From Brand You50The Nub
The yogurt is hitting the fan. With a roaring kerplunk. And few (none?) will escape unscathed. The White Collar Revolution gathers way. Fast. Job security -- as we've known it -- vanishes.
So . . . what now?
My answer: Return to Job Security! (Not the answer you expected, I bet.) But it's New Job Security. Or, actually, Very Old New Job Security. It's what job security was all about before -- long before! -- Big Corp. Before Social Security. And unemployment insurance. Before there was a big so-called safety net that had the unintended consequence of sucking the initiative, drive, and moxie out of millions of white collar workers.
I'm talking about job security in the Colonies and in the first century after our country was founded. Which was:
Craft = Marketable Skill. Distinction = Memorable. Networking Skills = Word of Mouth Collegial Support.
It's as old as the colonial blacksmith. (And his modern counterpart, the housepainter. Or local CPA.) As new as Hollywood. Or the peripatetic Web programmers in their apartments in San Francisco or Austin or Raleigh-Durham . . . or Tahiti.
It's about being so damn good and meticulous and responsible about what you do (and making sure that what you do is work that needs to be done) that the world taps a T1-speed path to your PC.
My modern-language (a.k.a. Peters-Speak) term for this ancient, self-reliant, networked, word-of-mouth-dependent, distinguished craftsperson: Brand You.
I'm a believer in Branding. Guided, as I often am, by adman David Ogilvy, I don't think brands are marketing flimflam. The consumer is not an idiot. You can't, by and large, brand crap. And -- per Ogilvy -- you're a damn fool if you don't brand good stuff: iMACs or Ziplocs or a cool setting for drinking coffee, called Starbucks.
A brand is a "trust mark." It's shorthand. It's a sorting device."The Word" According to Scott
Scott Bedbury helped brand Nike and Starbucks. (Not bad.) I like his description of a brand:
A great brand taps into emotions. . . . Emotions drive most, if not all, of our decisions. A brand reaches out with [a] powerful connecting experience. It's an emotional connecting point that transcends the product. . . .
A great brand is a story that's never completely told. A brand is a metaphorical story that's evolving all the time. . . . Stories create the emotional context people need to locate themselves in a larger experience.
I don't know about you, but I don't feel in the least bit offended, demeaned, or dehumanized by the thought of Brand You or Brand Me. Or Me Inc., another of my favorites. To the contrary, I think Brand You/Brand Me/Me Inc. ties me rather directly to the Pilgrim Fathers, Ben Franklin, and Steve Jobs -- which is a lineage that I far prefer to Organization Man . . . let alone Cubicle Slave!
* * *
My friend the artist Annette Lemieux produced a wonderful piece, I AM (see reproduction on facing page). Hanging on my wall next to her sophisticated work is a stark, white-on-black full-page ad torn from a popular magazine. It's a Discover Brokerage ad: YOU ARE the CEO OF YOUR LIFE.T.T.D./Brand You = Survival
1. Got a friend -- real estate agent, lawyer, etc. -- who's got a real rep in the city, whose name people immediately associate with quality, results, perseverance? (If you don't know any local stars personally, ask around until you find one.) Ask her to spend an evening with you and perhaps a few colleagues, chatting about how she Broke Out of the Pack. Does she have any trademarks -- diligent sending of thank-you notes, a certain color scarf, speedy service -- that help to define her? That is: Start to infuse those "brand ideas" into your vocabulary/life.
2. Start playing with words. Keep a notebook, paper or electronic. Ask yourself: WHO AM I? WHO AM I NOT? (The experts agree: Brand is as much about what a product "is not" as about what it "is.")
3. Start asking yourself every day: IS WHAT I'M DOING RIGHT NOW CONSISTENT WITH BUILDING A BRAND, MY BRAND? If not, well, wonder about how you're spending your time.
4. Brands aren't built in a day! Walk -- don't run! -- into all this. Play with the ideas. Define your strengths (and weaknesses). Consider "trademarks." Try the fit. Refine the fit. Be purposeful but not panicky:
THIS IS THE "ESSENCE-OF-YOU" WE ARE TALKING ABOUT. (À la Meryl Streep or Ted Koppel.)
Copyright © 1999 by Excel/A California Partnership. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.