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After graduating from college in Philadelphia, I moved to Los Angeles to pursue a post-graduate degree from a prestigious fashion and design school. Sparing you all the gory details, suffice to say that the culture shock was extreme, as I was surrounded by stereotypical “Valley girls,” most no older than 18. But after a few weeks, I realized that these girls weren’t just putting on a show – they knew the art of personal branding, and they knew it well.
Here are the branding lessons I learned while visiting the valley girls:
1) If you’re doing it right, they will follow. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so don’t be concerned if somebody copies you. If you’re doing it first and you’re leaving an impression, your brand will be first in the minds of consumers. Case in point: only a dozen people have walked on the moon since 1969, but not every astronaut is a household name like Neil Armstrong – he was the first.
2) Know who you are and what you’re about. The most successful girls (and brands) know what they want to project and do so authentically. It doesn’t matter who or what they are wearing; what matters is how comfortable they feel in their own skin clothes. Confidence is the key to pulling off even the riskiest look. Believe in what you’re doing, and others will believe in you.
3) Don’t be afraid to try new things. Don’t deviate from your brand identity, but give yourself enough room for growth. As explained in the book Brand Aid by Brad VanAusten, had Hallmark identified itself as a greeting card company, it would have pigeonholed itself to just cards. But by identifying itself as a “caring and sharing” company, it allows room to expand to flowers, candy, books, movies, etc. Be open to expanding your wheelhouse, but don’t deviate from your essence.
4) It’s not what you know or who you know – it’s both. There’s no sense in networking if your new connections can see that you don’t know what you’re talking about, but knowing your brand/product and failing to network is an equivalent sin. It is essential to know your brand and simultaneously align it with those who can help improve your reach. In business and in life, you don’t make friends by being fake or antisocial, so know your industry/brand and make meaningful connections accordingly.
As consumer demand for more personal interaction grows through shared use of social media, so must we emphasize what is human about the brands we represent. The most successful brands are not identified by just a motto or a logo but by the community they create for a group of people with shared ideas and values. This starts with identifying and crafting the heart and soul of your brand in order to establish sincere relationships with your target consumers.
Jill Weiskopf is a 2011 graduate of La Salle University, where she earned a degree in Corporate Communication. Savvy in design, her specialty is a hybrid of visual and written communications. Jill currently works as an Account Manager at an Events Marketing agency in Philadelphia.