My career is built on branding. The first time I tried it was in beach volleyball. Like many professional sports, the way to make a living is from sponsors. While other people changed partners every week trying to trade up for someone better, I picked someone shorter than I was, so she’d stick with me. Then I focused more energy on branding us as a team to sponsors than I did on winning tournaments. We stood out because other people marketed themselves as individuals, not a team. So let me give a shout out to Dance France, for all the logos they had me splash across my butt: Victory for brand management.
Today, of course, I’m all about brand. I am constantly trying to figure out how to make the Brazen Careerist brand stand for the network instead of for me. It’s sort of a game. And the game feels really fun when I read about other companies playing with their brand, like Under Armour marketing cross-trainers: Fascinating to me.
I also go ballistic about my brand. Like when my volleyball partner dumped me because I didn’t have a killer instinct. I ranted about how winning one more match would not change her life, but having the sponsors that I got her was a big deal. We were in the top five teams in the country when it came to the number of sponsors we had. (She didn’t care.)
And I went ballistic this week when the social media guru we hired used the Brazen Careerist brand name for twitter without considering that I am completely enthralled with twitter and without considering that there would be brand confusion if there is a Brazen Careerist twitter that is not me. I left threatening messages to Ryan on his cell phone during long layovers in faraway airports, trying to regain control of my twitter brand before it imploded.
So, this is all to say that I love a good corporate branding moment. There are lots of ways to enhance your brand. I did a beach volleyball commercial for Budweiser, for example. But I didn’t feel all warm and fuzzy. So I really appreciate times when people manage their brand by being warm and fuzzy, like these:
1. Google’s art contest for kids. The kids riff on the theme “What if?” There are a lot of what if Google made world peace? But there are really cool ones like, “What if everything I drew came to life?”
2. The Westin Spa in Scottsdale has everyone wear a name tag that has not only their name, but also their passion. I love that this is a nod to the fact that people are not defined completely by their job, but by what excites them in their life.
Each name tag reminded me to see the person, not just the job, by revealing something about them that went beyond the work I saw them doing. Passions I remember: Piano, computers, learning. Passions that people probably edited: Sex, drugs, money. But still, just that there is something else there besides the name, even if it’s G-rated and maybe not true, serves a purpose and makes me like Westin more.
When people ask me to explain what the Brazen Careerist company does, I always have a hard time answering. Bad, right? What CEO doesn’t have a pitch? The answer I usually give is that we help companies connect with young talent. But the pitch I believe most is the one that makes me feel warm and fuzzy: we help amplify the voice of young people online.
I wish I could say that more often without feeling like a cheese ball. In corporate life, it’s always safer to talk about the bottom line, and then, far away from the boardroom, when no one’s looking, you sneak in a nice touch that allows everyone to feel good about what they are doing.
I wish it were the other way around. But someone’s gotta fund those name tags, right?