Tag Archive: Recession

Just give yourself a little Fresh PASSION as the Foundation
for Your ‘Fresh Branded Mansion’

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 call 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And of course, all the passion in the world won’t enable you to achieve success if you employ an outdated, stale approach to your career, your business or your college matriculation, which is why I make sure to put “Fresh” first! In addition, success is hollow if you do not share some of your good fortune with others, so once you nail your brand, it is time to share your success with others.

Here is a brief look at each of the nine phases that comprise Fresh PASSION:


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 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 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 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, or even exceed, that potential.


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 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!


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.

Sharing Your Success…

The goal of exponential personal and professional success is not simply to give yourself a great life (though that is surely a key element!) but to help others enrich their lives and reach their potential as well. Once you have nailed your brand and are competing and winning regardless of the economic environment, it’s time to share some of your good fortune with family, friends and even strangers.

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, think of building a successful career as building a mansion (after all, buying a mansion is the ultimate symbol of success). What does your perfect mansion look like? What materials is it built from? Is there a solid foundation? How secure is the roof? How many acres is the lawn, and what type of landscaping is featured? Do you have carefully designed blueprints, or are you “winging” construction based on some general ideas and goals? Will you use classic architecture that never goes out of style, or something flashy and hip that will look dated in a few years? Do you warmly open your mansion to the company of others, or do you lock the doors tight and live like a hermit?

Achieving Your ‘Perfect Mansion’

Naturally, building your “perfect mansion” in this case is a metaphor for how you will build your perfect career. Your solid foundation is your passion for what you do, and your secure roof is the fresh approach you take that protects you from unpredictable changes in the economic “weather.” The size and landscaping of your lawn represents just how aggressive and widespread your goals are (“success” does not have to mean world domination!), and the phases of Fresh PASSION are solid building materials that ensure your mansion will not collapse under stress. Building a strong brand based on character and real value (rather than tailoring your brand to whatever is “hot” right now) is using classic architecture. And of course warmly opening your beautiful mansion to others represents sharing your success.


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?


How tight is your Bow?

Even the Best Gifts Need Proper Wrapping!

After developing the substance of your personal brand and landing it, you need to 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.

Looking at it another way, since we are in the holiday season, think of your personal brand as a gift. Because it is! You are offering your time, expertise and talent to serve the needs of the marketplace.

Now think of gifts you have received over the years. The first thing you always notice about a gift is how it’s wrapped. Does it come in a solid package covered in colorful paper with a fresh, original pattern and a shiny bow on top? Maybe a nice personalized card attached? Or is it stuffed into an old shoe box with a ripped-up edition of last week’s Sunday funnies halfheartedly thrown around it, held in place with fraying twine?

You have to package it right if your want top dollar

While this example has been exaggerated for effect (especially the second part), honestly, how many times have you received a gift and had your heart sink before you unwrapped it because of the dull, generic packaging? That’s the main reason we also want to pay less for generic products on the shelf – the packaging is uniformly dull. When we see a package that shouts “Energy, Invigoration, Crispy, Clean, Colorful, Beautiful, Sophisticated, Expensive,” we get excited when it comes as a gift, and we are willing to pay more when it comes as a product for sale.

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, and what kind of 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 you talk, the way you dress, the content and appearance of your resume/cover letter, and your award winning interview.

Authenticity above all else

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 then walk away. 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. Here are a few simple things you can do to help nail your brand today, tomorrow and far into the future.

Yes, you can tighten your bow in 6.5 minutes

In the next 6.5 minutes, check an RSS feed which offers up-to-the-minute news and information about your area of branded expertise (or sign up for some!). In the next 6.5 hours, read a newspaper or listen to/watch a radio or TV news broadcast, so you understand how current events may affect the way your brand needs to be packaged.

Even tighter in 6.5 days

In the next 6.5 days, place small notes to yourself reminding you of your personal and professional goals and aspirations in conspicuous places around your home, office and car so that they are always top of mind. In the next 6.5 weeks, create a “30-second Super Bowl commercial,” a 30-second pitch that powerfully sums up your branding message, like the multi-million dollar commercials which air during the Super Bowl telecast every year.

The amazing will happen in 6.5 months

And in the next 6.5 months, step “outside the zone” and do something good for yourself or a friend, relative or colleague. Doing good generates good karma, plus if you constantly focus on your brand you run the risk of “overthinking it” and turning your package into something overly contrived and forced.

If you still doubt the importance of nailing your brand, consider a huge branding gaffe made by one of the greatest marketing organizations of all time, Coca-Cola. In 1985, Coca-Cola, one of the world’s most recognized and successful brands, changed the formula of its signature beverage to meet what the company thought was growing consumer preference for a sweeter cola. Coke drinkers everywhere were outraged by this inferior product called “New Coke,” sales sharply declined, and three months later Coca-Cola reintroduced the original formula. Coke regained its dominant position in the global cola market that it holds to this day.

Only the Toughest Brands Thrive in the Toughest Times

According to the pundits, the recession is officially over. As I look at my own situation and the situation of every single person I know, I can only think of two possible explanations for this pronouncement. One, the pundits live in a secret part of America none of the rest of us knows anything about. Two, the pundits are full of hot air.

Either way, the odds are pretty high that “end” of the recession notwithstanding, you are still not in an optimal place as far as your career, brand and life are concerned. When the economy gets as bad as it has been for the past year or so, everybody and everything suffers.

And I hate to be the bearer of more bad news, but the most recent unemployment figures show that 10.2% of Americans are unemployed. This is the highest rate in more than 25 years. Keep in mind that official unemployment figures only count people who have actively looked for work in the past four weeks, and also do not take into account people who are forced to settle for temporary, part-time, or underpaying jobs just to make ends meet.

What does this mean for you? It means that unless you have the secret password to enter the magical realm of the pundits where there is no more recession, you must double your branding efforts. Not to double your results, but to keep them from completely disappearing.

Demand for the vast majority of products and services is down. No matter what line of work you are in, and whether you work for yourself or someone else, most likely there is less need for what you have to offer and more competition to provide it. Being good is simply not enough to achieve success in times like these. You must be exceptional, and not be shy about proving it through your actions and words.

Now more than ever, you brand must be a well-oiled, highly functioning machine. When you are given a job to do, finish it early and provide more value than you are paid for or is expected. When you meet a potential client, customer, contact or job lead, have a 30-second “elevator pitch” explaining why you can provide them unparalleled value ready to deliver. Get off the couch, TiVo that favorite show of yours, and get out to a class, networking event, or other activity that can help you build your brand.

Some people look at times like the ones we are currently enduring, shrug their shoulders, and figure there’s no point in making extra effort since there is so little obvious reward for doing so. Trust me; these people don’t experience maximum personal and professional success when times are good, either. So roll up your sleeves and start doubling your branding efforts today. There are no direct flights to “Pundit-Land” that I’m aware of!


What extra steps are you taking to promote your brand in these tough times? Take a minute and share them!

How Flexible is Your Brand?

Adaptability is Key to Surviving and Thriving When Times Are Tough

Some people pride themselves on having always provided the same services and/or products the same way, at the same price, for years on end. They think this inflexibility in how they serve their customers, bosses and clients is a sign of brand strength, proof that they can provide something constant in a chaotic and ever-changing world.

Hooey. The people you provide products and services to, the connoisseurs of your brand, if you will, are not looking for a constant. They’re looking for the best deal or best advantage they can get today. What works best today may not be what worked best yesterday and probably won’t be what works best tomorrow. In this difficult environment when nobody wants to spend a penny they don’t have to, the only unchanging constant associated with your brand should be that you provide a top quality brand experience. Everything else should be open for negotiation.

Let me give you an example from my own brand-building experience to illustrate exactly what I mean. When I first left my career as a top executive at a Fortune 5 company to become a full-time motivational speaker, career coach and business author, I was surprised by the need to quickly and effectively change my operating model in a seamless manner.

I mean the whole enchilda: marketing, branding, client support and customer services. I no longer had the resources of a global organization to fall back upon; I had me: Michael D. Brown. If Michael D. Brown did not complete a task, no matter how small or menial, there were no support staffers to complete it for me.

On top of this drastic change in resources and responsibilities, the economy decided to start tanking right around the time I made my career switch. As the economy proves it can change drastically without warning, you need to have robust contingency plans in place that allow you to quickly reduce your operating cost while increasing the level of service and value you provide to your customers.

When the economy struggles, consumers start to look for low-cost, quality solutions and will pay little attention to a business that isn’t adjusting their pricing without sacrificing quality. This meant I had to be willing to accept less for doing the same or even more work. After all, collecting 50% of my previous fee is a lot better than collecting 0%!

By being flexible, by being willing to alter every aspect of my brand proposition except for the top-level products and services I provide, I have been able to survive and yes, even thrive as I grow my young business during one of the worst recessions in living memory. I may not be making quite as much as I would have had I stayed in my executive position, but the freedom of being my own boss and satisfaction of helping others to earn my living more than make up for any lost pay. At the end of the day, flexibility can help you obtain the most valuable brand asset of all: peace of mind.

Have you found yourself taking a more flexible approach to building your brand, either by choice or necessity, during this recession? Let me know your story!


A Strong Brand Can Withstand Any Storm

A colleague of mine who lives in New England was recently complaining about some of the crazy weather they’ve been having his way. If you’re familiar with New England weather, you know it is highly unpredictable, and never more so than in the spring. During one week in April, a 90 degree day was followed by a frost warning!

I like to chide my colleague that as a hardy New Englander, he should be ready and able to absorb whatever curve the weather throws his way. Your brand is no different. The “weather” your brand has to deal with these days is turbulent to say the least – economic recession, job losses, company bankruptcies and closures, the collapse of the housing market. Springtime in New England doesn’t sound so bad compared to what is going on in the professional world these days!

But just like a good New England home is fully weatherproofed, your brand should be weatherproofed, too. If unemployment is high, your brand should offer unique professional skills that make you a desirable hire regardless of the wider employment situation. If your company is laying off employees, your brand should let your bosses know you’re too valuable to let go no matter who else is being shown the door. If you are a self-employed contractor or business-owner hunting for clients or customers, your brand reputation should be all the advertising you need.

Take a long, honest look at how hardy your brand is in the face of inclement weather. Is it fully insulated and watersealed, prepared to withstand the most catastrophic of events? Or is it bareboned and leaky, ready to collapse at the first shift in barometric pressure? New Englanders like to say if you don’t like the weather, just wait 15 minutes. The same rule holds true in business. Whatever weather your brand is braving today, the weather tomorrow will be at least slightly different. Make sure your basement doesn’t flood!


Why Not Give Birth to a Great Brand?

Spring is traditionally associated with birth. Of course babies are born all year long, but as the snow melts and the grass turns green and flowers bloom, understandably people’s minds turn to birth and new beginnings. Traditional spring events such as weddings and graduations could also be considered “births” of a sort, as new families, lives and careers come into existence.

Okay, enough schmaltz. All kidding aside, I do mention spring as a season of birth for a specific reason – spring is the perfect time to give birth (or rebirth) to a happy, bouncy, healthy new brand! Even when the economy is good, winter is a tough time to launch a brand. Hiring is slow, bad weather and the financial impact of holiday shopping has potential clients and customers hunkered down, and many people take vacations to warmer, sunnier climes. A new or rejuvenated brand may get obscured by the dull, gray background.

But as the days grow longer and people’s spirits lighten, the environment becomes much more receptive to the launch of a new brand. Typically, hiring improves in the spring as companies firm up their plans for the coming year and general business activity picks up. Unfortunately, 2009 is not a “typical” year. Unemployment is expected to continue climbing for the next several months, even as some experts are predicting the worst of the recession is over and we should start to see gradual improvement by the second half of the year.

Rather than let continuing economic woes pressure you into postponing the birth of your new brand, use them as an incentive to get that new brand out of gestation and into the world. Use this slow period as an opportunity to nurture your new brand beyond the infant and toddler stages so that by the time things do really start picking up, your bouncing bundle of joy is now a strapping young adult, ready to strike out and define itself. Everyone else who waited till the recession ended (or at least bottomed out) to give births to their new brands will be competing against you with “baby brands” – cute and fun, but not capable of doing much and a lot of work to maintain and nourish. If you ever have been or known a new parent, you are aware of how draining caring for a baby can be!

So give birth to your new brand, sooner rather than later. Even if your existing brand is well-defined and mature, it would hardly hurt to add some youthful flourish and energy to what you have. With a little TLC, you will be able to proudly watch that baby grow and take credit for its accomplishments – just like a real parent, without the crying and talking back!


There is always room for a Good BRAND!

As hard as it to believe, this year’s crop of college seniors will soon be matriculating and hitting the workforce. Usually, graduation is a time of happiness and excitement, but for many grads in the class of ’09, that joy may be tempered with a little nervousness. For the first time in several years, the workforce is hitting back!

According to a new study conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), employers expect to hire 22 percent fewer new grads from the college Class of 2009 than they actually hired from the Class of 2008. More than two-thirds of employers said the economic situation forced them to reevaluate their college hiring plans, and nearly all of those said they have decreased their planned number of hires. NACE figures indicate 2009 will be the worst job market for new college grads since 2002.

If you were a “branded” college student vs. a “generic” college student you would have likely done the following: You were a campus leader both in and out of the classroom. You excelled academically, held leading roles in clubs and organizations, and actively sought out internships and co-ops with prospective future employers. Through all these activities, you built a network of peers, professors, co-workers and bosses who can all vouch for the effectiveness your personal brand. Guess what – now is when all the hard work pays off!

As someone who built a brand in college, you have already identified your ambition and built the foundations of both a personal brand and a network of friends and colleagues that will help you reach that ambition. Your quest and journey to be a branded student vs. a generic student has served you well the last few years on campus, why abandon it now as you enter the “real world,” when it can help you the most?

Tap into your network to discover the most rewarding job leads, the ones that usually never make the newspaper or the Internet. See if someone you impressed at an internship can help you find a great first job, either with that company or somewhere else.

And if you didn’t become a clear and compelling brand during your college years, – it’s never too late to start! Former classmates, professors, employers and coworkers can still prove a valuable resource in helping you find meaningful work and obtain (or perhaps discover) your ambition. Volunteer for a worthy cause and show how much you’re truly capable of doing. Join a professional organization in a field that interests you and make new contacts.

Whatever you do, don’t sit around moaning about your misfortune to be graduating college this year. That type of behavior is for generic graduates, and branded graduates are winners and not whiners!

Michael is the creator of a very popular process called Fresh Passion- Get a Brand or Die a Generic®. This process is credited with helping to prevent thousands of students from graduating into poverty.


When even the gaming industry feels a pinch, you know a recession is serious. And that’s what appears to be happening now, as recent news reports indicate casinos around the country have been experiencing significant revenue declines since the economy broke down last fall. Mohegan Sun, a major casino in Connecticut, is even considering cutting back the schedules of full-time employees to four days a week! Consumers who often turn to gambling as an escape mechanism during recessions are too busy saving their money for necessary purchases that offer real value to risk any money on games of chance.

What does this have to do with your career, assuming you don’t work in the casino industry? Everything! In this historically difficult environment, employers are just as cautious as consumers when it comes to parting with their hard-earned dollars. Businesses that may be willing to take a chance hiring a flashy employee with a less-than-stellar resume during good times are now only interested in the most qualified and capable candidates.

What type of professional candidate are you? Do you possess the most current and desirable skills in your field? Do you have impeccable educational professionals? Do you have a well-established network of distinguished professionals and academics ready to vouch for the value you can provide? Does your personal brand already speak for you even before you sit down for an interview?

If you can truly answer “Yes” to all these questions, congratulations! You have already been following the 6.5 steps of Fresh PASSION and are well-equipped to ride out the current recession. But if the answer to any of these questions is “No,” it’s time to put a little Fresh PASSION into your career! My 6.5-step process will enable you to turn yourself into a highly competitive and desirable brand that will stand out in even the worst of economic times. There’s nothing wrong with offering some sizzle, but make sure that sizzle is rising from a thick, juicy steak and not a thin, greasy hamburger!


billion bailout. In exchange for the loan, we the taxpayers would get an ownership stake in the automakers. Sounds simple, and it’s almost a no-brainer considering the havoc that will be wreaked on the economy if the big three went under.

As each day passes, the lame-duck congress is becoming more sharply divided on whether to give or not to give a $25 billion loan.

With thousands of people losing their jobs every week and retail sales hitting an all time decline, this could be the nail in the coffin if these three automakers have to shut their doors and lay people off.

This will not only affect the people who work at the big three, but the companies that depend on the spending that is derived from these employees.

Do you think the government should bailout the three automakers?