I’ve been writing a blog called Branded on and off for over a year now. Recently I decided to put each post under a microscope. I had two things I wanted to look at. The first, and probably less important, was the quality of the writing. The second and more important factor was the content. Good writing needs a purpose. Were my posts fulfilling the purpose behind this blog? Or were they just filler space because if you have a blog you might as well write in it?

You may have noticed this is the first post in Branded. Maybe I’ll re-write and re-post some of my older material later, but for now, none made the cut when measured against the criteria of content.

I love the name of this blog. Branded. It’s simple, easy to remember, and leaves the field way open for me to decide where I want to go with it. Which may be the biggest problem. What is Branded all about?

Is it about the changing landscape of brands and how individual brands are suceeding or failing?

Is it about me and my personal brand?

Maybe it should be about the struggles to succeed in this economy, and how young-twenties are going about building their brands.

Or maybe it should be about none of those things. I remember about mid-year at Syracuse reading an Adage article about building the personal brand. I wish I had written down the name of the article or the author so I could source it here, but suffice to say this is not originally my idea. This came from Adage, but stuck with me for a long time. The gist was this; people should not be building their personal brands. People are not meant to be brands. Brands should be trying to be more like people.

It makes a lot of sense. Maybe thirty years ago building a brand was the way to go about surviving. What are the three things that make me worth hiring? I work hard, learn fast, and always take personal responsibility for my actions. Thirty years ago I would have taken those three attributes written an Statment of Purpose (11 grade English thesis style), and slapped it on every cover letter and resume I sent. Thirty years ago, that’s what companies wanted. They wanted a worker drone who was going to come in and do the work well. If you had no personality, that was fine. It meant you wouldn’t be distracted by the clowns around you.

That’s not what companies want anymore. In almost every industry, at almost every level, and especially with the smaller businesses, companies want the whole package. Take Zimmerman, for example. At surface level you would think Zimmerman should want the worker drone of 30 years ago. Our company tag line is “24/7. Seriously.”

Walk down the halls of Zimmerman and you’re confronted with our “inspirational posters.” Phrases like, “We put our clients before our company. Even before ourselves.” and “Impossible is no excuse.” And Zimmerman means it. All you have to do is take a look at Glassdoor and see what ex-employees have written to know, Zimmerman is a 24/7 job. This should be exactly the type of place that abhors a rounded personality. If you have a spouse and kid it’s a lot less likely you’ll be working 24/7, after all.

The truth is, though, even Zimmerman wants people that fit into the culture. We have a department called zMotion, which organizes the bike race team. zMotion races together to raise money for cancer. Zimmerman puts a lot of work into recruiting for  zMotion. They’ll buy employees bikes, put together training events and weekly rides. Most of the EVPs ride. Zimmerman also does health and awareness events a few times a year and blood drives among other team building activities.

Like every other company out there, Zimmerman wants employees that will participate and fit in. Yes, they want the employee that will work a 70-hr week without complaint. But they also want to employee that has a healthy social life outside of work. They want the employee that is cheerful and graceful under pressure. Like every other businesses they actively look for employees that will meld into the company culture. They have to. If a zAdv employee don’t fit well into the teams and departments, it quickly turns into a disaster. At a 24/7 company you have to like who you’re working with or else you’ll go up in flames faster than a marshmallow in a campfire. Don’t believe me? Well, once again, go check Glassdoor!

Brands don’t have the luxuries of being well-rounded that people do. A brand gets one shot at building it’s name. After that, it’s pretty much done. Consumers hate change. Coca-cola’s white can debacle is enough to prove that. Coke is a brand with enourmous clout and power, but even it is confined by the statement of purpose it wrote decades ago.

People are more than that. Every day we get a chance to change who we are. People can evaluate the ups and downs, keep what we like and discard what we don’t. People are multi-dimensional in a way brands will never be.

So maybe that is what Branded is all about. Defining what the personal brand should be, and how it is different in every way from the product brand. Or maybe not. Like I said, I still haven’t figured it all out. But once I do, I”ll let you know.



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