I was discussing my Signature for Success program with a corporate Vice President recently, and he asked me what would be the benefit to his company for having people on his team go through the program and have strong personal brands. I told him that there are many benefits. Here are some of the ones we discussed:


Highly Motivated Self-starters

The company gets highly motivated employees that are actively looking for ways to “evolve their brand.” The way to build their brand is to add skills, become more professional, and contribute more. This program is set up is to light a fire within each person so that the boss is not telling them how they need to grow; they are eagerly, actively yearning for more growth, Â managing themselves—seeking out what areas they can add more value. What could be better than an employee saying to himself, Â â€œHow can I add more value at work? What can I do to contribute more?” I know that leadership is important to any company, and this program is meant to inspire self-leadership at all levels, whether we’re talking about the mailroom or the boardroom. 


Clarified Roles & Responsibilities

 There is strong benefit to be realized from a session that would focus on understanding how the various members of the team can “blend” into a holistic team that leverages the skills the team currently has, and identifies the skills they need to evolve their brands in a way that benefits everyone—meeting the company’s needs and adding to their individual competencies. 


Strengthened External Perceptions of the company 

Every time department team members talk with someone outside the Â department, they are creating an impression of that department. When they talk to folks in Purchasing or Operations, they create an impression. When they talk to a client or a vendor, they create an impression. By having them focus on what they do well and what the department wants to be known for, it can create a stronger impression of the group –either within the company or within the industry. That will have long-term implications for recruiting efforts, for selling ideas, or for garnering respect with other departments.


Boost Morale

Employees will see this as very personally-focused. They will see that management cares about their growth, their potential and feel that you are putting them first. 


Provide a Framework for Career Development

By conducting this program in advance of annual Individual Development Plan (or Performance Management) sessions, it is easy to segue into those discussions about how to build their personal brands in the areas that the company needs them to focus on. With everyone having gone through this session, there will be a common “language” for these discussions that will have been served up within a familiar framework of “marketing” language.    Â


On Wednesday, I will be speaking briefly at the Connecticut Real Estate Investor’s Association Holiday Party about the need (especially in this economy!) for everyone to spend some time focusing on their own personal brand. Anyone who knows me knows that I feel passionately about this topic, and I wanted to get this message out to this crowd. After over twenty years of applying the principles of marketing to brands like LEGO and Miracle-Gro, I have found that you can also apply those principles to people with amazing results. If you become clear about what unique talents you have to bring to any situation, you will strengthen your career opportunities no matter whether you are a solopreneur or whether you work for a Fortune 500 company. If you spend some time in 2009 focusing on your own personal brand, you will see a profound impact on the business opportunities that you attract and how others view you. 


Everyone who attends the holiday party will receive my new CD called Signature for Success: The Seven Success Principles of Personal Branding. I’m really excited about this program. Holly and I have been working on developing several different information vehicles to get this message out. There will be more to come in the coming months, but in the meantime, if you would like more information on this, check out the programs section of You can also contact me directly at or by calling 860-254-5907.


Who has the biggest personal brand in the US and arguably, the world, right now? 

Michael Phelps.

This is not just the winningest Olympian of all time; this is a super brand.

How does this happen?

Clarity. Consistency. Communication. Commitment. 

Let’s break it down. 

Clarity – Phelps knows what he is about. He is clear about his strengths, both physically and mentally. In various interviews over the past two weeks, he talked a lot about the tools he has and how he leverages those tools. At one point, he said, “I tried to use the tools that I have whenever I can. My big dolphin kick is one of those tools.”

At another time, he talked about how imagination helped him persevere. He imagined his victories, keeping them constantly in his mind and then translating that into physical reality. 

Consistency – Phelps is consistent. He wins again and again. His work ethic helped him win in Athens and again in Beijing, consistently delivering his brand over and over again. 

Communication – In a TV interview with Michael Phelps’s mother during NBC’s Olympic coverage, she talked about how Phelps wants to bring focus to the sport of swimming and how cognizant he is of his opportunities to raise that awareness. That shows that Phelps is expressing his brand on purpose. In interviews, he is consistent, humble, but very aware. They showed his schedule for a typical day in Beijing, which included press conferences in addition to practices and events. He is seeking out opportunities to express his brand to as wide an audience as possible. 

Commitment – In a feature played during their broadcast, NBC discussed how Michael Phelps eats, sleeps, and swims. That’s it. I’m guessing that will now change considerably, but commitment got him all those shiny gold medals. 

So what? 

This raises the question: How are you expressing your brand? You may not have to wear goggles and a second skin swimsuit for you to express your brand but the principles remain the same. Find out what unique gift you have to share with the world. Work hard to perfect those skills and create opportunities to communicate that brand. What do you imagine for yourself or your brand? How are you bringing that mental image into physical being? Be committed to your brand and express your brand consistently in order to achieve Olympic results. 



Michael Phelps on a Corn Flakes box!? I love it. 

He’s being unique, bold, different, going-left-when-everyone-else-has-gone-right, very un-Wheaties-like.

Michael Phelps on a Frosted Flakes box!? Many people don’t love it. 

There is a tremendous uproar about what kind of statement Phelps is making, endorsing sugary cereals and such. This is a guy who consumes over 12,000 calories a day. It seems a little late for people to be arguing over this sponsorship when McDonalds is posting YouTube videos of Phelps ordering double cheeseburgers in Beijing! 

I find it interesting to think about it from the perspective of the Frosted Flakes brand manager’s position. That guy just got promoted, I’m guessing. Frosted Flakes has sponsored the Little League World Series for several years and has been trying to tie themselves to fitness and kids wellness with various efforts. This is just the latest coup.

Congratulations, Kellogg’s, for finding a way to stay on strategy and capitalize on one of the world’s biggest brand names out there today.


Kathy McAfee is the Marketing Motivator, a leadership and presentation coach whom I have had the privilege of knowing for nearly two years. Recently, I spoke with her about a new personal branding program I have been developing called Your Light. Your Potential. Following our conversation, she wrote a blog about it, which you can read at 

I’m really excited about this new program, Your Light. Your Potential. It’s about how to apply the principles of branding and marketing to your own career in order to help you reach your full potential. You can find out more about it at

Tim Russert’s Personal Brand

One of the things I do is teach people about personal branding. I encourage everyone to discover what is unique and wonderful about them, what excites and motivates them so that they can figure out how to spend more of their time doing work that they love. I firmly believe that doing what you love, what you are naturally good at, draws success to you and builds a stronger personal brand.

A perfect example of this is the recently departed Tim Russert, a man with unbridled enthusiasm in all that he did. Talk about a HUGE personal brand. Tim Russert, may he rest in peace, loved what he did and he did it with his own personal flair. He interviewed with interest, asking the questions you and I were thinking in our heads. He trusted his own innovative instincts, setting the standard in his industry; and if the occasion called for it, he used a whiteboard.

Here’s a good way to honor his memory: Be unique. Love what you do. Do it with infectious enthusiasm. Trust your instincts for what you do. And if the occasion calls for it, use a whiteboard.

Elaine Follis: A Personal Brand Seen in the Obituaries

This week, I received the sad news that one of my favorite college professors had passed on, and I can’t help but reflect on what a HUGE brand Dr. Elaine Follis was. For more than 30 years, she taught Religious Studies at the small liberal arts college I attended. Her reputation for storytelling was strong enough to convince everyone from Business Administration majors to Art History majors to get on a waiting list to take Old Testament. In the class, she communicated facts about Biblical history, but more importantly, she inspired students by elucidating the modern-day relevance of Bible stories to our lives. Elaine Follis always had a way to answer the “So What?” question about (seemingly) ancient, boring, stuffy old stories about building the walls of Jericho or the Biblical figure Jeremiah.

So why am I writing this in a marketing blog? Because if you were to ask any of the (literally) tens of thousands of people whose lives she touched what her influence was, you would get similar answers. This woman had such a strong brand; she knew what she was about, and she just did it CONSISTENTLY. Her brand remained the same throughout her lifetime.

After college, I continued to keep in touch with her by phone, and over the past few years, she broadcast podcasts. Whether talking to her on the phone, listening to her podcasts, or sitting in her lecture hall, Elaine Follis was always the same: engaging, funny, self-deprecating, approachable, interesting, passionate, and brilliant. That’s a pretty strong personal brand. Here’s what the Boston Globe obituary said:

I teach about personal branding, and one of the exercises is to think about what you would like people to say about you in your obituary. Morbid, perhaps, but instructive. So I have two thoughts for today:

  • Think about what you are (and what you would like to be known for), and be that consistently.
  • Respect other people’s personal brands and celebrate what other people bring to you while you can.

Matt Damons Re-Branding Efforts

There is a risque video skit which Matt Damon did, which I first saw on Jimmy Kimmel over one month ago, but is currently “buzz” on the internet. In an effort to keep this blog rated “G,” I am choosing not to write the title of the skit (you never know when your children may be reading your blog). Needless to say, if you did a search on Jimmy Kimmel vs. Matt Damon, you can undoubtedly find it for yourself. It involves a running joke with late night host Jimmy Kimmel, who “disses” Matt constantly by “running out of time” before Matt can be brought on. As revenge, Matt makes a video with Kimmel’s real life girlfriend. Kimmel responds by making a video with Ben Afleck.

What does this bit of humor have to do with marketing? It has to do with branding and re-branding. Oscar winner, Damon, has built acclaim and garnered praise for roles in The Departed, The Bourne Identity and Good Will Hunting, all very “serious” roles. This radically different video can be seen as an attempt to break that mold, re-branding himself as someone with a sense of humor, someone willing to go to the outrageous in order to stretch his thespian skill set.

The danger in Hollywood in building a brand is that you can also become “typecast,” seen as someone who can only play one type of part. Actors who allow themselves to get into such a rut can quickly become bored, so efforts like this can keep one from being typecast. When considering actors for a comedy, Damon, “a serious actor,” would still very much be considered. Now think about your own career. Are you bored with the projects you are being given? Would you like to stretch your wings and try something new? Become known for more than you currently are? All of this is possible. Write down what qualities and abilities you would like to add to your portfolio, then set out a plan to acquire those skills and express those qualities to others. I am not suggesting that you need to do something as radical or controversial as Matt Damon did, but you should always be thinking about your career from the context of what your current and future personal brand is.

Do not be limited by what you are today. Build a bridge from today to become what you would like to be, tomorrow.


Building on Your Strengths

I heard a talk on Wednesday where the speaker was suggesting that people don’t play to their strengths enough and that they should do more of that. There is a book that I read that I thought was terrific by Marcus Buckingham called Now Discover Your Strengths. He also wrote another book after that on what to do once you know what your strengths are called Go Put Your Strengths To Work.

You must understand what your strengths are. I think that that is something that is very important for personal branding, in fact critical to developing your personal brand.

There are certainly efforts that can be undertaken to evolve your personal brand to include those things that you don’t think you are strong enough, but always build your brand from the standpoint of your strengths. When I recently gave a talk on personal branding, at one point, someone said, “How can I gain the confidence to do something that I know is not a strength for me?” My response was that they should start with something that they are strong at and step a little bit out of their comfort zone. Gain some confidence in the new skill built and then step a little bit out from that, then a little bit out from that, then a little bit out from that. You don’t go from learning addition to calculus. There is a whole series of steps we take to learn and grow–addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, algebra, geometry. These are all the steps we take to lead up to calculus and beyond.

It’s the same when you are learning new skills. Play to your strengths. Use your strengths to provide a solid foundation to build new skills and expand your personal brand.

Making a Dent in a Teenager’s Universe

Last week I gave a talk on Personal Branding to a Teen Leadership council, and the feedback I got really reinforced a lot for me. The talk went well, and the kids were very receptive. Here’s what I learned:

Kids are very receptive to change

These kids were eager to hear about how they could mold their personal “brands” and become anything they wanted to become. The idea that they could choose who they become, that they have control over the development of who they are was very empowering to them.

The grown-ups in the audience also want to evolve

It doesn’t matter how long you have been something – you can always evolve, growing into something new and amazing. As a matter of fact, you can teach an old dog new tricks, and this concept is empowering, no matter how old you are!

Being “cool” is relative to those around you

Someone who wears a Storm Trooper outfit achieves rock-star status at the Star Wars Fan Celebration but is seen as totally on the fringe for, say, auditions for American Idol.

Too many people have a negative view of branding

Funny, this never occurred to me before. I’ve spent 20 years becoming an expert in branding. The evaluation sheet asked what people learned. Here are some sample replies: “I’ve never heard of brands in a positive light like this.” “I liked that branding isn’t a bad thing.” Good to know these young minds that haven’t developed a passion for marketing (yet) were able to see the light!

Everyone wants to make a difference

Steve Jobs is quoted as saying, “Let’s make a dent in the universe.” That idea is universally electrifying.

Here’s a question for the readers of this blog: How are you making a dent in your universe?