An in-depth case study about SCHMOOZY FOX, a strategic brand and marketing consultancy based in Brussels, Belgium, is featured in a chapter of “Brand Mascots and Other Marketing Animals,” a new marketing book published on June 24, 2014 by Routledge, a global publisher of quality academic books, journals and online reference. You can view the press release here.
Tufts Magazine, the alumni publication of my US Alma Mater, Tufts University, has recently published my article Your Personal Brand: Succeed by Marketing the Real You. In this article, I talk about using principles of product branding and marketing to build people’s personal brands.
Surely, products don’t have the kinds of intrinsic qualities that people do, but sometimes, the kind of thinking we, brand and marketing professionals, use to create and promote product (and services) brands, can come in handy in relation to people’s personal brands.
The print version of Tufts Magazine is published 4 times a year, and reaches 93 000 Tufts alumni worldwide. Amongst the Tufts famous alumni in business are Pierre Omidyar (founder of Ebay), Seth Godin (founder of Squidoo and author of several bestsellers about marketing), Peter Roth (CEO of Warner Brothers Television) and many others.
Today, the Belgian business magazines Trends Tendances (in French) and Trends (in Dutch) published a story about SCHMOOZY FOX's Funky Brands™ philosophy. In this story, I define Funky Brands as remarkable products which stand out from the crowd due to their astonishing design and smart brand strategy. I talk about not-too-funky companies which compete solely on cost, discuss what kinds of products have the potential of becoming funky, and mention examples of existing Funky Brands – Ice Watch, Theo, Vespa, NewTree and Mini. Below you can see an article in French which was written by editor of Trends Tendances, Camille van Vyve. The photo in the article is by Michael Chia, a Brussels-based photographer whom I interviewed before.
Financial Times's journalist Barney Jopson sought the expert opinion of Olga Slavkina for his article about the so called "diffusion brands". The original article, called Second-tier brands tap into straitened times, can be accessed by Financial Times subscribers here.
Business2Community, a major web portal providing top content about marketing and business strategy to business owners and managers, began to publish articles written by Olga Slavkina. All of Olga's contributions to Business2Community can be accessed here.
The Jump Blog, a multilingual web portal for advancing women in the wordplace, interviewed Olga Slavkina about her successes and setbacks on the path of building Schmoozy Fox. The original interview can be accessed here.
Successes and setbacks encountered along the way:
As founder and managing partner of SCHMOOZY FOX, a Brussels-based strategic brand and marketing consultancy, I work with companies to help them build Funky Brands™ — high-quality products and services that are edgy, fun to experience, and bring positive functional and emotional benefits to those who use them. To put it simply, my job is to make companies famous by creating strong brands.
After doing an MBA at a top-ranked IE Business School in Madrid, most of my friends went to work for big consulting firms, or investment banks. I took a different path, decided to follow my passion for branding, and started my own consulting business. Taking a secure job at a big company would have probably set me on an easier path — and indeed with my MBA it would have been very attractive financially. But I decided to jump into the unknown, and take the challenge.
One of the biggest challenges was to win the first client –SCHMOOZY FOX™ was totally new, and I had to be very good at communicating my value proposition. I had already been writing a blog about Funky Brands™ for some time (my blog is www.schmoozyfox.com/blog), and in combination with my academic and professional credentials, it helped me win the first project. Even now it is still a challenge to win new projects — SCHMOOZY FOX is still a very new name in brand consulting, and it’s taking a lot of effort and creativity to get it off the ground.
Which is your biggest achievement?
My biggest achievement is that I’ve remained true to who I am — a smart and professional, but also a very fun and warm person. I’ve always believed that professional life could be combined with a lot of fun.
This was not always easy to implement, and I did end up at rather hierarchical organisations at the beginning of my career, where I felt that my energy and creativity were simply under-used. I didn’t want to be a follower, but a path creator, and high academic achievements certainly helped me establish my high credentials. I was granted a prestigious Fulbright scholarship to study in the USA, and later on did an MBA at one of the top European business schools. I worked really hard to receive top education and build my own personal brand. Now I feel that it’s easy to combine these credentials with the fun aspect of my work. For instance, I can now select interesting projects to work on, and this is certainly a big achievement!
Where does your energy come from?
Running my own business and, together with my partner Sean, raising two young children requires an immense amount of energy. I can think of three main sources of my energy: enjoying nature, dancing and meeting people.
How can you explain your success?
I was born in Latvia, in mid-70s — it was part of the USSR back then. When I was growing up, there were only a couple of possible career tracks I could consider. A girl who brought good grades from school, could become a teacher, or a doctor. These were respectable careers, and dreaming outside of this framework would not lead anywhere. It was a different world.
Then it all collapsed — the Soviet Union began coming to an end, and my father died when I was only 13. I remember the sense of emptiness, and a sudden loss of support. From then on, I had to be a fighter, and take responsibility for my own life. The urge to survive and succeed prompted me to finish high school with top grades. I got into the university, and when I was 19, I was awarded a Gorbachev-Bush scholarship for study in the US for one year. When I came back to Latvia, I firmly decided that I wanted to travel, explore different countries, and continue my studies in the US. Later on, I went back to Boston where I was a Fulbright student. And my last degree — an MBA — took me to Madrid.
My persistence, positivity and belief in myself took me to many countries, and helped me meet many wonderful people along the way. When I look back at my childhood years growing up in the Soviet Union, I myself can’t believe how much I’ve achieved!
What do you still have to accomplish?
My short-term goal is to continue working with innovative companies helping them build Funky Brands™. I am also an entrepreneur at heart, so I don’t exclude building a whole new Funky Brand of my own one day.
What is your message to other women?
Pay attention to your personal brand and nurture it in order to get where you want to be. This will only be successful if you know what you truly stand for, so invest your time and passion in this rewarding activity. And of course, believe in yourself!
Entrepreneur.com, an online resource providing advice to business owners, has reached out to Olga Slavkina for her expert advice on brand naming. In this article, Olga talks about the importance of considering demographics when it comes to choosing the right brand name.
The full article can be accessed here.
The Personal Branding Blog published Olga's article for all those people who have several academic degrees in different fields. We provide the full text of the article also here:
If you have a resume with a long Education section which lists several degrees in different academic fields, and you want to know how to place them in the context of your overall personal brand while you look for a job, then maybe this blog post is for you.
What if you, say, studied marine biology in college, went to graduate school to study art history, then finished it off with another Master’s degree in international relations? How can you present all of these to your potential employer as a coherent story?
AN EDUCATIONAL COLLAGE
“And so what?” you might ask. Several degrees, even in unrelated disciplines, signal that the job applicant in question is a highly educated person. Which employer wouldn’t like that?
But the truth is, unless your jobs have all been in pretty much the same field, your interviewer might simply be puzzled by all this variety. She might want to dig a bit deeper into the motivations that made you study all these different things.
CRAFT A COHERENT STORY
So, help your interviewer understand your personal brand by presenting a coherent story about all of your hard-earned degrees. After all, the last thing you want to do is let others underestimate the vast knowledge you acquired while studying.
- To begin with, if you have studied different things, chances are that you have a broad range of interests and value a multidisciplinary approach to solving problems. Seek job opportunities within organizations that thrive on diversity and value job candidates with multidisciplinary backgrounds. Presenting your multifaceted academic credentials to such organizations will earn you some points!
- Don’t apologize for the different directions you took throughout your academic career! Perhaps there was one underlying reason that unites them all? Maybe it’s your personal value, or passion – think what it is, and communicate it!
- Sometimes you won’t necessarily be asked about all your degrees, whereas it might be beneficial to bring one of them to the employer’s attention.
For instance, I studied English in college, then did an MA in international relations, and later on got an MBA. I consult companies on how to build funky brands and attract customers, so my MBA is the degree that is noticed and appreciated most in this context.
However, my International Relations degree presents a very important piece of information that I often choose to highlight. I refer to it to communicate that I am very comfortable in multicultural environments. It also complements the fact that I speak several European languages. All of this can become very relevant in developing clients’ businesses across several geographical markets!
Finally, this diploma also pinpoints a very strong international aspect of my personal brand, the fact that I’ve lived and studied in very many countries, and that I truly enjoy an international lifestyle.
PASSIONS AND DESIRES
- Importantly, put your degrees in the context of your passions, and things you want to achieve. After all, all of your diplomas should be drivers of your future success, and not the “boxes” your personal brand should be restricted to!