A few years ago, I overheard two of my MBA students talking after class about their “personal brands.”
At the time, I was amused. But then I kept hearing more about this notion of “my brand.” I noticed it was the subject of articles in Forbes and Harvard Business Review. Suddenly, I saw book upon book devoted to the topic. The conversation centered around bolstering your personal brand by tweeting the right things, highlighting certain attributes in your LinkedIn profile and ingratiating yourself with other powerful personal brands.
Frankly, I bristle at the phrase “personal brand.” We are not products, we are people. The way we present ourselves should be authentic, not part of a sales pitch or advertising campaign. But then I got to thinking: is there a way to apply branding’s best practices to develop greater leadership?
There’s this notion that business school students tend to do a lot of talking, yet very little walking. But when I look back on my year as the Chief Marketing Officer of SloanGear – the only student-owned campus store in the country – I can honestly say that I applied what I learned in the classroom every day. SloanGear is a real company; this was not just a mathematical exercise, or Excel model or a case study. When we were buying the business, for instance, we had to come up with an enterprise valuation, which we figured out using a discounted cash flow model and other approaches we learned in finance and investment management classes. And in one of our marketing classes, we learned about how to use conjoint analysis to drive product innovation and as a company we implemented those methods.