...goes a long way, especially when I'm thinking about brands, brand management and the power of brands to build successful organizations and careers.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

A personal brand that hits close to home

I went to a going-away party for my wife’s co-worker and discovered the power and longevity of a personal brand.

At the party, a guy name Jerry sat down next to me and introduced himself. He had spent a lifetime in various manufacturing jobs, and even did a little marketing, so that’s what we talked about. When I shared that my father worked his whole career in manufacturing, at International Harvester in the Quad Cities (of Iowa and Illinois), he cocked his head quizzically and asked his name. When I told him by dad was John True, his eyebrows shot up and his eyes practically bugged out. Knowing that my dad had a reputation as a tough man with whom you didn’t want to tangle, I thought I was staring at a victim and asked with great trepidation “where you one of the guys on his good side or his bad side?”

A smile came over his face, followed by an excruciating long pause, after which he started to tell me how much he admired my father, how calm and quiet my father had been when he supervised Jerry and others at that plant. He said my father was a gentile man, never said a bad thing about anybody, never spoke in anger, never raised his voice and was always fair. He said, second only to his first employer (a man to whom he’d run in an instant if he needed Jerry’s help), my dad was the man he respected most in this world. Through the tears welling up in my eyes, I could see Jerry admired my father deeply.

He told stories, shared names of co-workers I remember my dad talking about, and made the evening very enjoyable.

On the way home, though, I began to think about my dad, and realized how short of that brand I’d fallen in my own career. While I think I’m a fair person, I don’t know that anyone would notice because I’m as far from quiet and gentile as you can get. And I’ve been known to speak in anger about people, raise my voice and fly off the handle. With a smile on his face, my boss once said “Mark, if there were a war, you’d be the first one to get your head blown off!”

While my clients sometimes believe that I take ideas too personally, in reality, I take their brand very personally. If an idea supports my client’s brand, I’ll defend it loudly even when the client doesn’t seem to care. My title is brand warrior, not brand guesser or supporter or guy-who-will-tell-you-what-you-want-to-hear. The title of this blog reflects this brand because a little bit of Mark goes a long way. And I believe my brand represents passion for ideas and a penchant for action.

I think my dad had a passion for people and for empathy.

Talking to my wife, I told her of my concern that I’d fallen short of the standard John True set. She reminded me that he and I have something in common: the role we play with clients. After retirement, he did some consulting, and would quietly observe managers in their environment before offering advice. He offered constructive criticism in a calm, quiet and personable manner. He didn’t raise his voice. He didn’t speak poorly of the man. He was fair. And that’s the job he was paid to do.

In my role as a consultant, helping clients understand their brand and use it to drive forward everything they do, I think I can put a little John True into my work. I can be the voice of the brand, but lower the volume, slow it down a little.

That’s when I realized a little bit of John True lasts a long time.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Tom Vander Well said...

Great post, Mark. Be grateful that you have, in your father, a role model to whom you can look up and measure yourself. I know too many who can't do that - who make a life's ambition of NOT being like their fathers. Knowing "a little bit of Mark," I would readily bet that you stand comfortably in your dad's shadow.

3:59 PM

 
Blogger Mark true said...

Your comment is an unexpected surprise, Tom. Thanks.

1:53 PM

 

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