Building a Positive Personal Brand
From hero to zero. That’s what happens to some of our heroes. The super humans we admire, respect and model ourselves on sometime fall. When our sporting icons, musical geniuses, actors and other such people make bad decisions and misrepresent themselves, they end up falling from grace.
Yes, it’s a matter of perception as to whether they are zero or not, but their brand association certainly takes a knock. Mention some names like Tiger Woods, Bill Clinton, Milli Vanilli, Mel Gibson, Joost van der Westhuizen, Ras Dumisani and Charlie Sheen to name but a few.
They didn’t just damage their reputations, they also damaged their own personal brands. Each of the above had built up their brands to a point where if I mention simply “Tiger” or “Joost”, you know exactly who I am talking about. But after their fall, the brand association changed from good to bad.
Building your personal brand requires conviction and commitment. As much as you can have positive intentions, sometimes by making bad decisions and poor judgment calls, we end up on the wrong path, thereby damaging (sometimes permanently) our personal brands.
Let’s discuss the Tiger Woods debacle, basically one of the most marketable brands on the planet. So… what does Tiger’s brand represent? Courage under fire, integrity, winning attitude, strong work ethic, honesty and a role model for everyone.
From the age of two, Tiger Woods has managed to maintain his brand status and protecting his brand has been a 24/7 365 job. Tiger’s name has become synonymous with golf, with him being the first athlete to break the billion dollar earnings mark, showing that not only is he an exceptional athlete but he is also a marketing, PR and sponsorship dream.
Tiger Woods is however human (gasps of disbelief filter around the room). He does make mistakes, albeit monumental ones. Unfortunately, Tiger’s sponsors jumped ship - from Accenture to Nike to Gatorade, the only one who remained intact at the time was EA Sports. I guess their Tiger Woods 10 game is actually a good game and his character in the game only plays golf – no extra-curricular activities!
If we take a look at the Tiger Woods brand currently, what does it represent? Dishonesty, secrecy, bad role model, cowardice and adultery. Tiger Woods should have honestly answered all the questions about the car crash accident and his alleged affairs as unfortunately he is the only reliable source for this story. Once Tiger started the journey to honesty, only then did he begin reinventing and repairing his damaged brand.
But even after a soul baring press conference, a stellar performance at the U.S Masters and return of some of his loyal sponsors, Tiger is still not out of the woods. His lovely wife appears to have grown tired of his bunker shots with evidence of another 120 affairs coming to light, which seems to indicate a parting of ways with Mr. Wayward Woods.
To reduce the amount of fallout around his existing bad brand association, what could Tiger have done differently?
1. Honesty and openness at the time of the accident
2. Proactive and reactive engagement with the media after the accident
3. Seeking professional psychological help sooner rather than later
Should your own personal brand and reputation as a Marketeer be damaged there are many avenues you could follow to rebuild your tainted image. These include:
• Owning up to mistakes
• Being responsible and accountable
• Asking for forgiveness
• Taking a hard look at your personal values and beliefs and delete what is not working for you
• Engaging an image consultant
• Asking for honest and open feedback on your mistakes from your peers and colleagues
• Be open to starting from scratch
However, let’s assume that you have just started out in the world of marketing and you decide to build a strong positive brand from the outset. The best way to learn how to do this is from brand success stories. Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Empire has got it right when it comes to positive brand association. He consistently lives his personal brand values and beliefs in both his personal life and business life.
• Do good – change the world even if it’s in a small way – this became evident when Mr. Branson took on British Airways and won
• Have respect – Mr. Branson has respect for people from all walks of life – his idea for Rebel Billionaire came from a taxi driver
• Dr Yes – Mr. Branson finds more reasons to do something than not to do something. This was his attitude when he started Student magazine, which opened the doors to his entrepreneurial career
• Be bold – Mr. Branson believes in himself and takes calculated risks. This is evident by his forays into seemingly tough, competitive markets with Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Trains and Virgin Cosmetic brands
• Have fun – Richard Branson is all about fun. From hot air balloon challenges to buying Necker island and game park lodges and creating the TV series “The Rebel Billionaire”.
Other strong positive individual brands include Steve Jobs (Apple), Lance Armstrong (cycling), Bono (U2), Raymond Ackerman (Pick ©° Pay) and Gidon Novick (Kulula / Commair).
As marketers we not only have a responsibility to the service or product brands that we represent, but also to our own personal brands, which are important because our relationships with our staff, our agencies and our peers are based on trust and belief.
So how do we build our own personal brand, a brand that people can believe in?
Here are seven golden rules:
1. Define your own personal brand values and live them everyday
2. Adopt a particular image and keep it consistent
3. Treat your colleagues, agencies, peers and bosses professionally and respectfully
4. Consistent behaviour
5. Dressed in relevance – always be relevant. Be up to date on the latest marketing trends, practices and innovations
6. Become a mentor – test what you know by teaching it to someone else
7. Model other successful brand personalities (mentioned above). Become curious how they do what they do well and see what values and beliefs of theirs, could work for you.
So, own your brand, own your companies’ brand. Be accountable. Be professional. You will succeed.