June, 2011

The word Brand has its origin in an Old Norse word ‘Brandr’ meaning ‘to burn’. And the meaning sure rang true on the night of June 15 when our beloved Vancouver Canucks lost to the Boston Bruins in Game 7! In the nightmare that followed, cars were burned, property damaged and looted! Hundreds of personal brands were destroyed and reputations tarnished, it was a night many would like to forget. But forgetting doesn’t come easy, not in this age of networked journalism!

Caught on camera = irreparable damage! Nothing else testifies more to this fact than the faces in the riots following Game 7. Hundreds of handheld devices caught live footage and broadcasted the Vancouver riots to a worldwide audience. Conversations erupted on Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and Youtube with enthusiasts working hard to organize this mayhem. It was disheartening to watch groups of people destroy beautiful Vancouver and pose in front of burning cars and shattered windows.

Photo by Mike Carlson, Reuters

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then video is priceless! The Images, videos and conversations of that fateful night will live on the web forever. And so will the faces that were caught on camera! Facial recognition technology is not new, the only reason why giants like Google and Facebook hesitate to make it available across the board is the fear of a social privacy backlash. But for how long?

History shows that despite the vulnerability of Personal Brands, they can survive turbulence! Easier said than done, the process requires a lot of courage and determination. Facing the music, owning up, accepting responsibility for actions and apology is just the beginning. Brands are built on emotions and admission of guilt and accepting consequences send out a strong message influencing perception and opinion. This is first and the most important step in resuscitating a personal brand.

When a Personal Brand gets caught in a storm of this magnitude, its strongest opponent is public opinion. It must do everything to openly convince the public that it regrets actions. The emphasis is on the word ‘do’, good work is essential in shifting public opinion.

A great example of a Personal Brand rebounding is that of domestic entertainment goddess, Martha Stewart. She served 5 months jail time in 2004 for her participation in a stock trading scandal. People wrote her off saying that her Personal Brand was beyond repair and that her company would go down. Martha proved them wrong and from the moment she stepped out of the prison wearing a crocheted poncho gifted to her by an inmate, she modelled success. She admitted her wrongdoing, paid the price and was hungry to prove her critics wrong. It took a lot of determination and ego management, but in the end she emerged the winner.

Personal Branding is about managing perceptions and our new age demands we exercise extreme care. With recording and sharing devices in every palm, we must take full responsibility for our actions. Or else pay the price!

Teg Brar

Gary Vaynerchuk of Vayner Media & Wine Library TV electrified a capacity crowd of marketers at The Art of Marketing Conference in Vancouver. His hour long dialogue was overflowing with every best practice of branding that one can think of. Gary Vaynerchuk packs a ‘bigger than life’ personal brand and practices every bit he preaches. He is every bit a model of brand authenticity! Care and engagement comes naturally to him, have a look at his interactive Twitter stream. He was energetic or for a better word pumped during his conversation and paused twice to say ‘bless you’ to someone who sneezed in the audience! Thoughtful, something that all brands must be!

Gary Vaynerchuk at The Art of Marketing Vancouver

Some pearls of wisdom from his presentation…

-Listen. One place is http://search.twitter.com/
-The internet is maturing fast. Ex. Your refrigerator will automatically order an item for you based on your preference, when you run out. Similar to Pandora!
-The customer acquisition has been mapped, context is the battle! How can you retain your customers?
-Communications and relationships are key! Gary wore a Canucks jersey to build a relationship with the Vancouver audience!
-Billboards are out! People are not even looking at the road let alone the billboards.
-Traditional media is not broken but overpriced! So true!
-Marketers ruin everything. Click through rates have fallen to about 0.2%
-Give your customers what really matters to them.
Wayne Gretzky quote – Skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been
-Ideas are nothing. Execution is everything.
-Tell people what you think. Middle sucks!
-ROI? Engaged people convert more.

Gary’s new book The Thank You Economy is about humanization of brands, to get a taste you can download a free chapter here. Hopefully we’ll see him again in Vancouver soon!

Teg Brar, MSc.

Is being a stranger a thing of the past? Imagine walking down a street and someone with a smartphone can find out who you are just by clicking your picture! For sure it sounds creepy, but how long before an application allows you to do just that?

For once, ethics and values are standing in the way of such facial recognition technology reaching palms of our hands. I hope ethics prevail otherwise the suggested use of such technology can shake the roots of our society.
Recently Google’s Eric Schmidt at the All Things Digital Conference said that Google was well on track to release such facial recognition technology, but decided against it in March. He quoted the company’s sensitivity towards privacy being the main reason for scrapping the project which was to be part of Google Goggles.
On the other hand, CNN reported that Facebook will soon scan all the images in its database and suggest the names of people that appear in the picture. All users have been included in the database, but you can choose to be not identified by adjusting your privacy settings. Presently an application called Photo Finder can scan and identify photos but only of your friends.
So what does this mean for your Personal Brand? Be mindful and cautious of what you and others publish about you! Images are powerful and knowing what’s out there about you is a fundamental step in Personal Branding.
Teg Brar

The great thinker Socrates once said that an unexamined life is not worth living! We all have to make the journey into our inner selves and discover what makes us really happy! Being true to self is prescription for a happy and successful life. So ask the difficult questions and discover!

-Am I the person that I want to be?
-Am I doing the things that matter to me?
-Am I following my heart?

Living on purpose and doing work that matters is really important in today’s challenging and fast paced world. Sometimes people continue doing what mattered to them years ago but no longer does resulting in stress and other problems. This is why we must frequently ask ourselves if we are being true to ourselves.
Being happy and successful means doing work that deeply interests you. If it doesn’t generate a pay check, do it nevertheless in your own time. Who knows, one day it might make you a living! Living on purpose and chasing your dreams requires courage and hard work but results in fulfillment and happiness!
Teg Brar, MSc.