Brand to Survive & Thrive
Why You Must Brand Yourself!
With the Internet revolution, our world has changed forever especially the way we do business. (In 2010, Malaysians have spent RM 1.8 billion in on-line shopping – expected to rise to RM 5 billion by 2014. Source: MIGHT). With so much competition, it is time for you to stand out and enable your customers and potential customers feel proud of dealing with you.
The insurance agent’s job is changing dramatically. The insurance market is becoming increasingly competitive in many ways:
Changes in legislation will impact directly on the way you do your work.
Competition from local and international companies.
Mergers and acquisitions are creating uncertainty.
Online insurance will become more popular. Each and everyone of us has unique qualities which make us different. These qualities can enhance your opportunities to win in the short term and enable you to build a solid long term business. Therefore, you must discover these special qualities and then make them a strong feature of who you are.
The brand journey
Your Brand Journey begins when you discover what is unique about you and the things about you that your customers value the most. In fact, you build your brand on your strengths. A common image of you will emerge in the eyes of your customers, and you will realise you have a brand. If you are happy with this image, then you have to develop this into a strong brand.
People with strong brands remain genuine (authentic) – they are who they say they are and they maintain this consistently over the long term. They clearly and continuously differentiate themselves and they provide compelling reasons why people should believe and trust in them.
Let’s take Tan Sri Tony Fernandes as an example. He has built a strong personal brand. If you ask his staff they will say he is a humble guy who is dedicated to trying to help everyone to achieve their dreams. The customers dream of being able to fly, the staff dream of achieving career success, the investors dream of returns on investment, and even every Malaysian dreams of being part of one of the biggest airlines in the world.
So how will you identify your brand and then ensure it becomes a powerful differentiator for you in this crowded market?
The starting point is to ask your current customers a few simple questions about you and the way you do your work. Simple questions such as:
What do they like about the way you deal with them?
How could you do it better?
What do they see as your best qualities?
What are the worst aspects of you in their eyes?
If you were a bank, which bank will they see you as?
If you were a car, which car would they associate you with?
Once you have surveyed a few people, you will see an image emerge. This will tell you where you are now.
If you are not happy with what you hear, don’t worry, you can change it. This is just the beginning as we have some way to go yet. Remember the brand owner is you and you can decide exactly what brand image you want your customers to perceive of you. The Personal Brand Prism
The image we project consists of so many layers.
People judge what they see first. This is the way you dress and groom yourself (COVER). Often this makes such a powerful impact that people decide whether they want to deal with you or not purely based on this.
Next is your behaviour and your mannerisms (CARRY). We must conduct ourselves professionally at all times, with strong ethics. You make an overall personality statement through your looks and the way you behave.
When you get to speak, your voice quality is judged along with the content of what you say (COMMUNICATE). However, your body language plays a big role in your total communication. Therefore, it is essential that you master the art of reading body language. Also the strength of belief in what you are trying to sell will influence others to believe it too.
You have a unique set of skills which you continuously work to improve upon (CAPABILITY). Possessing unique talent and strong skills in particular areas enable you to stand out. These unique qualities can be the key for your brand differentiation.
You need to identify your values and then live by them (CORE VALUES). A simple message by the Dalai Lama, “Open your arms to change, but never let go of your values” sends a clear message of how positive value is important in determining one’s brand image.
If we have clear goals for each aspect of our life (COURSE), then we will direct our energy to achieve our goals. This could be to do with our health, our wealth, our family, etc.
Having a clear direction (CLEAR VISION) of where we want to be enables us to put the right energy and focus on all the areas of the prism to ensure that our actions and behaviours are in line with what we want to become.
If your vision is compelling enough you will achieve it!
Using the Personal Brand Prism to create your brand
The Personal Brand Prism is like holding up a mirror and asking:
Who am I?
How do I want to be perceived?
How do I want people to react every time they come in contact with me?
How can I become all that I want to be?
Building this complete picture allows you to see yourselves like you have never done before and it builds a very strong belief in who you are.
Making key decisions such as what is your ‘brand’ and how to ensure the brand lives, gets your commitment to drive your future direction. Each level of the prism asks for development of habits which will ensure a consistent delivery of your brand promise. The Prism approach allows you to look at every aspect of yourself and then decide how to project your best in work, social settings, and family life. For the purpose of building a strong brand, the prism enables you to discover your identity and image. The prism looks at the total brand image you wish to project and allows you to develop a strong consistent brand through building of habits which you know are right for you and allows you to be unique.
Building a powerful brand using the Brand Prism
You can use the Brand Prism to help you to analyse your current brand and then build a brand you can be proud of.
Take the example of Susan Boyle (watch her on YouTube). She appeared on the Britain’s Got Talent show in the UK. As she walked onto the stage, both the audience and the panel of judges looked at her in disbelief. They could not understand how she can believe that she can perform on this stage. This was before she had even spoken a single word. They were judging her grooming and the clothes she wore. She certainly did not fit the profile of someone who should be performing on TV, let alone live on stage. They started to dismiss her before she had a chance to perform.
[People with strong brands] clearly and continuously differentiate themselves and they provide compelling reasons why people should believe and trust in them.
The way she walked onto the stage and the way she moved her body when she was asked questions made her situation even worse. She did not carry herself well. And increasingly the audience grew impatient, expecting to be disappointed.
When she spoke it was difficult to understand what she was saying because of her strong Scottish accent. She also challenged the panel and the audience by not saying what they expected. And when she said she wanted to be as famous as Elaine Paige (one of UK’s best music artists), both the panelists and the audience laughed at her. But they also felt embarrassed for her. Based on the three elements of the Brand Prism so far, she had created a poor image and in their minds they dismissed her. How can someone who looks and talks like this sing? It’s not possible!
However, when she sang she amazed everyone. She sounded like a superstar. She was a natural. She shocked everyone. She had chosen a song which was difficult to sing, yet she made it look like the song was written for her. The audience changed their minds and gave her a standing ovation. So when it came to her ability, she was obviously very talented. Now everyone forgot the clothes, the hairstyle, the strong accent, the eccentric behaviour and the fact she was 47 years old.
She had talent and the audience and the panel were now on her side and ready to accept her.
As she completed her song she was given feedback from the panel and she appeared so surprised that they liked her singing. She appeared so humble. She appeared to display values which most people would find attractive and easy to relate to. However it is difficult to judge this aspect from the short video clip. Values are usually judged over a period of time and even then you have to be pretty close to the person. But they can be judged.
Is this the first time she had sung on stage? How long had she been dreaming of this opportunity? In fact she had been singing from a very early age. She has been performing in the local pubs for many years. Though her courses (goals) were clear, she was unable to make the breakthrough.
A short time after this amazing performance, Susan sang the song with Elaine Paige realising dream. This shows the last part of the prism which is Clear Vision.
A simple message by the Dalai Lama, “Open your arms to change, but never let go of your values” sends a clear message of how positive value is important in determining ones brand image.
Just as we have used the Brand Prism to judge Susan Boyle, we can also use it to judge our total image.
Susan Boyle has totally transformed her image and developed a new brand for herself. She appears to have changed every aspect. At every level of the Brand Prism she appears to have redefined herself. She is already very successful and will continue to be even more successful as more and more people accept her new brand image.
The question we must ask is whether she could have achieved this level of success much earlier if she had changed her brand image when she was younger? We will never know, however we do know many organisations and individuals have enjoyed tremendous success through the efforts of building and maintaining strong brands. If you analyse successful people like Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, you can see the Brand Prism at work. He has transformed the lives of so many people through the work he has done while maintaining a strong consistent image. Even the expression “Everyone Can Fly” captures at the deeper level everything about him and his work.
5 Tips to Build a Strong Brand
# 1. Get feedback – How are you perceived by people
Ask people in your world, friends, family, customers and colleagues what they think of you.
Take the feedback and analyse what is the overall message about your image in their eyes.
The sample size does not have to be so large. A handful of people should already give you an impression of what space you occupy in their minds. Look for common responses. A picture will emerge and you will discover your current brand image.
# 2. Get a professional headshot – A photo you can use widely
Every time people see you on social media or in print, you should be able to project your very best image. A professional headshot enables you to project a consistent image which you are happy with.
# 3. Build Your Story – Share why you do what you do, let them discover the inner you
Over the years you have achieved much success, otherwise why are you still in the insurance business? Shouting about your achievements is important but what is even more important is sharing the reasons behind what you do. Once people believe your reasons are genuine and what you are doing is more than simply trying to make a living, then their trust in you and your intentions becomes stronger. This will impact on your long term business success and your overall image.
# 4. Get connected through social media
Today, Malaysians are the world’s most prolific users of social media, averaging over 9 hours per week on the collection of different sites. Facebook is the most popular. (Ref: MIGHT survey 2011)
…the strength of belief in what you are trying to sell will influence others to believe it too.
Irrespective of the size of your agency, you can benefit from becoming visible on the net. There are many sites, so you will have to get advice on which sites are right for your business and how to get started. A word of caution, you will have to treat this as an important component in the total marketing of your business. Be consistent and be active are the two golden rules.
# 5. Work on your brand image like a business project
Once you get started with your new brand image, you will receive compliments on your change, especially if it is dramatically different from where you started. Let this motivate you as your job of managing the ‘new you’ has just begun. You will face many challenges. The most important of which is to maintain a consistent image for the long term.
By building habits which reflect your brand image you will find it easier to live the new image. The temptation to go back to the old ways is going to be very strong.
Continuously monitor the feedback and ask yourself am I true to my brand promise?
If however, you are not getting the desired response, then you must reexamine your position. Use the brand prism and make changes at the appropriate levels. The power to project the right brand image for you rests with you. Take the initiative and make it happen.
You have the opportunity to brand yourself and stand out from the crowd. An opportunity in this tough market to ensure your business not only survives but thrives! Go for it! i
Mohammed Farooq is the Managing Director of Farooq Consultants whose core business is organisational transformation through mindset change and skill development.