What’s Your Personal Brand?

November 29, 2010 § 2 Comments

taken by me during a trip to hollywood. This i...

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I have been thinking a lot about brands professionally and on a personal level over the last few months.

As Manager of Marketing and Communications with the City of Grande Prairie, I am leading the initiative that will give our community an official brand for the first time ever early in 2011.  A brand is not to be confused with a logo and slogan. These are the visual identity elements that represent the brand.

A brand is what people say about you as an organization, community or individual.

A consultant determined that Grande Prairie has an innovative culture. This was supported in October when the Canadian Federation of Independent Business declared Grande Prairie to be the most entrepreneurial community in the country. In 2009, we were Number 2.  Our community also has a significant number of patents for our population. The ‘can-do’ spirit is pervasive in Grande Prairie.

A brand is something that is unique and enduring. Edmonton calling itself the City of Champions does not fit the current reality.

Likely as a result of my work with the City, I began contemplating the whole realm of personal brands.

This past week, the professional hockey world lost Pat Burns, a well-regarded former coach, to cancer.

Resoundingly, he was known as a hard-nosed but fair coach with a heart of gold. He had a reputation for building winning teams wherever he went and his three coach of the year awards – with Montreal, Toronto and Boston – proved that out. Burns was the first NHL coach to accomplish that feat. He also was a Stanley Cup winner with New Jersey.

His toughness carried over to his personal life – his latest bout with cancer was his third. He had beat colon and liver cancer but when the disease spread to his lungs, it was fatal.

I am not sure what Pat Burns would have thought about his own personal brand.

“For those who know me well, I’ve never backed down from any fight, and I’m not going to back down from this one,” he said after first learning he had the dreaded disease.

If anyone pitied him, Burns had this to say after it was determined his cancer had reached a terminal stage: “As for my career, I always said to my kids, ‘you don’t cry because it’s over, you’re happy because it happened.’ That’s the main thing. I’m happy it happened.”

Ironically, in the same week as Burns passed away, Tiger Woods was coming up to the year since he crashed his Escalade outside his home, opening up the floodgate of events that would reveal his repeated infidelity and end his marriage.

We were hearing how Woods is happier than ever, thanks to his two children. I saw in the media how he is said to love activities like bathing them and making macaroni and cheese.

What is the legendary golfer’s personal brand? I don’t think using his kids for PR will help him rehabilitate his image.

Perception becomes reality and it will take a long time for people to believe that Tiger is truly a great family guy. Whether he is or is not is none of my business. All I am saying is that once your brand is something you don’t want, it is difficult to change.

Similarly, if Britney Spears suddenly adopted a girl-next-door image, how seriously would she be taken?

On the other hand, Toyota has suffered corporate challenges over malfunctioning brakes and gas pedals in recent years, yet I don’t know a Toyota owner or former purchaser who wouldn’t buy a vehicle from the automaker. I almost did recently.

That goes to show that if you have managed your brand well over time, particularly as a corporate entity, people are more likely to be prepared to stand by you.

On a personal level, I think of myself as a hard-working, fun-loving and caring individual who would do anything for family and friends. If people don’t perceive those characteristics to be true, then that’s not my personal brand.

What image do you think you portray? What is your personal brand? Are they the same?

I leave you with this quote from Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu: “Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is enlightenment.”

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