I was filling out an on-line marketing survey the other day, and suddenly realized I’d gotten involved in one of the most boring possible topics – permanent markers. I spent about twenty minutes ranking brands of markers on color, reliability, value, and lifespan.

I was surprised to learn that I have very strong opinions about three brands of markers, two of them positive. I consistently voted for Crayola and Sharpie. In my mind, I expect them to be consistent, long-lasting, and less messy than other brands. If Amanda sends me to the store to buy art supplies for the kids, I will reach for Crayola without thinking. And if I need a marker, I’d grab a Sharpie first. In fact, I often say, “I need a Sharpie.” Now, that’s brand recognition!

So what kind of brand recognition do YOU have? And I mean you personally.

When career counseling my employees, I often find myself focusing on the value of brand names, and try to draw parallels to their careers. It’s the same thing as reputation, I suppose, but somehow people seem to have an easier time thinking about it in marketing terms. After all, you are selling yourself as a valuable asset, right? In my mind, you ARE your brand name: in your life and your career. People have a perception of you, and make decisions about you based on that image.

  1. Brand names bring instant recognition. Nabisco has a new chocolate cake called a Cakester. It’s two chocolate cakes with a white creamy filling between them. If they just called it Cakester, they might have trouble getting shelf space and consumer awareness. So they call it the Oreo Cakester. It’s not really much like an Oreo, besides the basic cream-filled chocolate, but the word “Oreo” gets Nabisco instant recognition, and immediate sales to Oreo fans. Career-wise, what does your brand name say about you? When people hear your name, do they think about successful projects, organization, and quality output? Or do they think about complaining, tardiness, or sloppiness?

  2. Brand names stand the test of time. This is both a plus and minus. Companies that have been around are seen as reliable and steady. They aren’t as likely to be seen as innovative or cool. It’s very hard (but not impossible) to balance the two. If you’ve been at the same place in your career for awhile, your co-workers may see you as reliable, but may not expect you to be going anywhere. Your boss may take you for granted, and not be enthusiastic about a promotion that will shake up his organization. The key is to have a record of consistent quality. If you have a good Brand Name, other people will want to be associated with it! Like cross-marketing two brands, bosses and co-workers want to reap the benefits of your good Brand Name. And if you want to switch jobs, it will be easy to get that new department to be interested in you.

  3. Brand names are hard to change. This is a hard one for people to deal with sometimes. Some people will always associate a product with any bad news – a scandal, recalled product, or even a bad ad campaign. Almost everyone has some bad experience at work that is attached to them. It may have been saying the wrong thing to the boss. Maybe a project didn’t come out right. It could even be a funny story that’s about you, but not your fault. It has still become part of your brand name. You may be in a position today where that holds you back. But with patience, you can rebuild the Brand Name.

So what does this mean to you? Well, I think you always need to keep an eye on Brand Name You. What does your Brand Name mean in the company? How is your work today going to help or hurt your Brand Name? Are you getting proper credit for the work you do?