Do You Know What You Need?

Do you know

It’s what you know.

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.

Knowledge, networks, and branding.

You have to start somewhere, and the logical starting point is to acquire knowledge. Society understands the importance of this, which is why primary and high school education can be obtained for free in pretty much all developed countries. And in many countries, university is also heavily subsidized.

But hold on a minute, you might be thinking, many high schools are not free. In fact, they can be very expensive. Think of schools like Eton, public schools in the UK, or private schools in Australia.

It’s true that many schools are expensive, but there is a good reason for this. The parents at these schools are buying something in addition to mere knowledge. They understand the importance of surrounding their fortunate child with other fortunate children. And they are willing to pay big money for the privilege. Friendship networks are a valuable resource that can open doors to a more prosperous and enjoyable life.

However, in a world where knowledge is increasingly commoditised and friendship networks can provide counsel and support but not definite opportunities, the truly important factor is to become distinctive.

The best schools understand and educate their students in the importance of finding an interest and standing out. In Australia, I was fortunate to attend St Aloysius’ College. It was a school run by the Jesuits where students were encouraged to partake is sports, music, cadets, drama, the Duke of Edinburgh program, and all manner of other extra-curricular activities. These activities were fun but they also gave the students a unique experience and story that we could tell about themselves. A brand that the boys could continue to build at university and beyond.

I am currently teaching at a university in China, and the students also seem to have an intuitive sense that branding is crucial. While extra-curricular activities may not be quite as important as they are in Australia, the students will do almost anything to obtain an ‘A’.

Nothing could be more devastating than a ‘B+’.

Of course, after the dust has settled and the exams are finished, the student who earns the ‘A’ doesn’t necessarily know or remember more than the student with the ‘B+’. But in a country with 1.3+ billion people, the costs of failing to distinguish oneself can be high – less chance to study abroad, fewer career opportunities and, perhaps worst of all, diminished prospects for a favorable marriage.

Knowledge is mandatory and networks are helpful, but branding is key.

[Side note: Congratulations to my alma mater, Oxford University, which was ranked #1 in the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings, which judges the performance of 980 universities across 79 countries.]

(Image Source: Flickr)

What Adversity Can Teach You About Branding

When adversity strikes, branding gives you resilience

This guest post is by Ryan Currie. Ryan is a product manager at with 5 years experience in online marketing and product development. He is on the cutting edge of developments in emerging technologies and open source projects.

IN BUSINESS, branding is crucially important. If your business doesn’t have a brand, then you may as well be invisible.

Creating a brand is akin to designing a personality. Multi-national corporations can have a brand, as can a sole proprietor. The best thing about branding isn’t the notoriety, the creativity, or even the customers you gain from crafting a really terrific brand. In actuality, the best thing about a brand is the resilience it provides.

Adversity hits every company and every professional at some point. Just think of Apple’s struggle for survival in the 1990s. The question isn’t whether you’re going to face adversity or even when it’s going to occur. The real question is what you’re going to do when adversity strikes.

Consider the case of Kentucky Fried Chicken. A smash hit throughout the 70s and 80s, selling chicken literally by the bucketful. But when public attitudes shifted around 2000, Kentucky Fried started a rebranding process and is now known simply as “KFC”.

What Adversity Can Teach Us About Branding 2What’s interesting about the KFC case isn’t just the name change, but the evolution of the brand over the course of the last decade or so. When healthier attitudes struck, KFC did what most brands would do and tried to adapt. They initially offered grilled chicken breasts and an increased number of vegetable sides, pandering to a diet-savvy audience. Their efforts bombed.

What Adversity Can Teach Us About Branding 3KFC then decided to embrace their identity and become one of the only brands on the market to offer the opposite of health – enter the KFC Double Down, a fried chicken, cheese, and bacon monstrosity of a sandwich.

KFC is hardly the only company to take adversity by the horns and figure out a way to adjust its position in the market. Other companies have done so including Apple, J.C. Penny, Lego, and even Microsoft.

Every brand is malleable – that’s important to remember – but in adjusting a brand’s position it may not always be wise to pander to the newest customer trends. Brands that look outside the box (read: 20 Piece Bucket) and find intelligent ways to evolve their unique brand position tend to be more successful.

Adversity comes to all of us. Whether you’re a business owner, a job seeker, or an entrepreneur, branding should be at the forefront of your marketing efforts. Don’t be afraid of challenges to your brand…embrace them! You may find yourself a niche you never dreamed of, and that can make all the difference.