Transformation. That process of profound and radical change that orients our life in a new direction. We all go through it in some form or other, and often multiple times throughout life. But what happens when the time comes to actively transform your personal brand? We decided to interview some fascinating women who have transformed their personal brand to discover just how they accomplished this.
You’ll find these stories are quite diverse, but interestingly, many are connected by a common thread; most women took steps to transform their brand after some trigger or life event served as a catalyst. These women chose to take control of their circumstances by transforming their personal brand. Other women we interviewed decided to actively steer their personal brand in a completely different direction, while a handful of others added a transformative dimension to their existing brand.
The latter describes my own personal brand. Before we launch into our series of interviews, I thought I’d share my own story of brand transformation.
Mine was more of a “slow burn” than a lighting bolt moment. I first became intrigued by the intersection of psychology and branding while training for my doctorate in clinical psychology. Lured by the bright lights of Manhattan, I quickly realized I needed to supplement my research stipend in order to afford to live in the Big Apple as a PhD student. Unfortunately, my part-time record store gig on St Marks (although very cool) just wasn’t cutting it. I thought I’d try my luck pursuing some contacts on Madison Avenue, and before I knew it, I was working in branding research at Young and Rubicam (you know, the agency Mad Men was based on). During my time at Y&R, both in NY and during a stint in London, I became versed in the branding research and strategy that forged strong and enduring corporate brands.
I also discovered how much psychology went into branding; personalities and archetypes, the emotions they evoked, not to mention the loyalty and esteem they earn from their audience. As a psychologist in training, I found these concepts fascinating and inspiring. I began to think about the inverse…the effectiveness of applying branding strategy to psychology, or more specifically, personal growth. Some years later, I would discover that there was a name for this concept: personal branding.
For the next few years, I mostly worked in medical and research settings. It was through my charity involvement, however, that I started to witness first hand the power of celebrity personal branding, when volunteering with the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) in New York. Social responsibility had become a big part of my own personal brand a few years earlier in Philadelphia during my Master’s program, where experiences of “otherness” were part of our cultural awareness training. My five years with amfAR was a real eye-opener to the power of celebrity brands. Serving as the committee auction chair for one of their biggest fundraising events, I worked alongside of their events team to harness celebrity support for the benefit. Co-founded by researcher Matilde Krim and Dame Elizabeth Taylor, amfAR has always had huge celebrity muscle behind it, including the likes of Sharon Stone, the Global Chair, and Richard Gere, an honoured brand ambassador, both of whom I had the privilege of meeting. By just lending their names to the organization, these celebs were using their personal brands
to raise amfAR’s profile as one of the most famous HIV/AIDS charities in the world. But, at the same time, it was clear that the amfAR name was just as big a part of their brand, too.
More valuable lessons in personal branding followed during a volunteer stint as a consultant for MAC (cosmetics) AIDS Fund’s VIVA GLAM campaign. The first lipstick created to raise money and awareness for AIDS, VIVA GLAM chose a provocative spokesperson for each campaign. In helping to create HIV testing messages for campaign materials and celebrity media engagements, I learned very quickly that the effectiveness of the campaign largely hinged on the chosen celeb and the power of their brand.
When I moved to London nearly ten years ago, I finally realized my dream of opening a private practice in the City. It was here in London that the pieces seemed to fall into place. Alongside of my practice, I decided to bring together my training, experience and passion in both psychology and branding to found my personal branding agency, Golden Notebook. Drawing from my doctoral training in research and assessment tools, I developed a unique approach to personal branding, one that combines psychological assessment and theory with branding strategies to create for powerful and enduring individual change and personal impact. In short, I help clients make a name for themselves by discovering their distinct and authentic personal brand.
One of my favourite dimensions of my personal brand is expressing my voice through writing here…and providing a vehicle for others to tell their own stories. I hope you will find the series of interviews that follow thought-provoking and inspiring. Perhaps they might even help spark a little transformation in your own personal brand!