Have you ever wondered from where the idea of personal branding came? If we think of the resume as an advertisement of skills, and networking/interviewing as the sales pitch then it would be only natural to look at the whole package and determine an overall brand. So, if you consider yourself as a product to sell to potential employers then what are the components to an effective brand? Consider these 5 lessons we can learn from popular commercial brands.
Have you ever noticed on commercials/advertisements that the product name is the largest component and it’s usually blasted at you multiple times during the commercial? Excellent examples of this are from beverage companies, like Coca-Cola and Pepsi. They do this to catch the attention of the consumer and to help them remember the brand.
HOW TO APPLY IT: Your name on your resume should be the largest print, usually 14-20 point font. Also, when speaking to someone at a networking event, it’s just as important to remember their name. I’ve notice that when I make a special effort to remember someone’s name, then they also make it a point to remember my name. A good tip for people who have difficulty remembering names: say the other person’s name at least three times in the process of the conversation. By stating the name at least three times, it’s more likely that the name will be recorded in your long term memory instead of just short term which is only retained for a few hours, maybe a day if you’re lucky.
IDENTIFY TARGET AUDIENCE
Whenever an advertising or marketing campaign is being developed, identifying the target audience is the one of the first steps considered. They need to determine who they’re selling the product to and why because if they can identify who’s most likely to buy, then they’re more likely to be successful.
HOW TO APPLY IT: This one may seem more obvious, but when looking for a new job/position you really should tailor your search to the companies or the positions that are most likely to “buy” you. Believe it or not, companies do talk to each other and can tell if you’re spinning the roulette wheel of job searching versus having a plan. This also speaks to your character… Employers are more likely to “buy-in” to a candidate that has goals and a plan because he/she is driven, and that characteristic is highly desired.
TAILOR MARKETING TO AUDIENCE
Once the target audience is identified, the marketing team determines how to tailor the advertisement and appeal to that audience. Take AXE products for men into consideration. They know it’s a product for males, but the product is also geared towards young adults by only using younger actors and actresses and also using sex-appeal to their advantage.
HOW TO APPLY IT: Please note that I am not advocating for job seekers to utilize sex-appeal, because that can cause more problems than good. The lesson learned here is to tailor your marketing materials (resume & cover letter) which would attract the company to consider hiring you. Simple ways to tailor your resume are identifying the skills that would be most important to the future employer and placing that information in the top half of your resume, using key words like Teaching Experience or Management Experience instead of work experience, and instead of an Objective statement use a Summary of Qualifications which is written with the job description requirements in mind. Similarly, the cover letter needs to be specifically written to the job description. When reviewing the job description, identify the key qualifications and how your skills match. Then, write about those skills specifically in the body of your cover letter.
Some propaganda methods use celebrity endorsements to sell the product. This tends to work when a particular celebrity can also identify with the target audience. Take CoverGirl makeup for example; they use celebrities like Drew Barrymore and Ellen DeGeneres to help sell specific products related to their age and appearance.
HOW TO APPLY IT: It’s going to be pretty hard to find a celebrity to endorse you, but consider your friends and professional networks as “celebrities” to your future employer. This is when the power of networking can really pay off during the job search. It’s common for hiring managers to ask their trusted resources for advice on candidates, and if you happen to also know that person, then it’s like gaining a celebrity endorsement.
There’s another form of propaganda that Activia yogurt uses. They do use celebrity endorsement, Jamie Lee Curtis, but what seems to be even more effective is when Curtis interviews someone recommending the product to a friend. The commercial ends with Curtis asking, “She recommends it, what are you waiting for?”
HOW TO APPLY IT: Consider your professional references and recommendation letters as an effective branding or advertising tool. These are different from the Trusted Resource because they are most likely not people the hiring manager knows personally. But, the benefit of the recommendation is that it’s given by another professional that can personally attest to your competence. Remember to ask first and notify them when you’ve passed on their name as a reference. It’s courteous and prevents them from being caught off-guard when approached.
A FINAL DEFINITION OF BRANDING
I found this definition at Entrepreneur.com and found it to be very relevant. Even though their definition is in relation to a product, think of this product as you and the branding as a personal brand.
Definition: The marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products.
“An effective brand strategy gives you a major edge in increasingly competitive markets. But what exactly does “branding” mean? Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from that of your competitors. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.”
Karen is a Career Counselor and Internship Coordinator at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW). At IPFW she assists students in finding internships, coordinates and assists with campus-wide events, teaches a Career Planning course, and meets with students individually to assist them with all aspects of career development. Connect with Karen via LinkedIn or Twitter.