Personal Brand Revitalisation: 7 Life Lessons

Last week, I was lucky enough to be interviewed by Mike Irwin and Simon Daw for their podcast, What I Wish I Knew. I reflected on the learning from 35 years of Making Marketing Pay, with a central theme being revitalising your own personal brand.

So, if you’re looking for something to listen to during your dog walk or commute to work, you can find it here. There are links to Spotify and other podcast players.

Below I share some highlights from the podcast.

1.Look for the benefits in bad experiences

Mechanical engineering was most definitely the WRONG course for me to study at university, even though it seemed like a logical choice at the time. I wasn’t interested in the topics we studied and it was four years of hard slog. 

However, it did teach me to be structured and analytical in my thinking, an approach I’ve used in my career in marketing. The difference is I’m using these skills to build brand strategies rather than aircraft undercarriages or engines!

Action point: even when it feels like you are in a s**t situation, look for the benefits of the bad times. What positive skills or know-how can you learn?

2.’Crucible moments’ are the ones that forge you

‘Crucible moments’ is one of the most powerful concepts from working as a brandgym team on our personal brand purposes, as I posted on here. These moments are tough, challenging and even unpleasant at the time. But the heat and pressure you experience literally forges you into who you are, giving clues about your purpose in life.

For me, one of the hardest but most fruitful periods of my career was starting the Paris office of marketing consultancy Added Value back in 1995, aged 29. In the days before email and mobile phones, launching a business and winning clients was a massive challenge. But this experience where I learnt the thrill and excitement of building and creating new ventures, something I would go on to do with the brandgym and more recently the brandgym Academy.

Action point: recognise that the biggest learning moments are unlikely to be when things are going well. When you crash and burn or hit a roadblock, consider if it might be a crucible moment that can help forge you.

3.Life (and business) is definitely not linear!

One key lesson I wish I’d known when I was younger is that life is not linear. Rather, its a zig-zag. You might feel like you’re heading in the wrong direction. But you CAN change course and get your personal brand back on track. 

My first zig was from engineering into brand management with P&G. After five brilliant years there, I zagged by doing an MBA at INSEAD. And then zigged back into marketing with Sara Lee. When this didn’t work, I zagged into a consulting with Added Value. And so on.

The same applies to business. Case studies written after the event might make brand success look like a straight line journey. But in reality, it’s usually a series of zigs and zags too, like a boat tacking with the wind to reach the destination. 

Action point: be ready for life and business to be a zig-zag, not a straight line. If you feel the course you’re on is wrong, how can you change direction to get back on track?

4.Balance freshness and consistency

A recurring theme during 30 years in brand consulting is the seduction of the new. The risk is throwing away valuable brand assets, such as slogans, visual equities or campaigns. The same also goes for yourself and your team. The temptation is focus on your weaknesses and change everything, rather than learning first about what’s working and building on your strengths, as I posted on here.

The balancing act needed to build strong brands and teams is to combine consistency on the one hand, and freshness on the other. This means remembering what made you famous and successful and then refreshing it.

Action point: treasure and measure your brands assets to identify strengths you can build on. The same can apply to teams as well, identity the ‘signature strengths’ of people to build on, as I posted here.

5.Invest in brand YOU

The most important brand you will ever work on is, I suggest, brand YOU. And like all brands, long term success for your personal brand requires investing time, effort and money. And given cuts in company training, you can’t rely on your employer to provide this.

Back as a brand manager at P&G I wanted to do an MBA but the company policy was not send employees to do one. I took the call to resign and take out a substantial loan to fund my own education.

A key driver for creating our brandgym Mastering Brand Growth program, was making brand growth principles and tools accessible to more people. The next program kicks off in a week’s time on 11th October, for anyone who wants so immediately implement this life lesson and book a place here!

Action point: take control of your own capability building. What are the skills you want to learn to enhance your own personal brand? 

6.Screw it and do it

When opportunities do present themselves in life or business, be ready to leap, I suggest. I urged people to ‘screw it and do it’ in this earlier post, as you simply don’t know what’s round the corner. 

In my case, last years’s lockdown was a stimulus to stop prevaricating and launch the online training platform I’d been dreaming of: brandgym Academy.

Action point: Think of one thing you’ve been meaning to do, but just haven’t got round to. You’ve been making excuses and putting it off. “Its too risky“. “Its too expensive“. “Its scary“. And then say “Screw it, I’m doing it. And I’m doing it NOW.”

7.Think less, do more

We encourage teams on brandgym projects to ‘think less and do more’ by rapidly bringing to life and prototyping new ideas. And then ideally getting real life learning rather than using endless rounds of expensive quantitative research. Creating and exploring with potential clients a mock up website for the brandgym Academy gave me the confidence to invest in building the platform.

The same goes for career development. Whether you are young or old, if you want to make a change, don’t just analyse the job market and you target employer. Mock up some ideas for the brand in question to show your initiative and interest in the company. 

Action point: pick an idea you are working on. Then think less and do more by prototyping it to bring it to life. 

I hope these lessons might provide some inspiration for you. Normal service will be resumed next week, with a blog on the new Bond movie, No Time to Die!