.

Blog7 Slide3In the lake example, each raindrop shares the same values, they're all aligned as are the forces that make them fall and govern their impact. That's what creates the lake. Imagine what would happen if each drop needed to be dealt with individually? Or if the rules that govern each drop depend on how each individual drop might be feeling at a given moment in time?

It also seems more geunine to go this route. Rather than focusing on how the brand will help you sell yourself, you're focusing on what you'd like to be or what you'd like to achieve (the lake you want to build). Often good core values have a  selfless component to them. i.e. Make things better for yourself AND the people around you. If that's the case being highly sought after should be natural consequence rather than a forced goal you may have set for yourself.

Ultimately I think we're more likely to get to our goals if the decisions we make are based on a higher set of principles.



1 comment:

ITF said...

101% agree...why not the Confucius way...