Adventures in Networking

By Danielle Eisenach

What's in a Brand?
Today I want to talk to you about the value of your brand—not just your company’s image, but your personal brand—your reputation. Your brand is a vital component of your marketing and networking strategy. I’ll begin by talking more about what a brand is and why it’s important, then talk about establishing and maintaining your personal brand.

The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines a brand as: “a name, term, sign, symbol or design or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.” It’s everything about your business that distinguishes you from your competitors. But a brand is more than a logo, your colors and your products. A brand is reflected in the customer experience you provide—your customers’ expectations of you, thoughts about you and actions toward your company.

Play along with me for a moment. I want you to reflect on the following companies and take note of what you think of them, what you expect from them and how you interact with them. The companies are: Target, Starbucks, Kraft, Nike, and Enron. Some of your feelings may be positive, others may not. And your perception of their reputation determines how you interact with them.

Let’s take my favorite company on the list: Starbucks. I think Starbucks is a great company with a consistent product and level of service. I know that every time I go in, I will be greeted with a smile, my drink will be delicious, and I will have free Wi-Fi; therefore, I seek out a Starbucks wherever I go. I also set meetings at Starbucks, because I know what to expect when I visit. I even have their loyalty card and their app on my smart phone. I am loyal to their brand because of my consistently excellent experience with them.

Brand loyalty and perception also applies to individuals. Think about celebrities like Oprah, Dr. Oz, Michael Jordan, Lady Gaga, and Tiger Woods. What images come to mind? Each of these individuals has a brand, good or bad, and you have a perception of each of them. Oprah, for example, has a strong brand. Hers is one of personal perseverance, helping others, and success. With every action, she establishes and reinforces her brand with those around her. Now look at Tiger Woods, a fantastic golfer and great athlete who had lots of endorsements. Then, unfortunately, he had some personal issues that tarnished his brand. The result was that he lost his focus, he became inconsistent, and he lost his endorsements—the sponsors didn’t want to be associated with his brand.

So, consistency, managing expectations and creating an exceptional customer/personal experience is key in building and maintaining your brand and your company’s brand. Interested in learning specific steps to build and maintain your brand? Join me as I present for Believe, Inspire, Grow (BIG) next Tuesday, August 28th at Entrée Kitchen from 8:30-11:00 am. Entrée Kitchen is located at 26W276 Geneva Road, Carol Stream, IL 60188. More information on BIG can be found at Hope to see you there!

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