When was the last time you invested in yourself? No, I'm not talking about that Dior handbag or that weekend away on a luxury liner off the coast of Greece! I'm talking about an investment in your skills and capabilities that make you really stand out.
The truth is that most of us in the creative profession spend the bulk of our working lives building our clients' brands and employers' brands, but tend to give very little time and attention to the one thing that can bring us even greater growth and success - the uniqueness and reputation of our own brand.
Just as in the competitive marketplace where brands in every category are vying for attention from consumers, it is important to stand for something special and stand out in the talent market. It's a great way to secure the most interesting assignments, the most challenging work and the biggest opportunities to make a difference.
And like in the competitive marketplace where brands are no longer built on communications alone but on the entire 'experience' of the brand across all points of touch, it is critical for you to not only define your special difference, but also continuously nurture it and consistently deliver it through all your actions.
Define your special difference
How many times have you shot down a brand's claim of unique difference citing it as a hygiene factor? Draw up the list of your own strengths and you will be amazed how few are truly differentiated from your peers. Finding your uniqueness is harder than you imagine. But some self-introspection and a bit of imagination could help you arrive at something meaningful. For example, when I did this exercise, I figured out that my biggest strength is the energy that I bring to the table and my extroverted, friendly nature. I combined these two traits to articulate 'vivacious energy' as my special difference. What this means is that I am always 'on' and animated, never exhausted or drained out no matter how long the day has been. I wear a positive, 'can-do' attitude and am ever-ready for the next big challenge. I am a welcome on any team that I'd like to be a part of. Which means healthy prospects of new business for our agency.
Continuously nurture it
Once you've defined your special difference, it is critical to keep nurturing it. Attend a conference in your field. Learn a new language. Read voraciously. Start a new hobby. Run a marathon. Do whatever that will give you a chance to strengthen your point of difference even more and allow you to tell interesting stories related to what makes you stand out. So following through on my own example, I have resolved this year to discover the world of Zumbafitness, drink at least eight glasses of water every day (to stay hydrated and energised!), take some lessons in speech and drama and travel to at least one country I would normally not consider. All of which I think will make more even more vivacious and energetic!
Consistently deliver it
The most difficult part of building your own brand is consistently delivering value in a way that is true to your special difference and builds your reputation. So whether you're developing a big concept, writing an e-mail, mentoring a colleague, delivering a presentation or even posting a status update, it's important to stay true to how you have defined your uniqueness. Once you get into the habit of acting consistently, it will become second nature and you'll be well on your way to building your brand.
So do yourself a favour in 2013. Take some time out and think just a little about your own brand and how to make it even more sparkling. That next big assignment may just depend on it!
Lulu Raghavan is the country director at Landor Associates, India. When she's not obsessing about branding she is either cooking up a storm, checking out a new restaurant or traveling somewhere exotic. Follow her other adventures at http://lululovesbombay.