mark zuckerberg

The power of personal branding

Build your personal brand and show it off on the red carpet! Image by Fascinating Girl on Flickr In my blog post The Zuckerberg Brand I talked about the recent positive buzz that has surrounded Mark Zuckerberg, and how it has boosted the brand of the company he had founded, Facebook.

Paraphrasing myself, Facebook is known pretty much by everyone on planet Earth. Facebook’s business model relies on people to trust it with their data. If they trust the CEO, they are much more likely to trust the platform.

The blog post about Zuckerberg resulted in some friends’ comments posted directly on my Facebook profile.  To summarize, there was general hesitation towards powerful CEO brands. One of my Facebook friends argued that the "CEO star syndrome would eventually hurt the company in question".

Sure, there are, of course, certain risks involved when you embark upon a thrilling mission of building your personal brand. This is especially true when you are an entrepreneur. You might doubt if it's the right strategy to be known for being yourself first, and only then for being a company founder and CEO. All kinds of concerns might be running through your head...

What happens if I build a lot of personal brand equity and then decide to leave my company? What if this will leave customers dissatisfied? And what if the business loses its appeal and its brand image changes and becomes worse?

There may be many what if's one could come up with. And here's my advice to you: dump the what if’s. Build your personal brand, and invest in it as much as you can.  The Funky Brands philosophy applies also to your personal brand: it's better to stand out from the crowd than be like everyone else.

Image source: http://blog.careergoddess.com

And hey, if you are a cool and famous person, it’s just so much better than the opposite, right? It will also help your business, too.

A couple of Funky Personal Brands of successful entrepreneurs that come to mind are Oprah Winfrey and Gary Vaynerchuk.

Oprah herself (www.twitter.com/oprah) has almost 5 million followers on Twitter! Her businesses, such as Oprah magazine and Oprah radio, have significantly fewer followers. However, Oprah might also tweet about her businesses from her personal account, so the cross-promotional opportunities between herself and her businesses are enormous.

Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee on Twitter) is a personal branding phenomenon. Gary grew his dad’s liquor store in New Jersey into a multi-million dollar online wine retailer by understanding the essence of social media. I think his secret is dedicated engagement with his customers and fans throughout social media channels, and an edgy personality that he’s not afraid to broadcast on the web.

He’s genuine, and it shows. He might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but his honest and direct style is impossible to copy. It’s key to his funky personal brand. Read Gary's tips on building your personal brand here.

So, dear entrepreneurs, understand who you are and what drives you. Get into your full personal power. But don’t set the goal of being liked by everybody -- this is not going to happen.

Simply be yourself, and express your passions. And then think of the best ways to get your personal brand known to others.  You’ll have fun, and meet like-minded individuals.

And you know what? Your business brand may get an incredible boost from your funky self-expression. Have fun!

Golden Globes strengthens Facebook's brand

Just a couple of days ago I blogged about Mark Zuckerberg, and showed how a serious of recent events (with the release of The Social Network movie among them) have positively contributed to his personal brand. And here you go, The Social Network movie was one of the big winners during last Sunday's Golden Globe awards.  As Mashable writes, "Mark Zuckerberg might take issue with how the film portrayed the early years of FacebookFacebook, but in truth, the film and its critical and commercial success has only reinforced Facebook’s place in the cultural zeitgeist."

Brands are not build overnight. It takes time for them to evolve. A series of recent events, such as the release of The Social Network movie, and others (read my previous blog post to get a scoop) have boosted both the personal brand of Mark Zuckerberg and that of Facebook. What would Zuckerberg need to do next in order to tap into all this good publicity and continue building his brand?

The Zuckerberg brand

zuckerbergDo entrepreneurs have to manage their personal brands separately from the brands of products they launch? This is the debate that I've seen happening recently, and answers to this question differ in each individual case. What does seem clear is that whether they want it or not, CEOs of big companies have their personal brands under scrutiny 24/7, and they should take this fact seriously.

A concrete example I want to talk about today is Mark Zuckerberg's personal brand.

Facebook is known pretty much by everyone on planet Earth. Facebook's business model relies on people to trust it with their data. And now, here's something important to remember: if they trust the CEO, they're much more likely to trust the platform.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's founder, has been enjoying a lot of media attention lately, most of which has boosted his personal brand tremendously. At the end of 2010, Time Magazine named him Person of the Year.

This is a positive development for Zuckerberg, especially since some predicted a painful PR disaster for him after release of The Social Network movie.

In reality, the movie has had a completely opposite effect on Zuckerberg’s personal brand. Instead of being positioned as a thief of business ideas and a sexist jerk, Zuckerberg has come out as a talented entrepreneur and a young prodigy.

This personal brand positioning is extremely valuable for someone who runs such a sizable company as Facebook. Moreover, as Lesley Stahl has pointed out in her recent interview with Zuckerberg, half a billion people who give their information to Facebook, do feel that they have a right to know more about him.

The 60 Minutes interview on CBS did exactly this: it allowed Zuckerberg to communicate who he, Mark, not just Facebook’s founder and CEO, really is. And he did it in a way that benefitted the Facebook brand, too.

Here is a recap of what has helped Zuckerberg’s personal brand positioning as a successful young entrepreneur:

1) The Social Network movie

As mentioned above, the movie has had a positive effect both for Facebook as a company, and for Mark Zuckerberg personally. By the time the movie was released, it had a hugely responsive audience at its disposal -- the audience that was already brand aware. Speaking in branding terms, all those Facebook users who went to see the movie became brand loyal even more.

2) Friendliness to the press

If you haven’t yet watched the CBS 60 minutes videos, you should, as they can give a good lesson on how to handle journalists’ questions. Mark Zuckerberg was relaxed, joked about the movie (“they got the T-shirts and sandals right!”) and managed to avoid answering difficult questions (“How could you rate yourself as a CEO?” asks Leslie Stahl, to which Zuckerbergh responds, “You can never win by answering this question” and then proceeds to giving an example of how he decided not to sell Facebook to Yahoo for 1 billion dollars).

3) Philantrophy

Zuckerberg has joined the Giving Pledge set up by billionaires Warren Buffett and Bill Gates and has agreed to give away half of his wealth to good causes.

These days, it’s not Nokia that’s connecting people, it’s Facebook. Somehow, 500 million active users can’t be wrong -- Facebook has become an important part in our daily lives. And trusting it with our personal information gets a bit easier if we trust the guy who's created the platform.

How Funky Brands can be creative: 7 insights from the Creativity Forum in Antwerp

A cake by Taarten Van Abel, a creative company mentioned during the conference. I thought it would be a good symbol for female creativity

A cake by Taarten Van Abel

On Thursday, I attended an event dedicated to creativity. The conference took place in Antwerp and was organized by an organization called Flanders District of Creativity. This year, Flanders DC gave the stage to creative and inspirational women.

Creativity fuels Funky Brands — innovative, edgy, contemporary products and services that stand out from the crowd. Funky Brands are worth experiencing over and over again, and importantly, bring positive functional and emotional benefits to those who use them.

For examples of Funky Brands, visit the Funky Brand Interviews section.

Here is my summary of 7 insights from the event that can be applied to Funky Brands:

Image by pumpkincat210 on Flickr

1) MAKE SURE TO INCLUDE CREATIVE, PASSIONATE AND KNOWLEDGEABLE WOMEN IN YOUR BUSINESS TEAM

Women’s signature style of doing business can be referred to as lifestyle entrepreneurship. This means that often, women’s main motivation behind starting a business is not just cash, but first and foremost, creating value for their customers.

If you are a team of men, invite at least one talented woman who will surely bring a different perspective to your business.

2) BE AUTHENTIC IN YOUR BRAND PROMOTIONS

Randi Zuckerberg, who’s in charge of the Creative Marketing department of Facebook, gave examples of authentic ways in which Facebook has communicated with its members.

In a short case study, Randi demonstrated a difference in reaction from Facebook fans to two photos of celebrity Eva Longoria. One photo of Eva was pure glam, whereas in another shot she looked more like someone you’d meet on the street rather than red carpet. Interestingly, the simple photo raised a massive wave of “likes” on Facebook. This taught Facebook itself to use friendly, amateur-like images of its employees in the company’s communications campaigns.

Don’t exclude glamorous and stylish visual expressions of your brand, but it’s worth exploring more authentic ways of connecting to real people, at least once in a while.

Here’s an image that captures the main points of Randi’s presentation:

Image courtesy of Visual Harvesting

Image courtesy of Visual Harvesting

3) IF YOU WANT ENGAGED CUSTOMERS, MAKE THEM PLAY A GAME WITH YOUR BRAND

Jane McGonigal, a game designer from the Institute for the Future, spoke about solving world problems by encouraging people to play more games. Jane defined games as “unnecessary obstacles that we volunteer to overcome.

If we take the example of golf, what’s the fascination behind trying to hit the ball with a stick and make it fall into the hole, instead of just picking it up by hand and placing it there? But even if the final purpose is to make that ball fall into the hole, nobody would ever be interested in having no obstacle to overcome, and no thrill to experience.

Image by Levy Fulop on Flickr

Image by Levy Fulop on Flickr

The truth is, people like the excitementenergy and thrill of playing a game. In similar terms, nobody wants a dull and unmemorable experience of learning about your product, buying it in an unexciting environment, and experiencing its dull features.

Engage your customers in a thrilling game, and enhance the funky brand experience!

4) DEFINE YOUR BRAND NOT IN LINE WITH PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY, BUT WITH WHAT YOUR CUSTOMERS REALLY WANT

Diane Nijs, a professor of imagineering1 , gave an example of the Dutch bakery Taarten Van Abel.

The bakery owner built a funky brand by redefining his product from simply a cake, to the expression of festive spirit. As Diane pointed out, people rarely buy cakes to eat them. They buy them as symbols of celebrationfeast, and enjoyment. Taarten Van Abel has grasped this and began to create cakes that are works of art. The brand of Taarten Van Abel has become so well-received by people that the company has decided to launch a TV channel for kids, in which its symbolic cakes have given ground to stories and fairy tales.

5) UNLOCK THE MEMETIC POTENTIAL OF YOUR IDEA

Memetics is a theory of mental content based on an analogy with Darwinian evolution, which was originated by Richard Dawkins in the 1976 book The Selfish Gene.   Meme is a unit of human cultural transmission analogous to the gene, and psychologist Susan Blackmore talked about ways of how this sort of replication happens in culture.

Memetics would be worth checking especially for those who are fans of viral marketing. Why do some ideas fly and replicate themselves, and others just sit on the shelf unnoticed? Maybe memetics is a field that you should look into in order to understand why some brands just fly and become funky, and others never get noticed.

6) IN ORDER TO STAY CREATIVE, BE WHO YOU REALLY ARE

According to Baroness Susan Greenfield, a UK neuroscientist, the essence of creativity is daring to be who you are, your individuality.

eccentric dude

Some of you might know that it’s not always easy to stand out from the crowd and be different. Sometimes, the simplest thing to do is to conform and have an easy life. That’s why there are so many dull and unexciting brands out there!

But sticking to who you really are, daring to be, can also come across as magnetically charismatic if you manage to find creative ways of getting your value across. Your Funky Brand might not be liked by everyone, but those who’ll notice you, might fall in love, and isn’t it a huge reward?

7) BRING STRUCTURE TO CREATIVE PROCESS

Christie Hefner, Playboy’s former CEO, talked about structured creativity. Creativity is often associated with wild out-of-the box thinking, and structure is probably the last word that comes to mind in this respect. And yet a rigorous approach to the creative process is always beneficial to building a successful brand.

This is a very valid point in relation to Funky Brands.

When you build a Funky Brand, combine teams of creative people with experts in brand strategy. This can be especially powerful when you want to build a strong brand through online channels. A lot of brands nowadays want to splash out all the creativity they have, and expose it through social media, without having a rigorous brand strategy in place. Don’t fall into the trap of unstructured creativity, be funky and be smart!

Image by wilgengebroed on Flickr

Image by wilgengebroed on Flickr

Creativity forum in Flanders -- celebrating the female power

Funky Brands are fueled by c r e a t i v i t y. After all, it takes a great deal of imagination and thinking out of the box if you want to get noticed, stand out from the crowd and create a truly Funky Brand.

Creativity is the reason why I plan to attend the Flanders Creativity Forum on October 21st in Antwerp. Organized by the Flanders District of Creativity, an organization that promotes creativity in entrepreneurship, this year, this annual event will be dedicated to women, and their ways of being creative.

Flanders Creativity ForumSome of the speakers who'll present at the Forum will be Randi Zuckerberg (who happens to be the sister of Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook), Cristie Hefner, the former CEO of Playboy and daughter of Hugh Hefner, and Jane McGonigal, a game designer and Director of Game Research and Development at the Institute for the Future (I love the name!) in California.

This year, the event is called Creative Minds Leaving an Impact. It's inspired by "cleverness, intuition, originality and other female qualities".

I am looking forward to getting inspired, and doing some  funky schmoozing with talented people.  After the event, I plan to blog about "lessons learned", applied to Funky Brands.