What’s Your Brand?

What’s Your Brand?
By: Dr. Anne Dahlman
Professor, Department of Educational Studies: K-12 and Secondary Programs

What comes first to mind when you hear such brand names as Apple Computers, Google, or Amazon.com? All of these are successful brands and are on the Top-Ten List of the Most Valuable Brands of 2014 worldwide. In the field of marketing, the term “brand” is defined as a “name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s product distinct from those of other sellers” (American Marketing Association Dictionary). What is it that makes a given product unique and more desirable than any other?

Did you know that individuals also have a brand? A person’s brand is what one’s track record tells about a person. Not what one intended or wanted to achieve, but what the actions and behaviors of a person reveal. What do your daily activities say about your priorities, and your values? What would your classmates who spent a whole semester with you in a class say to describe you? What is your purpose? What drives you? What is important to you? Knowing these fundamental things about yourself will allow you to live your life and do your work with intention, meaning and show genuine passion toward others and your activities.

Your brand is not only your knowledge and skills, but also how you carry yourself, or how you communicate your knowledge and skills to others. People that you spend time with also determine your brand. It is said that we are the average of five people that we associate with. What do people who you associate regularly with say about who you are? The 21st-century world is characterized by connections, collaboration and communication. Knowledge is co-created in multicultural teams and problems solved through multinational and multilingual collaborations. To be successful in these contexts, you need to know your strengths, so that you can authentically participate with others. This takes depth of character and self-awareness of where you fit within the world around you.

Changing your brand is very hard as it so deeply rooted in the person that you deep down are. We know that people make a quick first impression of you, as a matter of a fact people will form an opinion of you as a person in the first seven seconds of having met you. You redefine your brand every day that you meet new people, within the first seven seconds of meeting them. What do you want people to know about you? We also know that only about 7% of communication is verbal, meaning what you say, and the remaining 93% of communication is nonverbal so what you say is actually not as important as how you say it – what are your facial expressions, what your posture is or what your emotional state is. All of these communicate the message even louder than words.

One of the criticisms that we often hear from future employers is that new employees often have the skills and knowledge to do their work but they don’t know how to communicate professionally about their work; or how to communicate with others; how to work as a team member; how to articulate what they know; or how to relate to what they know to what the company’s needs are. It is not enough to know what you know and have to offer but how what you are all about benefits the future employer and their clients. This is part of your brand, being able to convincingly describe your unique strengths.

To help you communicate your brand it might be useful to write down your professional philosophy. New teachers are encouraged to write down their teaching philosophy, i.e., what they believe about teaching; what they believe about learning; and what they believe about students, parents, and community. Your professional philosophy should address such questions as what are your strengths; what kind of team member are you; how do you act under stress; what makes you unique; what three words describe you; what kind of leader are you, etc.

One of the six characteristics that a research study (Skillsoft, 2012) revealed that successful leaders possess is Global Perspective. It entails the ability to interact, negotiate meaning and communicate with people from other cultures and groups (ethnic, racial, socio-economic, language, etc.). Rodriques (2014) maintains that “you cannot be a leader unless you can appreciate the full dimension of the human experience”. You can’t know all of the cultures and languages in the world, but you can, and must be able to interact authentically with others, showing deep knowledge of and appreciation for uniqueness in every individual. What are some examples of recent behaviors of yours that show your ability to employ a global perspective?

Spending some time to explore your personal brand is well worth the effort. It will help you uncover what your unique strengths are and what distinguishes you from your peers. Knowing your brand will help you better communicate your knowledge and skills to future employers and will give you self-confidence as a professional. In addition, knowing yourself thoroughly will help you connect with others who are different from you as you have a mental framework to better make sense of the array of different experiences that people around you have. If you cannot describe who you are, no one else around you will be able to interact with you to the fullest extent.


American Marketing Association Dictionary. Retrieved from https://www.ama.org/resources/Pages/Dictionary.aspx?dLetter=B&dLetter=B

Rodriques, L. (2014). Address titled “Equity across Disciplines: A Key to Civity & Success”. Delivered by Leon Rodriques, MNSCU Chief Equity Officer, at the Minnesota State Mankato’s Presidential Retreat on August 12, 2014.

Skillsoft Ireland Limited (2012). Actionable Leadership in the Creative Age