I was speaking recently at a conference to a group of emerging leaders, and one of the questions I asked was, ‘What’s your brand?’ I gave them an exercise, ‘Write down three words that describe your brand.’ I gave them some examples of different companies and asked them to reflect on the amount of money that those companies spend on brands. Think of Apple. What do you think Apple represents as a brand? What about Mercedes Benz? What about Alibaba? All of these are large organisations, and their brands tell a story. We have our own sense of what is representative of that brand. How about individuals? What’s the brand that Barack Obama has? What about Nelson Mandela? Aung San Suu Kyi? Winston Churchill? Indira Gandhi? All these individuals have brands, so whether you know it or not, you have a brand. A brand is the things that people say about you when you are not in the room. Your brand is all the things that people refer to, and describe about you, when they are with each other.
One of the points I raised with this group of emerging leaders was that all of their career prospects and future promotions, would be discussed in rooms where they wouldn’t be present. Their senior leaders would be discussing them to see, ‘Well, do we give that person this particular assignment? Do we put them on that team? Do we give them exposure to this particular part of the organisation?’ All of these decisions would be made in rooms or in groups where the individual wouldn’t be present. Hence, the importance of knowing one’s own brand. As part of the exercise, I said, ‘Choose three to five words to describe your brand, then go and check it out with five other people. Either check it out with a group of your peers, with your managers, with friends, or with your family members, to see if those words resonate.’
In other words, do they see you as that word? You need to get consistency, then you know that brand, that word, is reliable, and it speaks to you. If you say, ‘I’m very open’ for instance, and then you get feedback from people saying, ‘I’m not sure that describes you,’ you may have to rethink that word. Once you’ve settled on three to five words, those words will be closely linked to your strengths, then think about how you leverage those words.
How do you build your brand? What are some of the things that you need to do to be consistent with your brand? Think of the organisations I mentioned earlier. What are some of the things that they do consistently to reinforce their brands? Think of the people I mentioned earlier. What are some of the things that they do consistently to reinforce their brands? In the same way, what are some of the things that you can do to be on brand?