NOTE: This is a book excerpt with minor edits from You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Worksby Marcy Twete. Julie Cottineau left her position as VP of Branding at Virgin in 2011 not only to become an entrepreneur, but also to help other entrepreneurs. She realized that the kind of branding expertise she could cultivate and access at Virgin simply wasn’t available to small business owners and others who couldn’t afford massive branding and marketing teams. The idea for her company, BrandTwist, came to Julie in an airport terminal (for my money, a much better place to brainstorm than a conference table). In the distance, Julie saw the McDonald’s golden arches on the tail fin of an airplane while she was running from gate to gate. She wondered, “What would it look like if an airline took on the brand persona of McDonalds?” Simple, right? She told me it would be “consistent, would provide good value, be family friendly” and all of the other brand traits we might associate with the golden arches. The golden arches and the plane turned out to be just a mirrored reflection of an airport McDonalds, but this “brand mirage” gave Julie the idea for her company and the signature twist she provides to her clients. You can begin to practice the BrandTwist as you look at corporations you easily interact with every day. What would it look like if Best Buy adopted some of the brand persona of Starbucks? Stores might get smaller, and production would get faster. They might consider being less sales oriented and more process oriented. Where Starbucks greets you with a big smile and a quick “get you through the line and out the door” mentality, Best Buy takes a longer sales process and browsing time into account. Could you fundamentally change its success by applying a completely different twist to its brand? Julie thinks so! And I agree.
It’s All About YOU! The BrandTwist Concept In Your Own CareerJulie knew when she launched her business she couldn’t simply differentiate herself within the field of branding experts – there are just too many. Julie looked not to her own field, but to one far away from hers for inspiration – cooking. Her personal BrandTwist became Julie Cottineau + Rachel Ray. “Rachel Ray makes cooking fun. She stands out against all the other chefs because she’s accessible. She’s not too serious. She’s colorful. She’s fun. She has long hair! And above all, she has a ‘make it work’ mentality. Don’t have shallots? No big deal. Grab an onion!” Julie’s model of Rachel Ray’s brand inspired her to launch her business with a full infusion of fun and a dedication to accessibility. You don’t have to try to emulate Starbucks or Apple or McDonalds. You can get incredible brand inspiration from an individual whose brand truly shines – someone like Rachel Ray.
Finding Your Own “Rachel Ray”Close your eyes and walk yourself through the statements you’d make about the brand you want to cultivate. How are you positioning yourself? What are your key skills and personal attributes? Then, begin to think through a Rolodex full of celebrities, high-level women in business, authors, and so on. Who pops into your head? Who might you want to twist your brand with to make you even more powerful? From there:
- List the brand traits that represent that individual.
- Make a second list next to that one of the ways you might incorporate those traits into your own brand.
- Find commonalities. Even if you’re a lawyer comparing your brand persona with Angelina Jolie, you might be able to find similarities between you to make your brand even more powerful (maybe you both love giving back and volunteering or you have a strange affinity for bad boys). Note these commonalities.