Tag Archive: Branding


Get a Brand or Die a Generic

What is fresh PASSION® – Get A Brand Or Die A Generic?

In an era of economic uncertainty, layoffs, and hiring freezes, creating and promoting a top-flight personal brand that stands out in the crowd is more important than ever.

In Fresh PASSION: Get a Brand Or Die A Generic, Michael D. Brown shows you how to employ the Fresh PASSION methodology to build a personal brand that will maximize your potential and help you to achieve success beyond your dreams in whatever field you choose. Whether you are an executive, an entrepreneur, a tradesperson, an educator, a student, or a member of any other vocation, Fresh PASSION is the pathway to outperform and outshine your peers and competitors and obtain the professional and personal rewards you deserve. Visit the official site of "Fresh Passion – Get A Brand Or Die A Generic" to learn more.


  • Early in my life, I learned the importance of creating a personal brand in order to get ahead in life (share the story about working for Norma or the fast food restaurant).
  • My latest book, Fresh PASSION – http://www.MyFreshBrand.com, will teach you how to create a personal brand that will put you in the best possible position to reach your professional and personal goals.
  • If you don’t create a personal brand, you run the risk of dying a generic.
  • What do I mean by generic?
  • We are all familiar with the generic brands or “no-name” products found on the lower supermarket shelves:
    • They have dull packaging and weak consumer recognition, and they lack promotion.
    • They sit on the shelves for a long period of time and are purchased only by consumers looking for a bargain—people expect to and do pay less for generic.
  • People can be generic, too:
    • Generic people are people who haven’t made any effort to stand out in a crowd.
    • They are average achievers or working stiffs.
  • If you are looking to excel in today’s hypercompetitive market you must become a distinct and competitive brand, or you will become an extinct generic.

Homebuyers often have two options: a fresh new house in “move-in” condition or an old “fixer-upper.” No big surprise, the newly built home not in need of any significant repairs or renovations tends to fetch a lot more on the market.

Brands are a lot like houses – fresh houses are more in demand and bring in more money than houses that are old and in need of some “TLC.” People who achieve meaningful and long-term success personally, economically and professionally understand the critical importance of staying fresh. You can’t just land your newly developed personal brand today, move into it and expect it to carry you throughout your career and life while you do not perform any maintenance or upgrades.

Anyone who has ever been in love (or even thought they were in love) can attest to this. The initial courtship is passionate and you can’t see enough of each other. But as you know, time goes on, competition enters, and that once passionate flame begins to flicker and eventually burns out. If a relationship is to have any chance of thriving long-term success you’ve got to keep it fresh, right?

You are essentially in a relationship, or pursuing a relationship, with bosses, clients, co-workers, customers, teachers, etc. For your relationships with the people who consume your brand to thrive long-term, your brand needs to stay fresh, current and vibrant enough to retain their interest and outshine the other brands vying for their hearts.

How Slammed is Your Door?

Let’s compile a homeowner-themed “slam score” of your freshness. Is your brand’s door wide open to fresh new ideas, concepts and activities, or is it slammed shut against all progress and modernization? Rate how strongly you agree that each of the following fresh statements applies to you today from 1-5, with 1 equaling strongly disagree and 5 equaling strongly agree:

1. My friends and colleagues come to me for the most up to date information.

2. If you are looking for fresh ideas, I am the one.

3. My current skill set is the most competitive out of anyone I may come up against for a job and/or promotion.

4. I am aware of the latest technology that can help me personally and professionally.

5. When my friends and colleagues want a fresh perspective or strategy I am the first person they call.

6. The last book that I read was one that was published within the last 12 months.

6.5 My resume is current, up to date and competitive.

Now that you’ve taken the test, let’s analyze your score:

If you scored from 7-13, your door is slammed shut. You know what that means: nobody wants to purchase your brand and you’ll soon be taken off the market and maybe even put into foreclosure.

If you scored from 14-20, your door is open a crack. There is minimal demand for your personal brand, but only at a steep discount and when the more popular and competitive brands are all off the market.

If you scored from 21-26, your door is open halfway. Your brand will sell if it stays on the market long enough, but anyone seeking a truly comfortable home they can move right into will look elsewhere.

If you scored from 27-33, you door is open three-quarters. Your brand is a respectable choice for the discerning homeowner, but only as a backup if higher bidders get the more desirable homes in the neighborhood.

If you scored a 34 or 35, your door is wide open. Congratulations! You have the home that is most in demand and fetches the highest prices in town. Your buyers come to check you out early in the morning, when only the most competitive homebuyers are out evaluating the available options.

2.5 Keys to Unslamming Your Door

Just because your door may not currently be wide open does not mean it has to stay that way. Even a door that is stuck due to years of staying closed can be pried open with the proper tools.

So to help you unslam your door, or keep it wide open if it’s already that way, I offer the following 2.5 fresh keys to opening even the most stubbornly slammed door so the whole world can come on in.

Key 1: Establish a network, refresh your network – Simply put, without a well-established and maintained network, you will not go far in this world. Due to immense market pressures and the rapid speed of modern business, today’s employers do not have time to waste searching for job candidates, evaluating them from scratch, and then hiring and training one they hope will turn out to be successful.

A large number of employers are now more willing to hire people they know, either directly or through someone, who can demonstrate they will succeed with a minimum of training or development. And a few key questions that they will ask of someone who knows you (hopefully that’s in your network) is what’s your track record like, can you make things happen and can you get results. You want to empower your network members with the ability to respond with a resounding, “He/she is the person that can make it happen and they have a track record of results.”

So how do you go about establishing a network? As an aspiring or current member of the professional world, hopefully you have already taken some basic network-building steps, but don’t be complacent. Continue to join professional associations and volunteer for causes you believe in. Look for the “movers and shakers” and invite them into your network, identify people who are where you want to be and what you want to become, and soak up their knowledge like a sponge.

Also keep in mind that a network is a living, breathing organism. It needs regular nourishment or it will die (remember, you have to keep it fresh). Refresh your network on a regular basis. Call that old college buddy you haven’t seen in a while and find out what he or she is up to.

One final note on networking in the 21st century – your network is no longer constrained by physical bounds. Thanks to the unifying power of the Internet, you can build a virtual network that spans the globe. Professional networking sites such as LinkedIn and Spoke.com, alumni-oriented sites such as Classmates.com, and even social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, allow you to establish a profile and build valuable relationships with people you may never even “meet” in the physical sense!

If you maintain any type of personal Web site or blog, please keep in mind that it needs to reflect the type of image you want to present to prospective employers and business contacts. If you’d be embarrassed for your parents, children or spouse/significant other to see it, or for it to make headlines in the New York Times, keep it off the Internet!

Key 2: Implement five fresh steps into your daily routine – You need to do a little “modeling,” which is one of the biggest secrets of successful people. Continuing with our real estate-themed example, let’s look at the daily life of real estate mogul Donald Trump. According to his book Trump: The Art of the Deal, he rises most mornings by six a.m. and spends an hour reading newspapers. He arrives to work by nine a.m. and during the course of a working day that runs till about six-thirty p.m., makes 50 to 100 phone calls and has at least a dozen meetings, most of which last no longer than fifteen minutes. He rarely stops for lunch and will often continue making phone calls from home until midnight and all through the weekend. Trump finds all of this activity enjoyable.

If you are a beginning real estate developer, you could easily work five of these steps into your daily routine. Rise at six a.m.? Check. Spend an hour reading newspapers? Check. Arrive to work by nine? Check (come on, you should be doing this step already!). Make 50 to 100 phone calls per day? Check. Skip lunch? Check. And even if your personal schedule doesn’t allow you to make calls from home till midnight or through the weekend, you can certainly enjoy your work as a real estate developer. Implementing these steps couldn’t possibly make you less successful, and I’d be amazed if they didn’t make you more successful over the long haul!

Key 2.5: Stay fresh and keep nailing your way forward, into your big fresh mansion – The marketplace is ever changing as is the norm, so always be positioned to competitively respond. But dare you get comfortable as there is always bigger and greater in you. The “nail” will prevent the door from slamming shut and help keep it open. Don’t acquiesce to fixing up your “local generic shack” – instead focus on building a world-class mansion.

TGAPTM – The Great Action Plan

I will conclude today’s look at brand freshness with a Great Action Plan aimed at helping close the gap between true freshness and staleness. To become fresh, you need to change your attitude toward living! Rather than trying to adopt a “quick fix” to obtain pseudo-success that will not last, take the longer-term approach of developing a fresh attitude toward life that will allow you to achieve personal and professional success that permeates your entire existence.

Now using the information above, what will you do to close the GAP? What’s your Great Action Plan for becoming a fresh brand that is sought after and will yield you personal, economic and professional success.

What will you do today? __________________________________
What will you do this week? _________________________________
What will you do this month?_________________________________

If you came out of the “storm” today, what would/could you do?

For too long, too many of us have been captains of a vessel caught in fierce and unpredictable tsunami “storms” caused by unpredictable swings in the economy and general business environment. Depending on your particular situation, that vessel may be a yacht or merely a canoe, but in many cases even those fortunate enough to sail giant luxury cruise ships have found themselves just hoping to survive the storm and make it through. And all too often, we make it through one storm only to find ourselves ill-prepared to prevent or face the ensuing storm that’s barreling our way right behind it. And regardless of size, your boat can only withstand so many storms before it becomes incapacitated and or weaken which makes preventing and surviving the next storm a challenge.

We have been on this stormy path too long; it’s now time to turn the corner and navigate to shore. Coming out of the storm is not enough. Instead, we have to have a plan, passion, purpose and promise ready to put in place once we escape all this stormy weather and find some shelter on dry land. The absence of this will result in us experiencing a mental storm that will soon propel us back into a physical storm. And once on shore, we need to find fertile ground and prepare to build a “Fresh, World- Class Branded Mansion” (representing your personal brand) instead of trying to patch up a “local generic shack”.

The blueprint for building this Fresh Branded mansion is the proven process that has helped thousands- Fresh PASSION. This process takes you from being a generic to a world-class brand and helps you elevate your brand to the next level if you are one of the select few who already possess a winning brand. By following this laser-focused and disciplined winning plan of action, you will gain the ability to survive, prosper during, and even prevent storms. This ability will give you an edge over your competition and position you to experience exponential personal, professional and economic success.

Don’t think about riding out the storm
You could simply continue to “ride out” the storm in whatever vessel has taken you this far, but riding out the storm is not the best option. It has been tried and has not worked. Just sitting on your boat is not the answer, nor is inviting a lot of your negative friends on the ship and throwing a party. The answer is developing a laser-focused and disciplined navigation plan and moving forward at an accelerated pace. This will help you to successfully perform, deliver, and stay on course through any storm or adversity you encounter.

The best success navigation plan you can have is to turn yourself into a clear, compelling, and competitive personal brand. As such, you will be seen as someone who can add and deliver value in these turbulent times and the economic tsunami threatening to engulf all of us. This, my friend, puts you on the path to personal and professional success. Becoming a successful brand will work whether you are employed, underemployed, an entrepreneur, executive, middle manager, entry-level employee, college student, recent graduate, or at any other stage of your professional and/or educational career.

Becoming a brand always works for companies and organizations, as well. You have to provide a branded customer experience that your employees can execute and use to attract, retain, and grow your customer base.

Are you ready to turn the corner and build your Fresh Branded Mansion in 2012?
As I said earlier, you want to take shelter from the storm in a Fresh, Branded Mansion. Not a generic shack, and not one of those cookie-cutter “McMansions” which were so popular during the doctom boom – they cost a lot of money and attract a lot of attention, but offer little in the way of real architectural value and tend to lose most of their worth in difficult times like now. No, you want a genuine mansion – classy, well-built, tastefully impressive, something that offers an intrinsic value which remains high even during the worst housing markets.

How do you build a Fresh, Branded Mansion? Well, it’s not easy or everyone would be doing it, but through hard work and following the nine phases of Fresh PASSION, you can construct a “dream house” that will lead to the life and career you want and deserve. These phases include Fresh – a mansion that is well-built, represents who you are, and retains its sale value at all times, Preparation – only using the freshest and highest-quality materials for your mansion’s foundation, roof, furniture, landscaping, nails, blueprint, etc., Aspiration – when you design your mansion, do you go for something typical and safe or something eye-catching and bold that puts it ahead of other mansions, Stay laser-focused – using levels and inspections to make sure your mansion’s structural integrity is sound and that the physical results match the aspirations of your design, Sell like you are crazy – becoming a real estate expert so that when it’s time to put your mansion on the market, you know exactly who to sell it to and what features to accentuate to get the maximum bids, Invigorate – taking the effort to maintain your mansion’s “curb appeal” through landscaping, additions, renovations, etc., Omitting the negative – pushing comments from any naysayers or incidents of self-doubt that pop up along the way to building the home of your dreams, Nailing the brand – really “nailing” your mansion together and ensuring everything is ready for you to move in and show it off to others, and serving others – using your mansion to host holiday meals and celebrations, ensuring that it benefits friends, family, coworkers, customers and clients, and not just you.

You can brand your way to success
My staff and I were able to grow and prosper during the 2011 global recession/downturn/out of control economy. My secret was (and still is) the consistent development and fresh and flawless execution of my personal brand through my trademarked and signature process Fresh PASSION (Get a Brand or Die a Generic)®. I have used this process in 2011 to help thousands of individuals, entrepreneurs, executives, and students achieve exponential personal and professional success.

Over the coming months, I will share the nine phases of the proven Fresh PASSION (Get a Brand or Die a Generic)® process with you. It is my hope, strong belief, and personal desire that you, too, can develop and flawlessly execute your powerful and competitive personal brand that will yield consistent and exponential personal and professional success, even in this environment!

So with all hands on deck and overtime on the construction site, we will build a Fresh Branded Mansion and achieve and experience exponential personal, economic and professional success in 2012!

Ready to turn the corner and build your Fresh Branded Mansion and leave the “shacks” to the generics?

http://www.themichaeldbrown.com

While I was in college, I articulated my methodology for creating a successful personal brand (though at that time I hadn’t classified it into this brilliant acronym). I called it Fresh PASSION, a convenient acronym that stands for Preparing yourself, Aspiring to reach your goals, Staying laser-focused, Selling your value, Invigorating yourself, Omitting the negative, and Nailing the brand.

And of course all the passion in the world won’t enable you to achieve success if you employ an outdated, stale approach to your career, your business or your college matriculation which is why I make sure to put “Fresh” first!

However, this is not to minimize the importance of passion. Think back to February of this year, when the Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl despite suffering injuries to 15 starting players during the season, needing to win three straight road games in the playoffs leading to the Super Bowl, and having eight starting players miss most or all of the Super Bowl itself due to injury.

How did the Packers overcome these obstacles? By remaining passionate about the game of football, focusing on winning with laser intensity, and finding fresh ways to win when the odds seemed hopeless.

Now that we have reiterated how vital passion is to success in branding or any other aspect of life, let’s take a quick review of each step toward Fresh PASSION.

Fresh
Brands are a lot like bread – fresh brands are more in demand and bring in more money than brands that are old and stale. People who achieve meaningful and long-term success personally and professionally understand the critical importance of staying fresh. You can’t just land your newly developed personal brand today, put it on a shelf and expect it to carry you throughout your career and life while you sit back and reap its rewards.

Or to use another analogy, in a few short months Major League baseball teams will begin spring training. For about six weeks before the start of the official season, teams practice, work out, bring in minor leaguers and possible free agent signees for evaluation, and play exhibition games.

Why do some of the world’s most highly-paid athletes subject themselves to this often dull and grueling annual routine? Because they realize that after a long winter away from baseball they need to sharpen their skills and improve their physical conditioning so they are fresh as possible once the season starts in April. If people who in some cases already earn upwards of $25 million a year can make the effort to stay fresh, so can you!

Preparing Yourself
Preparing yourself helps you get a large part of the substance for your brand-building. Earlier in your career, this can be used to help you conduct stellar interviews with the best companies and have your pick of jobs. Later in your career, preparing yourself can help make you a top performer and obtain the promotions and accolades that will propel your career forward at a breakneck speed.

If you doubt the value of preparation, or perhaps feel you are already so good at what you do that you can slack off a bit when it comes to preparing, a brief look at the careers of pro basketball legends Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Michael Jordan will be instructive. They are undoubtedly two of the best players in the history of the NBA, and both were notorious for being the first to arrive at practice and last to leave, every single time. Both put in huge amounts of personal time in the offseason staying in shape and working on basketball fundamentals so they would be able to start the season at peak performance level.

It’s not a coincidence that both men have had highly successful post-basketball careers as business executives and corporate spokesmen. If Magic and Michael needed lots of preparation, so do you!

Aspiration
Aspiration means having particular ambitions and then setting out to achieve your goals. This is your purpose, to fly high and soar to greater heights! Knowing your aspiration allows you to tailor-build your personal brand; otherwise you run the risk of building a brand that doesn’t help you reach your aspiration, which is a huge waste of time and resources. Remember –aim at nothing and you’re guaranteed to hit it!

For a perfect illustration of following through on your aspiration, look at marathon runners. Much like successfully building, maintaining and expanding a brand, running a marathon is a grueling process that requires incredible discipline, planning, and stamina. Runners must dress in the proper race attire and footwear, constantly assess how they are doing in relation to both other runners and their own personal time goals, maintain a pace that will allow them to maximize their performance without tiring too early, adjust their race strategy to changing course and weather conditions, and maintain a positive mental attitude no matter what physical obstacles they encounter. And a marathon is not the same as a sprint; it takes a long time to distinguish the winners from the losers.

Staying Laser Focused
Laser focus is the key to every aspect of the Fresh PASSION formula. Without intently focusing on each one of these areas, you’ll miss the mark and not deliver your brand. Life has a way of tempting us to lose focus and become disillusioned, so it is your responsibility to maintain your laser focus on tailor-building a foundation for personal and professional success.

For a perfect example of how staying laser focused can help you achieve your grandest aspirations, let’s turn our attention to the world of professional golf. Despite providing the seeming advantage of hitting a stationary object, anyone who has spent any time trying to master golf knows how incredibly difficult and frustrating it is to hit a golf ball properly once, never mind approximately 72 (or many more!) times during the course of several hours.

Yet the world’s top professional golfers do just that on a routine basis, often coming in several strokes under par while playing the most challenging courses in the world. Mastering golf at this level takes almost unimaginable laser focus, spending hours a day practicing dull, routine shots like hitting out of a sand bunker until they become second nature. And during a long, slow-paced game, pro golfers must solely focus on the task at hand and nothing else.

Selling Your Value
Selling your value means understanding your return on investment (ROI). You have confidence in your fullest potential, and you are constantly searching for new opportunities that will help you meet and potentially even exceed that potential. Whatever the opportunity may be; forget the advice about opportunity knocking. You have to go out knocking on doors, as many as you can find and at all times.

For a perfect example of someone who always sold his value and never kept his mouth closed, let’s a take a look at the world of boxing. Muhammad Ali in his prime was as great a boxer as you will ever see, and he would be the first one to tell you that. Ali’s combination of exceptional athletic talent and outlandish behavior and egotistical statements (always delivered tongue in cheek) turned him into of the world’s biggest celebrities. Post-retirement, he has strengthened his brand even further through numerous charitable and goodwill endeavors and the courageous way he has publicly battled Parkinson’s disease. Ali’s eggs truly produced the world’s best boxing omelet, and nobody since has come close.

Invigorating Yourself
One of the key reasons I have been able to pull myself out of poverty and into a life filled with personal and professional success is that I have always maintained an extremely high level of vigor in everything I do. Staying invigorated will give you a huge leg up in making the all-important “three-second impression.” In the three seconds it takes you to walk through a door and extend your hand to someone for the first time, that person has already made irreversible judgments about you.

Think about the example of vigor set by Olympic athletes. These remarkable achievers often dedicate most of their lives to the most intensive, physically and mentally punishing training and preparation imaginable. All this time and effort is dedicated to maximizing their performance in an event held once every four years that may literally last a few seconds. The intense vigor required to compete at that level comes not from money, but from a richer and deeper motivation of personal satisfaction and knowing you did your very best, which ultimately is at the core of every successful brand.

Omitting the Negative
When you encounter a negative experience – learn from it. Don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on it, you don’t need to let it consume valuable real estate in your head; you have so much more ahead of you. Omitting the negative does not happen by itself, you will need to make some effort to truly banish negativity from your life. But it can be done with highly impressive results. Take the experience of the George Mason University men’s basketball team in the 2006 NCAA championships as an example.

Although the George Mason Patriots won an impressive 23 games during the 2005-06 season and even were ranked in the top 25 for a week, the experts all agreed they were lucky to reach the championship tournament and had no chance to win even one game.

However, George Mason players and coaches continued omitting all the negativity surrounding them and reached the “Final Four” round of the tournament, finally losing to eventual champion Florida State but proving there is no limit on how far omitting the negative can take you.

Nailing Your Brand
After developing the substance of your personal brand and landing it, you need to nail, package and market it to your audience (employer, group, organization). Answer these questions: Who am I? What do I want to be? How do I want to be perceived? Most of us don’t think of ourselves as “a package,” but all of us are packages. Here is the trick; you want to make sure that you control your packaging (the look, feel, and experience) and the message that illuminates from it.

If you still doubt the importance of nailing your brand, consider the recent experience of the National Football League, which underwent what could have been a brand-destroying four-and-a-half month lockout. While resolving the contract issue a month before the start of the regular season surely helped avoid fan backlash, the fact remains NFL TV ratings and game attendance, as well as merchandise sales, appear to be unaffected. This is due in no small part to the amazing job the NFL has done of creating its brand as “America’s Game.” The NFL did this by capitalizing on the drama inherent in what is often a violent and brutal game, emphasizing pain, conflict and personal sacrifice in the pursuit of victory. Also the many colorful characters who play and coach this unique sport were brought into the foreground. By nailing its brand image as America’s premier sports league, the NFL brushed the lockout away like a bad dream.

So now you can see how each step of the Fresh PASSION methodology is crucial to successfully building a brand. It will be interesting to watch how the National Basketball Association tries to rebuild its brand in the aftermath of the just-ended work stoppage which will delay the start of the season until Christmas Day and shorten it by 16 games.

The NBA has not built a brand as strong as that of the NFL, so hopefully owners and players can utilize Fresh PASSION tools to win back the hearts of fans and dispel whatever damage has been done to its popular image. I can tell you that even with Fresh PASSION, the NBA has a long road toward brand redemption ahead!

With that, I wish you a safe, happy and prosperous holiday season and 2012. I hope you, too, can apply Fresh PASSION to your own life and career to achieve maximum personal and professional success. Like most worthwhile things, Fresh PASSION is not always easy, but the end result more than justifies the effort.

Are you really what you eat?

What do Your Thanksgiving Eating Habits Say
About Your Branding Efforts?

Now that November is here and the ghosts and goblins have gotten their treats, our thoughts turn to Thanksgiving. In many ways Thanksgiving is the most American of holidays, not only because it celebrates the Pilgrims who helped settle several of the original colonies, but because it is totally dedicated to overindulgence. What could be more American than gorging yourself on delicious food in the name of people who devoted themselves to hard work, sacrifice and austere living?

Different people follow different eating habits on Thanksgiving Day. Believe it or not, how you eat your Thanksgiving feast can say a lot about how you approach your branding effort. Some people start with the appetizers (such as cranberry sauce or rolls), move on to hearty slices of turkey with maybe a little gravy and plentiful sides of stuffing and vegetables, and then save room for a piece of pumpkin pie.

However, some people have a tendency to skip right over the main course to the sugary stuff, rather than work their way through the nutritious part of the meal. Not satisfied simply with the prospect of a enjoying a giant meal with family and friends, many people ignore the turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce etc. and jump right into the pumpkin pie. Some folks will even stuff themselves on candy and nuts before the meal starts (but they probably still have room for dessert even though they are “too full” for the mashed potatoes and green beans).

Which style of Thanksgiving eating best reflects your brand-building efforts? Do you dig in heartily and with joy, without skimping on the meat and potatoes (i.e., networking, skill development, education, taking on extra work, researching your marketplace)? Do you immediately indulge in the sweet stuff that follows (taking a long vacation, buying expensive things, celebrating your success with a night on the town)? Or do you skim through the meat and potatoes of your meal (and your effort) in an attempt to obtain instant gratification that you have not really earned?

Drinking beer and eating fried chicken…

To further illustrate my point, let’s look at the recent collapse of the Boston Red Sox. After a poor start in April, the Red Sox buckled down and went on an impressive run that gave them the best record in baseball for most of the 2011 season. However, when September rolled around, the Red Sox suddenly lost focus, stopped giving their best effort, and quickly faded away, not even reaching the playoffs.

There were numerous reasons for the historic collapse (which are still being deciphered), but one fact that came up was that several members of the Red Sox pitching staff were drinking beer and eating fried chicken during games. Even though these were games they weren’t scheduled to play, this dietary choice clearly shows a lack of preparation and focus on what should have been the players’ main goal: building a brand as a championship-caliber baseball team. Having a cold one and a chicken wing may have provided some short-term instant gratification during games, but in the long term it contributed to poor physical conditioning, mental distraction, low morale and generally bad teamwork.

Don’t be tempted by the “fried chicken and beer” in your daily life! Save them for the occasional treat after a hard day’s work of brand-building is over. Maintain the physical and mental conditioning, morale and teamwork you will need to make it to the top.

So have a Happy Thanksgiving, and remember that pumpkin pie doesn’t count as a vegetable!

http://www.TheMichaelBrown.com

Nailing Your Brand

Don’t Forget that Presentation Counts!
After developing the substance of your personal brand and landing it, you need to nail, package and market it to your audience (employer, group, organization).

Answer these questions: Who am I? What do I want to be? How do I want to be perceived? Most of us don’t think of ourselves as “a package,” but all of us are packages (i.e., “she is so plain, don’t depend on him he will never deliver, he is just boring”). Here is the trick; you want to make sure that you control your packaging (the look, feel, and experience) and the message that illuminates from it.

Honestly, how many times have you bought something just because of the packaging, or paid more for something because it was presented in an exciting way? That’s the main reason we want to pay less for generic – the packaging is uniformly dull. When we see a package that shouts “Energy, Invigoration, Crispy, Clean, Colorful, Beautiful, Sophisticated, Expensive, “we are willing to pay more.

In essence, good packaging helps speed the purchasing decision and leads people to pay top dollars (and that’s what you want your packaging to do right?). Packaging is how you express your personality. So think about how you want to be perceived, what’ competitive edge you want your packaging to send.

Remember, the way you decide to package your unique brand should be evident in everything that you do and attach your name to, the way you walk, the way your talk, the way you dress, the content and appearance of your resume/cover letter, your award winning interview.

Also remember, the market can spot a phony a mile away! Your brand needs to reflect your core substance. Build your brand around your genuine strengths, not the ones you think the market wants to pay a lot of money for right now. You will always do better in the long run by being yourself, both in business and in life.

Nailing your brand is not something you do once and walk away from, it is a constant process of fine-tuning and adjusting your brand to the changing needs of the market and your changing interests, abilities, experiences and skills. Following are a few simple things you can do to help nail your brand today, tomorrow and far into the future.
If you still doubt the importance of nailing your brand, consider the recent experience of the National Football League, which underwent what could have been a brand-destroying four-and-a-half month lockout that featured some tough talk from both players and owners, as well as canceled preseason workouts and games.

While resolving the contract issue a month before the start of the regular season surely helped avoid fan backlash, the fact remains NFL TV ratings and game attendance, as well as merchandise sales, appear to be unaffected. This is due in no small part to the amazing job the NFL has done in the last 25 years of creating its brand as “America’s Game,” essentially stealing this title from Major League Baseball. In a January 2011 Harris Poll, 31% of US adults said football is their favorite sport, close to double the 17% who chose baseball!

The NFL did this by capitalizing on the drama inherent in what is often a violent and brutal game, emphasizing pain, conflict and personal sacrifice in the pursuit of victory. Also the many colorful characters who play and coach this unique sport were brought into the foreground. By nailing its brand image as America’s premier sports league, the NFL brushed the lockout away like a bad dream.

Following is a football-themed “heart check” to measure how effectively you are nailing your brand. While “running up the score” is often frowned upon by football players and coaches, in this case you want to score as many points as possible.

Scale

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

1. My brand is evident in everything I do and say, as well in how I present myself to others.
2. My brand is honest and genuine, and based on who I am and what I am best at.
3. I constantly fine-tune and adjust my brand.
4. My brand adjusts to the marketplace, but not the point of losing its unique identity or becoming a market follower, rather than leader.
5. My brand package delivers a world-class experience on first sight (within three seconds).
6. My brand package encompasses preparation, aspiration, staying laser focus, selling like you are crazy, invigoration, and omitting the negative.
6.5. Even people already familiar with my brand substance find the packaging compelling and informative.

Now that you’ve taken the test, let’s analyze how well you are nailing your brand:

If you scored from 7 to 13, you get sacked at the line of scrimmage. You are not presenting yourself or your brand in an exciting way that lets the world know your core substance and unique value proposition. Your brand doesn’t stand a chance!

If you scored from 14 to 20, you are “three and out.” Your packaging conveys one or two key components of your core substance, but not in a compelling way that makes you distinct from your competitors. Whatever chance you have in the marketplace is limited at best.

If you scored from 21 to 26, you make it into the “red zone”. You have managed to make your brand stand out in a crowded marketplace thanks to compelling and innovative packaging that conveys your core substance. But that little something extra is missing. You are still a solid number two brand people turn to when their preferred brand is unavailable.

If you scored from 27 to 33, you score a field goal. Your packaging is top-notch and you are among the leading brands in your field. But still, whether you lack a bow to tie it all together or your packaging’s gleam is a little dulled, you are not the true leading brand in your area of expertise.

If you scored a 34 or 35, you score a touchdown. Your packaging is impeccable and includes bows, ribbons and all the other little niceties that make a product truly stand out on a crowded shelf. You are the leader in your area of branded expertise, and anyone who sees your packaging knows it.

Stay Laser Focused on Your Brand and Your Success!
Laser focus is the key to every aspect of the Fresh PASSION formula. Without intently focusing on each one of these areas, you’ll miss the mark and not deliver your brand. Life has a way of tempting us to lose focus and become disillusioned, so it is your responsibility to maintain your laser focus on tailor-building a foundation for personal and professional success.

Let’s think in military terms for a moment – the most firepower on the smallest target wins. A tiny laser burns through thick steel walls. You need to apply this same intense laser focus to the aspirations you previously noted.

Let me give an example of the dangers of not staying laser focused. A potential client wanted to have lunch with me to talk about how he could grow his struggling fitness business. I asked him what was causing his business to collapse, and he said he just couldn’t get the customers to come back after their initial sessions. He said that he was just going to close that location and open up another location about 40 miles away. He went on to state that he was going to sign the lease in two weeks and that the new place was beautiful. What he really needed to do was focus on what was causing customers not to come back rather than spend his time trying to open up a new business that would likely fail as well.

No matter the distractions, no matter what comes your way, it is most critical that you stay focused. The ability to stay focused is often the difference between obtaining your aspiration versus not obtaining your aspiration.

For a perfect example of how staying laser focused can help you achieve your grandest aspirations, let’s turn our attention to the world of professional golf. Despite providing the seeming advantage of hitting a stationary object, anyone who has spent any time trying to master golf knows how incredibly difficult and frustrating it is to hit a golf ball properly once, never mind approximately 72 (or many more!) times during the course of several hours.

Yet the world’s top professional golfers do just that on a routine basis, often coming in several strokes under par while playing the most challenging courses in the world. Mastering golf at this level takes almost unimaginable laser focus, spending hours a day practicing dull, routine shots like hitting out of a sand bunker until they become second nature. And during a game which is slow-paced and generally lasts several hours, pro golfers must stay solely focused on the task at hand and nothing else.

I will not call anyone out by name, but I think we all know about a very famous golfer who achieved the pinnacle of success both in and out of the sport through unparalleled discipline and focus on the course, until his undisciplined private life became revealed to the world. He hasn’t been the same golfer since; I sincerely hope he conquers his personal demons and once again becomes a shining example of just how far staying laser focused can take you.

Have you locked in on your aspiration with a laser focus? Take the following golf-themed “Heart Check” to find out just how much intensity your focus really contains. We are going to score your answers a little differently in this article than in previous articles. In the spirit of keeping things fresh, for this Heart Check the lower your score, the closer you are to achieving true laser focus. Answer each question using the following scale of one to five points, and remember to aim low!

Scale
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 find myself preoccupied by multiple focuses that are unrelated to each other and do not lead to a common goal.
2. It seems like I am constantly losing focus on what it takes to succeed.
3. I can be easily persuaded to take my eyes off the prize.
4. I tend to focus on mundane, trivial, and/or short-term concerns rather than long-range goals and aspirations.
5. The people closest to me are unaware of my focus on my aspirations.
6. I find that my focus is often blurred and I’m not sure why.
6.5 I am surrounded by people and things that distract me.

Now that you’ve taken the test, let’s analyze your score:

If you scored from 27-35, you scored a double bogey (two over par). You allow yourself to be completely distracted from your goals and aspirations by petty and meaningless things, and probably haven’t identified a primary aspiration. You will have virtually no chance of achieving true success in life until you buckle down and force yourself to focus on something concrete, meaningful and long-term.

If you scored from 21-26, you scored a bogey (one over par). You may have identified a legitimate aspiration and are making some effort to achieve it, but are too easily distracted to make much headway.

If you scored from 14-20, you scored par. Your aspiration is in sight and in mind, but at a distance. Your focus is there, but not strong enough to make your aspiration a reality.

If you scored from 9-13, you scored a birdie (one under par). You think long-term and consider your aspiration before making any major decision. But something is still missing – maybe your loved ones don’t really know about your aspiration or you would be willing to change your path if the “right offer” came along.

If you scored a 7 or 8, you scored a hole in one. Excepting family and health, your aspiration is the single most important thing in your life. You are always working toward your aspiration in everything you do and you ignore or eliminate any distractions or temptations that pull you away from it. Be careful at the clubhouse bar, though, traditionally anyone who scores a hole in one has to buy a round for the house!

http://www.themichaeldbrown.com

Magic and Michael Knew What It Takes to Be a True Champion: Be Prepared!

You Can’t Build a Fresh, Competitive Brand without Preparing Yourself First

Preparing yourself helps you get a large part of the substance for your brand-building. Earlier in your career, this can be used to help you conduct stellar interviews with the best companies and have your pick of jobs. Later in your career, preparing yourself can help make you a top performer and obtain the promotions and accolades that will propel your career forward at a breakneck speed.

For college students, preparing yourself means taking steps like maintaining a consistently high GPA, test-driving potential careers and impressing potential future employers through internships, participating in extracurricular activities, and doing a “heart check” on your major – are you majoring in something you excel at and that truly captivates your interest where you can be passionate about it?

For professionals, preparing yourself means continuing your education, building and contributing to formal and informal networks, maintaining an active intellectual interest and knowledge capital in your career and your life, staying current on the latest business trends and demands in your field, taking on project assignments, asking your boss what you can do to become a better performer, and seizing every opportunity to stay front and center by volunteering for committees and gladly accepting additional work.

If you doubt the value of preparation, or perhaps feel you are already so good at what you do that you can slack off a bit when it comes to preparing, a brief look at the careers of pro basketball legends Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Michael Jordan will be instructive. They are undoubtedly two of the best players in the history of the NBA (many experts rank them one-two, in both orders) and both were explosive forces on the court from the moment they started their careers till the moment they ended them (of course, Johnson retired and unretired once and Jordan did it twice!). Blessed with immense natural athletic ability and incredible knowledge of the game of basketball, these men could easily have shown up at games with minimal preparation and still won championships and probably made the Hall of Fame.

But they didn’t. Both were notorious for being the first to arrive at practice and last to leave, every single time. Both put in huge amounts of personal time in the offseason staying in shape and working on basketball fundamentals so they would be able to start the season at peak performance level. Less talented teammates couldn’t help but be inspired to practice harder when they saw how seriously two of the all-time best players took their preparation.

It is also not a coincidence that both men have had highly successful post-basketball careers as business executives and corporate spokesmen. Their dedication and preparation helped give them sterling reputations as true “winners” which everyone wants to associate with, and undoubtedly they take the same no-nonsense, hyperprepared approach to their business lives as they did their basketball lives. If Magic and Michael needed lots of preparation, so do you!

Wondering how your efforts to be prepared stack up against the pros? Let’s compile a basketball–themed “shootaround” to measure your preparation. Rate how strongly you agree that each of the following preparedness statements applies to you today from 1-5, with 1 equaling strongly disagree and 5 equaling strongly agree:

1. I have a fully realized ideal of personal and professional success around which I build all my preparatory efforts.
2. I have the utmost confidence that I am truly prepared to achieve success and have no doubts about my ability to overcome any obstacle, no matter how unpredictable.
3. I have mastered the specific skills necessary to achieve success by being a branded expert in my chosen field, organization, business and or company.
4. I have obtained all the credentials necessary to achieve success by being a branded expert in my chosen field , organization, business and/or company.
5. I feel a burning competitive desire that pushes me to always take additional steps toward being prepared rather than feel satisfied with my preparatory efforts.
6. I know the skill sets and the mental attitudes of three people who have achieved success in the area that I want to succeed.
6.5 I gain a new competitive skill on at least a quarterly basis.

Now that you’ve taken the test, let’s analyze your score:

If you scored from 7-13, you launched an airball. You haven’t taken any real steps to prepare yourself for success and are relying on blind luck and last-second thinking to overcome whatever obstacles come your way.

If you scored from 14-20, your ball glanced off the rim. You have taken a few quick steps to get ready to succeed, but hurrying now will only make success take longer to arrive later.

If you scored from 21-26, you hit a free throw, worth one point. You have done all the obvious things it takes to prepare for success in your chosen field, organization, business and/or company, but so have most of your competitors. Those who take extra steps and think outside the box in their preparation are the ones who will stand out.

If you scored from 27-33, you hit a regulation two-point basket. You have gone above and beyond the norm to prepare and are ready for some serious competition. But are you ready to win?

If you scored a 34 or 35, you hit a three-pointer. Congratulations! You have taken the lessons of Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan to heart and have thoroughly prepared yourself for all contingencies, including unknowns, and done the groundwork necessary to truly stand out from the rest of the competition. You are fit to compete for a championship and maybe even have a Hall of Fame career!

http://www.themichaeldbrown.com

Bakeries often have two options for their bread customers: fresh and day-old. No big surprise, the fresh bread typically sells for more than the day-old variety, which people only buy if they are short on money or possibly making croutons.

Brands are a lot like bread – fresh brands are more in demand and bring in more money than brands that are old and stale. People who achieve meaningful and long-term success personally and professionally understand the critical importance of staying fresh. You can’t just land your newly developed personal brand today, put it on a shelf and expect it to carry you throughout your career and life while you sit back and reap its rewards.

Anyone who has ever been in love (or even thought they were in love) can attest to this. The initial courtship is passionate and you can’t see enough of each other. But as you know, time goes on, competition enters, and that once passionate flame begins to flicker and eventually burns out. If a relationship is to have any chance of thriving long-term success you’ve got to keep it fresh, right?

You are essentially in a relationship, or pursuing a relationship, with bosses, clients, co-workers, customers, teachers, etc. For your relationships with the people who consume your brand to thrive long-term, your brand needs to stay fresh, current and vibrant enough to retain their interest and outshine the other brands vying for their hearts.

Or to use another analogy, right now Major League baseball teams are in the heart of spring training. For about six weeks before the start of the official season, teams practice, work out, bring in minor leaguers and possible free agent signees for evaluation, and play exhibition games.

Even the most experienced and accomplished veterans can be seen at their team’s spring training complex (which to lessen the sting are generally located in either Florida or Arizona), running sprints, chasing ground balls and performing other repetitive, mundane tasks to help them prepare for the upcoming season.

Why do some of the world’s most highly-paid athletes subject themselves to this often dull and grueling annual routine? Because they realize that after a long winter away from baseball they need to sharpen their skills and improve their physical conditioning so they are fresh as possible once the season starts in April. If people who in some cases already earn upwards of $25 million a year can make the effort to stay fresh, so can you!

Wondering how your efforts to stay fresh stack up against the pros? Let’s compile a baseball–themed “box score” of your freshness. Rate how strongly you agree that each of the following fresh statements applies to you today from 1-5, with 1 equaling strongly disagree and 5 equaling strongly agree:

1. My friends and colleagues come to me for the most up to date information.
2. If you are looking for fresh ideas, I am the one.
3. My current skillset is the most competitive out of anyone I may come up against for a job and/or promotion.
4. I am aware of the latest technology that can help me personally and professionally.
5. When my friends and colleagues want a fresh perspective or strategy I am the first person they call.
6. The last book that I read was one that was published within the last 12 months.
6.5 My resume is current, up to date and competitive.

Now that you’ve taken the test, let’s analyze your score:

If you scored from 7-13, you have struck out. 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, you hit a single. 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, you hit a double. 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, you hit a triple. Your brand is a respectable choice for the discerning connoisseur, but not the top choice.

If you scored a 34 or 35, you hit a home run. 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.

http://www.themichaeldbrown.com

Just give yourself a little Fresh PASSION this Valentine’s Day and Beyond

While I was in college, I articulated my methodology for creating a successful personal brand (though at that time I hadn’t classified it into this brilliant acronym). I called it Fresh P.A.S.S.I.O.N., a convenient acronym that stands for Preparing yourself, Aspiring to reach your goals, Staying laser-focused, Selling your value, Invigorating yourself, Omitting the negative, and Nailing the brand.

And of course all the passion in the world won’t enable you to achieve success if you employ an outdated, stale approach to your career, your business or your college matriculation which is why I make sure to put “Fresh” first!

Fresh…
What exactly does each of these terms mean? “Fresh” means doing something every day to enhance your brand so that it stays fresh – keeping your skills sharpened, packaging yourself well.

Preparing…
“Preparing yourself” means continuing your education through classes, professional development, building and contributing to formal and informal networks, and simply maintaining an active intellectual interest and knowledge capital in your career and your life.

Aspiring…
“Aspiring to reach your goals” means having particular ambitions and then setting out to achieve your goals – aim at nothing and you’re guaranteed to hit it!

Staying laser-focused…
“Staying laser-focused” means intently focusing on each area of Fresh PASSION, otherwise you’ll miss the mark and not deliver your brand.

Selling…
“Selling your value” means understanding your return on investment (ROI), having confidence in your fullest potential, and constantly searching for new opportunities that will help you meet even exceed that potential.

Invigorating…
“Invigorating yourself” means having the tenacity and discipline to go the distance and secure your personal and professional success – fan the flame within and catch on fire!

Omitting…
“Omitting the negative” means learning from the inevitable negative experiences you will encounter without dwelling on them or letting them consume the valuable real estate in your head – you have so much more ahead of you!

Nailing…
And last but surely not least, “Nailing the brand” means successfully packaging your substance (your core) up and putting a bow on it so that you become a fresh brand that can successfully compete and WIN internally and externally (even in this turbulent environment), which will enable you to achieve exponential personal and professional success.

Fresh PASSION sounds great, Michael, but what if I’m not 100% sure what I’m aiming for?
“Success” can be a vague concept. In general it means “doing well and getting what you want,” but unless you know what you want to do and toward what end, devising a success plan is a pointless endeavor. To help build a framework to support your Fresh PASSION activities, write down your perfect day. Don’t leave out any small details; think large and globally.

Consider and answer questions such as: What does your family look like? What’s your financial picture? What career do you have? What does your personal life look like? Where do you live? Where do you travel? What are your credentials? How do you give some of your success back to the community?

What’s your “perfect” day?
Now compare your perfect day to your typical day, and see where you come pretty close to living it and where you fall short. Those areas where you fall short are the areas that need some Fresh PASSION applied first!

My own perfect day includes living debt-free, staying fresh and up-to-date in my area of branded expertise, speaking for Fortune 500 companies and business schools, and taking the time and effort to strengthen my relationship with my family. Currently all these “perfect” situations are a reality, but that hasn’t slowed me down. The nice thing about perfection is that you can never truly achieve it; you can always strive to do better and do more.

Ask the Green Bay Packers about their perfect day!
Even if you paid more attention to the commercials or halftime show than the game, there is a pretty good chance you watched at least some of this year’s Super Bowl. And even if you didn’t watch, our ubiquitous 24/7 news culture would make it virtually impossible for you not to have heard that the Green Bay Packers won. More impressively, they won despite suffering injuries to 15 starting players during the season, needing to win three straight road games in the playoffs leading to the Super Bowl, and having eight starting players miss most or all of the Super Bowl itself due to injury.

How did the Packers overcome these obstacles? By remaining passionate about the game of football, focusing on winning with laser intensity, and finding fresh ways to win when the odds seemed hopeless. The Packers, one of football’s legendary franchises (the Lombardi Trophy which goes to the Super Bowl winner is named for late, great Packers coach Vince Lombardi, who coached the Packers to victory in the first two Super Bowls), also stayed true to their brand image of athletic excellence. As a result, the team members collectively experienced the perfect day for anyone playing in the NFL: winning the Super Bowl.

http://www.themichaeldbrown