Tag Archives: personal branding

Explore the Humanizing of Brands – Why Now?

Gather and Talk
Recently (Dec. 2nd) I had the opportunity to participate in a terrific event all about the humanizing of brands called BrandsConf. Jeff Pulver brought a couple of hundred people together to gather and talk about this topic that has been brewing for a long time, but has just recently come to a boil. That got me thinking: Why now? What has accelerated these ideas that have been developing around brands for several years?

I think a big part of the “why now?” is this very human idea of gathering and talking and how technology keeps making it easier for us to do just that – easier, faster, and at a larger scale. We used to gather and talk around the campfire, the dinner table, the watercooler, and now we’ve added al kinds of new places to gather and talk: chat rooms, comment threads, profile pages, Facebook walls and Twitter streams. We’ll virtually convene and debate over fanboy flamewars, activist causes, and even which thermos is really worth 24.99.

Not Gathered, but Talking
There used to be a little more clarity about when you were having a tête-à-tête, versus making a speech, or gathering a consensus. Now a conversation might be all of those things at once: one to one, one to many, and many to one all at once – and throw in many to many just for good measure. You also used to know when a conversation started and ended, but when the gathering is virtual it can also be asynchronous, or semi-synchronous, dialog and document all at once.

This isn’t just semantics (although I really like semantics), a lot of the reflexes we have formed based on the way we gather and talk in the physical world are being stress-tested by these new modes. Capacity, memory, history, context used to be things we could reliably judge in a more visceral way. There is a kinship in the gut between our skills as pattern recognizers and our effectiveness as B.S. detectors.

Gathered, but Not Talking
But I don’t think our reflexes are quite a sharp as they used to be, not as a whole. You see we spent a lot of years gathering, but not talking, first due to the radio, and later the TV. Add cable and cheaper electronics and we even began to lose the gathering – we were separating and not talking. IMHO our dialog skills got a little bit atrophied, especially when it comes to brands. We got comfortable with brands being spoon fed to us like cereal and Saturday morning cartoons. Our brand conversations were at best about brands, not with brands.

Search Me
Sorry about hopping around, but that’s just how my mind works sometimes. I’m not as random as Clifford Stoll yet, but give me time… So what was I saying? Search me…

Well that’s how we used to use that phrase: “Search me” was a handy expression to say I don’t know, or I don’t have the answer. Now “search me” is a directive, a request, a precipitate of this idea that we have a personal brand. Search me means that I have an answer and I want you to check me out so you know what you’re getting. This is where I think we as individuals can learn much from what the big brands have refined over the years, ideas like focus, consistency, aspiration and segmentation. And why is this important? Many of us come to a world with muscle-memory that was built when conversations were things that happened with a tiny scope, that faded away quickly, if not instantaneously, and we’re bringing those reflexes to a world where nothing is erased, everything is searchable, and the only way to hide a blemish is to crowd it out – make it harder to find by drowning it in a sea of positives.

I think this is why authenticity is so important to building a personal brand – every day we are offered the opportunity and consequence of operating like one-person media empires. Yet without the resources of a major brand or a billionaire media-magnate behind us it is essential that we steer our ships carefully, thoughtfully and with purpose. Our authenticity is our compass. It’s how we find our way, how we get back on track when we get buffeted around by life’s hard knocks and gleaming opportunities. It’s also the one resource that we know we won’t tap out while we’re hustling to keep up with the big shots and the big brands with their deep benches and deep pockets.

The good news is, it’s a lot easier to get big virtually than physically. The micro-brand can go global. The personal brand that embraces clarity and focus, that can bring an authentic remarkableness to market, can indeed go global. Your flavor of weird, if it’s real, might just be your win.

Talk to Me
So certainly there are heaps of brand wisdom that the little upstart can learn from big dogs like Nike, Apple, McDonald’s, Coke, Harley Davidson, etc. But can the scrappy, squishy, touchy-feely, human being at the center of a personal brand offer anything for the big brands to learn. Can you teach a big dog new tricks?

Well I think just as we as individuals have some communication reflexes that aren’t quite caught up with the new modes of semi-synchronous, always searchable, un-erasable, gathering and talking, so too are the big brands faced with outdated approaches and behavioral biases built on assumptions from other modes of communication. The command and control, TV, print, radio, megaplex paradigm depends on cascading layers of one-way filters that allowed information to flow down and out, but prevented the vast majority of the upstream communication from getting back to the top. All of that today can be subverted with a single tweet. It’s not a wolf at the door, but a human, just a few keystrokes away, and she wants to talk – not be lectured, or given the latest spin.

The social innovations of today’s Internet have brought back the talk to the gather and talk and large companies will be wise to recognize that we are not just demographics, not just a count of households in a statistical strata, but humans at every turn and in every nook and cranny – we’re squishy and we want to talk.

Hear Me
With all this talking and gathering another very human need is revealed – the need to be heard. The personal brand bold enough to build a narrative on a foundation of authenticity wants desperately to be accepted and acknowledge for that very thing. The person who tweets a complaint about a bad bit of customer service, or a disappointing product experience also wants to be acknowledged, engaged and will react to the brand that does so in much the same way as they would react to a human acknowledgement.

So, Now…
The social technology has positioned us as individuals to realize the potential and responsibility of being a great brand, while also reminding big brands that they are surrounded by and suffused with humans. Their potential and responsibility will be revealed in how they choose to engage in a world of trackable, semi-synchronous, and squishy human-to-human communication.

That’s why now.

If you want to get a little more of the flavor of BrandsConf search for the hashtag #brandsconf on Twitter and check out my doodle-notes made during the event.

Share
Posted in branding, Branding Thoughts, commentary, networking | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Endearing imperfections

Endearing Imperfections

The world is not a perfect place – a quick glance at any newspaper, newsfeed, news site, or newscast will provide ample confirmation for that idea, but so what? Where else are you going to live?

The world is not perfect, and neither is your spouse, sibling, parent, friend, child, or pet, but we love them, warts and all, right? I mean my dad sneezes so loud it shakes the windows, my cat refuses to use a scratching post in any room that has a sofa, and I’ve learned the hard way that when my girlfriend asks for a tiny bite of my sandwich she really means something in the range of tiny-for-a-shark-sized bite to just-go-ahead-and-make-a-new-sandwich-sized bite – but do I love them any less? Of course not, in fact sometimes it’s the foibles, the goofiness, the vulnerabilities, the endearing little imperfections that are well, endearing (except the sandwich thing that’s just annoying).

So why are we trying so hard to be perfect online? Why do we have this impulse to sanitize our communication and project some glistening fantasy of personal brand image for the world to embrace? Vanity? Insecurity? Fear of rejection? Well I say vanity-shmanity just be yourself.

In a photoshopped world filled with spin doctors and corporate speak more and more people are seeking authentic, plain as folk, communications. Letting down your hair, lowering your guard and risking letting a little bit of the real you out into the light of day can be a healthy thing for you and your personal brand. It’s a lot more sustainable and reliable for you to just be you than to always try to live up to the glistening fantasy you. Instead of doing cartwheels to try to project a flawless facade, focus on what you got that rocks – that stuff you do with world-beating zeal and samurai skill. Put the attention on those things and the warts become a whole lot less important. I mean if you think about it, someone with zealously applied samurai skill can be intimidating, but if they’ve got a well placed wart too that might be just enough to make them seem approachable.

Focus on your strengths and don’t get bent out of shape about your flaws – they might just be the endearing qualities that help you build an authentic personal brand.

Share
Posted in branding, Branding Thoughts, mad scribblings, personal branding | Also tagged , | 3 Comments

Right Brain resurgent

So where are the posts, David? Yes friends, I’ve been a little delinquent in my writing, but inspired today by a post written by the awesome Fabeku, I decided to just show up.

Now I don’t want you to think I’ve been idle in my absence. I’ve actually been putting out a fair amount of content, but it has been of a more whimsical and decidedly visual bent. I’ve been a doodling fiend. If you’re interested you can check out the magic marker output (along with the occasional picture shot on the go from my phone) by visiting my posterous at http://davidscohen.posterous.com.

I’ve been enjoying this resurgence of my creativity, and frankly a little nervous about ramping up the degree to which I show the world my soft and silly side, but the fact is I preach authenticity in branding, and by gum I mean to practice it as well. (and how often do you get to say “by gum”?) I expect that the current flood of doodle inspiration will abate a bit over time, but it has been bottled up for a while and it feels good to let the drawings flow and not get too judgmental about them. I’ve picked some fairly humble materials to work with too: basically I’ve been drawing on 4″ x 6″ blank index cards and mostly using Sharpies, pens and highlighters. Sometimes I’ll use nicer art markers too – the highlighter palette is a bit limited. I keep it all on the desk so I can take my doodle breaks, scan them and tweet them to the world. So far, the world hasn’t complained, and I’m grateful for that.

I’m also cooking up a new website for Equation Arts. It’s not quite done yet, but I think it will be a better expression of who I am. Here’s a hint of things to come:
There will also be a lot of the color orange ( I love orange), and some crossover doodles will make their appearance there as well.

I hope that people who connect with me know that I’m a big believer that we all have something special to offer the world and each other, but sometimes we find ourselves framed in the wrong context – that “something special” ends up hidden, muffled, suppressed – unable to shine. So the new website is for me a shift in context toward something more authentic. I hope you’ll stick with me through the transition. Thanks! And remember…

Share
Posted in art, blogging, branding, Branding Thoughts, change, commentary, context, creativity, personal branding, thanks | Also tagged , , | 6 Comments

Looking for work? Get fired!

These days I’m often asked to speak to career groups. There are a lot of folks in transition these days and many have never experienced a job climate quite like the one they find themselves in today. It’s a tough spot. One piece of advice that I often hear given to job seekers is to treat the job search like a job: set goals, have a plan, give yourself a quota of activity to accomplish daily, and don’t fall into a rut of inactivity. All good sound advice, but there is one vital piece missing: this is not a job you want, in fact this is a job from which you want to be fired!

Getting fired?! It’s appalling, embarrassing, humiliating… unless it is getting fired from the job of being an “A” Number One Unemployed Job Seeker. There’s nothing humiliating about losing that job title. So what do you do when you’re TRYING to get fired? Well naturally, you break some rules. But you don’t just break them quiet-like – you make some noise, you call attention to yourself. If you want to get fired you have to get noticed. Get noticed breaking the rules.

There is a dangerous rhythm that the job seeker can fall into: a cycle of online searching, sending resumes, filling out application forms, and visiting career groups. It can feel like a job, it can feel like progress, but if you’re not getting results it’s not progress. Break the rules, change the pattern. Get noisy. Start a blog, become a twitter networker, pick an issue in your industry that you care about and take a stand, do it vocally, don’t be benign. Instead of standing in line at the career fair, break the rules – organize your own event. Instead of waiting to get the sales job, break the rules – bring your target company a customer – you’ll get some attention, bring them 3 and you’ll get hired.

These days being good at what you do, being qualified and experienced are only enough to get you the opportunity to stand in line. It’s not differentiation, it’s another resume in the pile. Get out of line, break the rules, find another door, or a whole new line. These are risky times to play it safe. Get passionate, get creative, and by all means when it comes to the job of job seeking, get fired.

Share
Posted in blogging, commentary, mad scribblings, networking, personal branding | Also tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Another Diva Toolbox article and a few questions

I had a nice chat with Janet Powers yesterday – Janet is the Diva extraordinaire behind Diva Toolbox™, a site which has been gracious enough to post a few of my scribblings – the latest being The Title That Used To Be Your Brand. Janet shared with me some of the stats on my past articles and asked if I might be interested in joining their growing family of podcasters under the umbrella of Diva Toolbox Radio (a BlogTalkRadio partnership).

I love the Diva Toolbox™ motto: “Within you lies the ability to do anything. Find it.” I think it is a great thought for everyone. The mission of Diva Toolbox™ is to “empower, educate, and entertain women”, but that is a message for men and women alike. I’m delighted that according to Janet my posts have been well received in the almost entirely female Diva community so I’m strongly considering taking her up on the podcast concept, but I feel that what I do here isn’t exclusively for one gender, nor would my content necessarily change for the audience.

Since you know I’m an advocate for listening to your community and asking for feedback on your brand my questions to my readers of this blog are: Would you like to not just read, but listen to some of my ideas too? And if so, do you think the Diva Toolbox would be a good vehicle for that conversation? Please tweet me @davidscohen or post a comment with your thoughts. Thanks!

Share
Posted in branding, Branding Thoughts, commentary, entrepreneurs, friends, Live event, networking, Other Interests, personal branding, podcast | Also tagged , | Leave a comment
  • Doodle Delivery – Subscribe!

    Subscribe to occasionally brighten your inbox with a bundle of doodles wrapped in a few thoughtful thoughts on being a beacon in this crazy-wonderful world.
  • Search

  • Left Brain + Right Brain = My Blog

    This blog is chock full of joyful drawings and a few musings on personal branding, startups, creativity and being a beacon.

    Featured Posts


     
  • The Be A Beacon Show

  • Send a Free eCard

    If the drawings on this website give you a smile why not share one? I added a free ecard system so you can send "doodlegrams" to anyone you'd like. Go ahead, send a smile! Just click on the words eCard (free) below any doodle on the blog .
     
  • Categories

  •  

  • Archives

  •  

    Caitlín Mowbray"I adore your doodles... I swear looking at those bunnies lowers my blood pressure, calms my mind and makes me smarter. Who needs meditation when there are bunnies?"
    ~Caitlín Mowbray - Meditation Teacher, Astrologer and Soul Provocateur

    Find David on Bloggers.com