Fair Exchange: Building your personal brand is critical for marketing success
by Erna George (@) Marketers (and other professions) are realising the importance of branding but not, perhaps, of how every action builds or interferes with brand perceptions. In this age of labels, expectations and the personal brand, it all means a more-considered approach to how you are viewed, perceived and experienced.
Every occupation or profession comes with a set of expectations or stereotypes: accountants are assumed to be human calculators while HR is expected to be people-people, boisterous and creating connections constantly. In reality, the norm doesn’t look like this and success comes in many shapes and sizes.
For marketers, being vibrant, dynamic and having the gift of the gab are expected but I guarantee (if you haven’t yet) that you’ll meet the opposite persona. Understated, measured characters, who have an innate understanding of consumer and brand, will be successful, irrespective of their fitting the perceived ‘personality type’.
You don’t have to live up to expectations that conflict with whom you are. Doing so will sap energy reserves and negatively impact on your ability to give your all in your role. Over time discouragement, sets in and, more importantly, the day your façade dissolves your colleagues will be disconcerted. Play to your strengths and channel your energy to being a strong marketer. A level of consistency in how you rock up and display your thinking is far more important; disparate behaviour affects brands and people. Consistency is tough because you’ll have good and bad days in terms of mood and being on top of your game but, the crazy thing is, you’ll set a pattern and rhythm that will be recognisable as your signature. This pattern helps people assess and trust you, and helps you stand out.
Your signature is developed over all your interactions and other deliverables. Whether presenting, participating in a meeting or over a quick coffee catch-up, you do need to be thinking of the context, whom you are talking to and, subsequently, what you are saying. Having a point of view backed by consumer, competitor and markets facts will showcase capabilities. To get your point across takes some skill and you need to be cognisant that your approach has to work within the context of the broader business. Your approach — be it with a touch of pizazz or being profound — in conjunction with your message focus helps land your message, and both of these must be considered, and possibly altered, based on how you read the room.
It’s not about what you want to focus on but about what is important to your audience (your target market). For board presentations, support your style and message with a focus on business growth; for the operations team, the impact on production efficiency is vital. You may need to dial your style up or down, depending on the recipients. A completely drama-licious approach that keeps agency teams at the edge of their seats may seem too radical and over the top for some investors or engineers, while being laid back instead of being viewed as in control and confident could come across as not committed or engaged.
It’s like putting the emphasis on the wrong syllable in a word; misinterpretation or uncertainty is the result. Your marketing view, told through only your lens and style without showcasing an appreciation for how this leaves your audience feeling, reduces influence. Your target audience needs are more important. Always craft your message and manner and then deliver it with the emphasis in the right areas.
Your approach to brand custodianship is another way you are judged. You have to show passion and commitment to the brand and its story, but the myth needs to be dispelled that you must love the product to market it. Think about the gluten-intolerant cereals brand manager or the male brand manager who works on feminine hygiene products. Understanding consumer needs and how your brand must leave people feeling are more important than your living the brand week in and week out. I guarantee you the brand team on Tena adult nappies aren’t incontinent or 80-years-old!
You can’t lose impetus or enthusiasm if you’re moved to a smaller or less sexy brand. Your resilience and flexibility or scope for working will be questioned if you do so, limiting your career.
Agencies don’t always get the chance to choose the brands they work on but they get excited at the possibilities of the vision, the activities and messaging (good work) beyond it being a great car or a beige plaster.
If you behave as if your brand is more important than the company or brand you manage, your commitment will be under question. Each brand will go through stages of big launch excitement or broad maintenance and how you keep engaged, no matter the brand or where it is in the life cycle, shows your substance and the breadth of your abilities.
As you set your signature and approach, consider how you continue your growth. Extend your skills or stretch connections to keep relevant and grow impact. Your signature will be discussed at talent-pool meetings internally and, if you’re keen, you can build a footprint to be top of mind in broader circles. Whether it be guest-writing for industry media, keeping a blog, joining the right association or extending studies and networking with a broader business community, there are multiple options. But it’s clear building your profile is important, whether it be strengthened within or beyond the workplace. You want ‘Brand You’ to be clear and compelling.
To craft a well-articulated Brand You:
- You don’t have to be a stereotype — determine a signature and style that are true to you, and be consistent
- Your internal audience is the target market for Brand You, so dial your style up or down for optimal impact with them
- Display commitment and engagement beyond the product and the brand life cycle to showcase gravitas and your staying power
Brand You is within your control. Actively constructing your brand helps build a successful career.
After starting at Unilever in a classical marketing role, Erna George (@) explored the agency side of life, first as a partner at Fountainhead Design, followed by the manic and inspiring world of consultancy at Added Value. She has returned to client-side, leading the marketing team in the Cereals, Accompaniments & Baking Division at Pioneer Foods. Her monthly “Fair Exchange” column on MarkLives concerns business relationships and partnerships in marketing and brandland.