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  • Alexis Campbell

Behind the Branding: The Power of Experience

“What is your favorite brand and why?”

This question posed by Mr. Mark Heaps, VP of Brand & Creative at Groq and a seasoned marketing expert with a history at both Apple and Google, is deceptively simple. Yet, it's actually a question that prompts deep introspection, as many of our favorite brands are often interwoven with our most cherished memories and experiences.

Nike, Doritos, TikTok, and Apple are a few of the chart-topping favorite brands for Gen Z, while millennials have a penchant for Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Disney, and Target. Newer brands such as Olipop, Celsius, Alo Yoga, and Owala (a personal discovery of mine on the NMGZ trip) are rapidly making their mark as well.

As you consider your own favorite brands, you'll likely notice a common thread: positive experiences and cherished memories associated with them. Certain brands have succeeded in leaving an indelible mark on our lives.

Soundtrack of My Life

For me, one brand that stands out among the rest is Spotify. Despite my Apple-loyal MacBook, AirPods, iPhone, and Apple Watch, the thought of switching to Apple Music is inconceivable. I've been a Spotify user for over a decade, a swift transition that saved me from the financial burden of shelling out $1.29 per song on iTunes. Even when Apple Music emerged as a similar platform, its interface paled in comparison to Spotify's, leaving me uninterested.

Throughout the years, Spotify has been here for the long haul, providing the soundtrack to every chapter of my life. Music often has the power to transform my perspective on a bad day in mere seconds. I have playlists for hiking in the mountains, lazy days at the lake, carefree car rides with the windows down, and even my 21st birthday celebration – all memories intertwined with Spotify.

Apple Music may now match Spotify feature for feature (I remain skeptical as Spotify Unwrapped is unparalleled), but I remain unswayed. Spotify offers me memories and positive associations that Apple could never replicate. While I love Spotify as a brand, an app, and a platform, ultimately my love for Spotify comes in part from the feelings it evokes.

The Essence of Branding: Marketing Your Personal Experience

In today's world, branding transcends mere logos and slogans; branding is about crafting personal experiences that resonate deeply with the audience. With the meteoric rise of experiential marketing, Gen Z and millennials actively seek real-life interactions with brands, which have the ability to forge lasting positive associations.

Branding and marketing may go hand in hand; however, they are not the same. Mark Heaps describes branding as the why: the emotion that a brand evokes in a person, and the gut reaction it triggers. Meanwhile, marketing is the what & the how, or the tactical execution of promoting a brand and delivering this message.

So, what about your personal brand?

Your personal brand is not something you solely own or control. Your identity is in your hands, but your personal brand is the result of how others perceive and feel about you—a culmination of the exposure they've had to you.

Jeff Bezos phrases this as, "Your brand is what people say about you when you're not in the room." Mark Heaps refines this notion by asserting that your brand is also the emotions and feelings people associate with you.

Brands, both personal and corporate, are ever-evolving. Netflix has been a standout fan-favorite brand among younger generations, but I believe we may see its popularity decline as Gen Z begins to associate it with the current writer strikes and cracking down on password sharing, and booting them off their parents' accounts (I relate here). Similarly, your personal brand can undergo positive or negative shifts.

Strong personal brands resonate with their audience because they remain consistent, regardless of the setting or who is in the room. When it comes to your personal brand, people aren't discussing your skills; they're talking about you as an individual.

Calibrating Your Personal Brand

Mark Heaps emphasizes the importance of calibrating our personal brands from time to time. As part of this process, I was tasked with contrasting my own perceived brand adjectives with those attributed by others. These lists didn't match entirely, but they are intended to eventually converge, illustrating the ongoing evolution and growth of my personal brand.

In order, to calibrate your own personal brand:

1. Create a list of what you believe are your top three personal brand adjectives.

2. Create a list of what others would say are your top three personal brand adjectives.

3. You may notice that these lists aren’t necessarily the same (yet). So ask yourself, how can you adjust your personal brand to reflect your intended brand adjectives on those around you?

Three adjectives that I feel resonate with my personal brand are: creative, refreshing, and bubbly. However, when I step outside that room, I understand that others might use different descriptors to portray me – I believe they might opt for passionate, funny, and determined. Especially in a professional setting, I aspire for people to perceive me as someone who brings creativity and refreshing ideas to the table. My current objective is to embark on a journey where I can effectively market my personal brand aspirations, showcasing why I'm one of the most creative, bubbly, and refreshing humans they will meet.

This exercise assists in demonstrating that personal branding is not about what you broadcast—it's about how others perceive you.

Defining Your Value Proposition

Another crucial element of calibrating your personal brand is understanding your value proposition, and what makes you a truly unique individual. Your value proposition is essentially the distinctive blend of skills, attributes, and qualities that sets you apart from others in your field or in life. It's the answer to the question, "What can you offer that no one else can?"

Identifying your value proposition and embracing it shows others around you what makes your brand indispensable, memorable, and attractive. Whether you're seeking professional success, meaningful relationships, or personal growth, recognizing your unique strengths and what you bring to the table is the cornerstone of a powerful personal brand. It's not just about fitting into a mold but standing out by celebrating your individuality and harnessing it as a driving force in your life.

Personal branding is not solely for celebrities or corporate giants; it's for everyone. Your personal brand is an ever-evolving entity, shaped by your actions, consistency, and the experiences you create for others. Whether you're an entrepreneur, a professional, or simply navigating life, understanding and cultivating your personal brand can be the key to unlocking new opportunities and forging meaningful connections.

So, take a moment to reflect: What does your personal brand say about you?


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