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Strategy is the brains of branding. This is true for products,

for companies and for people.

One way to figure out the best self-brand strategy is to

look at brand strategies from the commercial world. Start by

devouring good books on individual companies and products.

Successful brands always attract analysis. Or read about how

brands develop winning strategies. Once you start studying

the world of commercial branding, you’ll see how the

branding strategies and tactics have lessons for you too.

Here are four brand strategies from the commercial world

that people have used to build a strong self-brand. And there

is no reason one can’t work for you, too.

Self-Brand Strategy 1: Be the First

Everyone knows being first is an advantage. The first

mover generally ends up the leader in the category and is

often the one we keep in mind. And because it’s the leader,

everyone believes it to be the best in its category.

Being first is a formidable advantage. Michael Dell was the

first direct seller of personal computers and dominates the

business. Jeff Bezos created the first online book and

retail marketplace, and it is now number one. And the list

goes on and on.

You’re probably thinking, “These are

business giants, and this kind of accomplishment would be

impossible for a mere mortal like me. How can I be number

one in anything?”

You don’t have to be a brilliant inventor or genius

to create a first. New categories are popping up all the

time, as you’ll see once you start looking. You just need

the proper mind-set. Often, you can slice the category to

create a new subcategory and be first in that. Think of it

as carving a new niche out of a category.

The “be the first” strategy is a very successful one for entrepreneurs,

but executives can use it too. Enterprising employees or

entrepreneurs often create a new market niche-whether it is

a new type of product, service, or customer niche. These

firsts may end up being enormously profitable for the

company and for the employee’s self-brand. And there are

lots of different ways to slice up a category and create a

new area to be first in. If you can’t think of anything, read

The Origin of Brands, by Al Ries and Laura Ries. If

you still come up blank, think about the question again

before going to sleep, and you’ll have answers in the


Self Brand Strategy 2. Be the Leader

There are many ways to define yourself as a leader. You can

be the leader of your department, your company, or your

favorite charity. Or you can be the leader in sales at your

company, or a leader in sales of a segment of the market.

Many professionals have a leadership claim and feel they are

doing leadership things, yet they are not perceived as a

leader. To be perceived as a leader, you have to lead with

ideas and lead by example.

As a leader, you have to have to

be able to articulate ideas that are worthy of being

remembered and you have to be able to inspire others.

Ideally, you want to “own” a word or an idea in the minds of

your employees (or whoever the target audience is) so they

will know what your battle cry is. Most important, you have

to underscore your ideas with actions, preferably bold

actions that demonstrate what you stand for.

Bianca, had recently been promoted to head a department at

her company. Bianca’s first task was to rally her team under

her leadership. (Bianca had been promoted over them.) To

articulate a department mission, Bianca created a mantra,

“Full Engagement.” She wanted to introduce a new sense of

“engagement” – a passion for excellence, a focus on clients

and innovation.

Bianca asked each of her managers for a five-page memo

outlining key initiatives, including what the company should

do to get employees more engaged with clients and in its

businesses. And she implemented the best suggestions on

“engagement.” Her group’s focus on “full engagement” landed

more business and created a dynamic spirit at the company.

And positioned Biana as a leader.

Self Brand Strategy 3. Be the Opposition

As much as leaders are part of the mythology of our

country, so are underdogs. We have a soft spot for the

rebel, the lone convention-defier who takes the opposite

path of the establishment (the leader).

Volkswagen put the Anti-Leader Position strategy on the map

when it introduced the VW Beetle to the United States in the

late1960s. The brand was positioned as the antidote to the

big car habit with now classic advertising headlines like

“Think Small” and “Lemon.”

That’s why being the opposite of the leader can be a good

self brand strategy. Michael Moore is a classic example. His

movies and books tweak “the establishment,” whether it was

big industry (Roger and Me), the NRA and the gun lobby

(Bowling for Columbine) or President Bush and the war in

Iraq (Fahrenheit 9/11).

The Anti-position can be very risky, particularly in you

work in a corporation (although many of them have a few

maverick employees who ride the Anti-position horse). It is

a self brand strategy adopted mainly by people who are very

confident in their position or have nothing to lose.

However, the Anti-Position can be a great positioning

strategy for entrepreneurs. You build your point of

difference for your company as the antidote to the leader.

You and your company symbolize everything the leader is not.

You position the leaders strengths as weaknesses.

So, if you like to go against the grain, the Anti-position

may be for you. The strategy is simplicity itself.

Whatever the leader in your industry or line of work is

doing, think of doing the opposite within reason. You could

find a market that is looking for someone just like you.

Self-Brand Strategy 4: Own an Attribute

The most common positioning strategy for brands is to own an

attribute. Mercedes-Benz’s brand strategy is built around

prestige, BMW’s is driving performance, Subaru’s is

ruggedness, and Volvo’s is safety.

For this strategy to work best, you should select the brand

attribute that is credible for you to own and gives you

maximum opportunity in your category.

For example, when Pampers first developed the disposable

diaper in the early 1960s, sales were poor. The marketing

was positioned around convenience, a brand attribute that

had a clear-cut benefit for busy moms. Moms didn’t have to

disinfect and clean the diapers themselves or use an

expensive diaper service. Convenience was especially

beneficial for moms on the go with their babies. They didn’t

have to carry stinky cloth diapers around with them until

they got home. But that attribute positioning didn’t

resonate with mothers. They felt guilty. Cloth diapers were

best for babies, while paper diapers were best for moms. So

moms voted with their hearts, and sales were poor.

Then Pampers changed its brand positioning to “better

absorbency,” which was a benefit for babies. Mothers could

buy the diapers and feel that they were doing what was best

for their babies, not best for them. Sales took off, and

cloth diapers and diaper services went the way of the buggy


Every category is associated with attributes that are

important to customers and prospects. And you can slice your

industry, profession, or job category to find the best fit

for the attribute you want to own and the category in which

you want to do it. This is true regardless of your industry,

whether it’s financial services, manufacturing, marketing,

law, medicine, academia, or what have you.

Your job as a self-brander is to stake your claim to the

attribute that is best for you and is not owned by a

competitor in the arena where you will have the most impact.

Benjamin, had just been promoted to president of his

company. The good news: it was a great job. The bad news: it

was a difficult job. Sales revenue was down, and his

industry was in a serious slump. Benjamin’s first task was

to rally the troops and unify the company, particularly the

division heads, most of whom were strong personalities with

a tight grip on their fiefdoms.

We built Benjamin’s personal-brand strategy around the

attribute of follow-through. It was an important attribute,

one that many colleagues and employees associated with him

because of his track record. Other executives might have

great creative skills or people skills, as Benjamin did, but

none had his sense of accountability and follow-through.

Follow-through was an important attribute for the company at

this juncture. In Benjamin’s estimation, the company’s

problem was not a lack of innovative ideas but the inability

to follow through internally (by getting all the various

departments to work together) and with clients (by focusing

on being a real business partner, not simply on closing).

Benjamin wanted to lead by example in terms of

follow-through with colleagues and clients, and he also took

positive action to embed the attribute in the company

culture. One of the first things he did was broadcast his

management philosophy to all the employees. His rallying cry

was “Follow through, everywhere, all the time.”

Source by Catherine Kaputa