Part 1 – Developing a Competitive Brand Than Can Always Win
The recent federal government shutdown fiasco got me thinking about how personal brands are also often at risk for shutdowns due to a variety of internal and external factors. Without delving into political details or assigning specific blame to any one person or party, I think most people agree that even with the recent temporary reopening, our current government is broken. Neither side is really “winning” these days.
Politicians may manage to survive this kind of negative event, but your brand cannot. The turmoil plaguing Washington, D.C, is also plaguing our business and social sectors, so you must ensure that your brand is competitive enough to win no matter how treacherous the playing field becomes. Let’s quickly review a few key lessons about competitive, winning brand-building that can be gleaned from the most recent federal government shutdown.
Strength through Compromise
In an effort to appear “strong,” many politicians in both major parties have adopted an attitude that compromise is a sign of weakness and the only way to win is to bullheadedly advance your own agenda and beliefs, never even considering making a tradeoff in a deal to achieve a greater goal.
One look at the approval ratings of the current Congress should tell you how much respect such “strong” posturing generates. If you refuse to compromise, your brand will be seen as inflexible and stagnant, not fresh and powerful. Obviously when negotiating for a position, promotion or assignment you want to put your best foot forward and obtain your maximum advantage, but not at the expense of alienating the people you are dealing with. The key to brand success is developing repeat customers who buy your brand on a regular basis because it becomes a hallmark of quality, not strong-arming people into one-time purchases that result in a bad case of “buyer’s remorse.”
You Don’t Have All the Answers
Politicians these days like to tell voters they (and their parties) have every answer to every problem that could possibly arise, and there is no chance an opponent could have even one good solution. This system of belief is just as false in business as it is in politics, and will shut your brand down as quickly as it shut down the federal government.
A winning brand is based on projecting an image of confidence, competence and authority in your area of branded expertise. However, left unchecked this image can extend into arrogance if you take the attitude that you are the only one with any “real” authority in your branded area of expertise. A true professional is dedicated to always learning more, which requires having open ears and an open mind. People want answers, but don’t want them shoved down their throat.
Make Yourself Look Good, Not the Other Guy Look Bad
“Mudslinging,” or focusing on your opponents’ flaws rather than your own strengths, is nothing new in politics. But it has gotten particularly nasty as of late and was in full evidence during the shutdown. Politicians going out of their way to make their opponents look bad hardly greases the wheels of government, and going out of your way to make your brand’s opponents look bad will not grease the wheels of your career.
It is surely tempting when trying to win a job, promotion or client to bring up the perceived or real flaws of whomever else may be competing for the same end goal. Don’t do it. Focus on how good you are and how much value your brand delivers. Anything else makes you (and your brand) look petty and also creates clouds of confusion and mistrust that will obscure the advancement of your brand as much or more as it impedes the brands of your competitors.
Heart Check – How Competitive is Your Brand?
Now that you know all about what keeping your brand competitive really means and what it takes to achieve and maintain a competitive brand, let’s do a heart check on the health of your efforts to make your brand competitive. Answer each question using the following scale of one to five hearts. Then add up the total and see how “heart-healthy” your level of brand competitiveness really is!
5♥Wait, that’s really, really true about me- Strongly agree
4♥That would be me- Agree
3♥50/50 sometimes, sometimes not- somewhat agree
2♥That absolutely has nothing to do with me-Disagree
1♥Let me take the fifth on this- Strongly disagree
6.5 Heart Check Questions
1. I don’t back down easily in a negotiation, but I’m willing to compromise to reach a mutually beneficial outcome.
2. I always make sure people I do business with will want to do business with me in the future.
3. I’m confident in my branded knowledge and skills, but not to the point where I’m cocky or arrogant.
4. I understand that others have as much or even more expertise than I do in key areas.
5. I always make myself look good, but not at the expense of competitors or colleagues.
6. I know that building a superior reputation through hard work and excellent results is the best way to achieve brand success.
6.5 I avoid petty drama and bickering that could bog down my branding efforts.
Now that you’ve taken the test, let’s analyze your score:
If you scored from 7-13, your brand’s competitiveness is expired. You know what that means: nobody wants to purchase your brand and you’ll soon be taken off the shelf.
If you scored from 14-20, your brand’s competitiveness is day-old. There is minimal demand for your personal brand, but only at a steep discount and when the more popular and competitive brands are all sold out.
If you scored from 21-26, your brand’s competitiveness is canned. Your brand will sell if it stays on the shelf long enough, but anyone seeking real fresh results will look elsewhere.
If you scored from 27-33, your brand’s competitiveness is fresh frozen. Your brand is a respectable choice for the discerning connoisseur, but not the top choice.
If you scored a 34 or 35, your brand’s competitiveness is market fresh. Congratulations! You have the brand that is most in demand and fetches the highest prices. You sell out early in the morning, when only the most competitive shoppers are out evaluating the available brands.