Changing your personal brand: lessons from the businesses that successfully reinvented themselves


If you’ve earned a reputation as a solid, serious hard-worker, there’s no chance the new Director is going to see your creativity and sparkle. Right? Wrong, says everywoman expert Jennifer Holloway, who believes it’s entirely possible to change your personal brand – what Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos defines as “what people say about you when you’re not in the room”.

After all, large corporations do it all the time – on average once every seven to ten years, says brand performance analyst Wendy Bolhuis – often coming back from large-scale public relations disasters to become customer favourites once again.

The apparent about-turn might be inspired by a desire to align with new trends, highlight a change in leadership or the need to salvage a bad reputation. When it comes to personal brand, your reasons for embarking on a shift might be just as varied.

Perhaps the rising star image you fostered in that entry-level role simply doesn’t work for you now that you’ve set your sights on a management position. Whatever the catalyst, you can learn from the household names who’ve successfully altered public perceptions of their businesses.



Be memorable - like Google and Yahoo

Few could have predicated the extent of the influence these two brands would come to have on the way we source information. Perhaps even more so when you consider their founding names – ‘BackRub’ and ‘Jerry’s Guide To The World Wide Web’ respectively.

There’s nothing to say they wouldn’t have succeeded with their original monikers, but there’s a lot to be said for the punch and memorability factors of their rebranded names. Where Google’s concerned, there’s also huge brand benefit in the fact that the organisation’s name can be turned into a verb -‘Googling’ something has become as synonymous with ‘using a search engine’ as ‘Hoovering’ is with ‘vacuuming’.

The lesson for you and your personal brand: Spend time defining as precisely as possible what you want to be remembered for, so that you can work consistently to ensure your key message sticks with interested parties.

Let’s say you’ve decided you want to become known as a thought leader in an emerging field of research linked to your organisation’s core business. What memorable stories can you tell decision makers, Tweet, blog about, present internally and via your external networks so that you emerge as the go-to person in your new domain?



Play the long, association game - like Burberry

The classic trench coat is one of fashion’s most iconic statements, and one that graces the wardrobe of the likes of Kate Moss. But there was a time, not too long ago, that the supermodel wouldn’t have been seen dead in the luxury label.

As the brand became associated with gang clothing, certain London drinking establishments banned patrons wearing Burberry’s distinctive checked fabric. But following a series of strategic advertisements featuring leading faces from the world of fashion, Burberry is once again one of the most sought-after fashion labels in the world.

The lesson for you and your personal brand: Changing perceptions won’t happen overnight. Establish your end goal and then lay down a plan for how you’ll take others on the journey with you.

Spend some time thinking about who within your network is already being thought about in the type of terms you’re aiming for, and how you can speed up your re-brand by making the most of your associations with them.



Stay true to your roots as you evolve - like Apple

Apple Computer saw the writing on the wall as far as the future of its core products were concerned, and used the launch of the first ever iPhone to reveal that it was dropping the “computer” in its name. “Apple Inc” was born, and with it a new generation of technology aficionados joined the technology giant’s brand loyalists.

Though the organisation continues to evolve, it still honours the heritage which secured its fanbase of customers – in the drama and hyperbole surrounding its product launches, for example.

The lesson for you and your personal brand: As the corporate brand experts at Kissmetrics state. “Rebranding is about more than just slapping up a new logo and calling it a day. It’s about helping your company, and your customers, make the switch gradually and confidently to a company that demonstrates how it aligns with the very same values it presents to its customers every day. It’s about making sure that pride, quality and satisfaction are more than buzzwords. And it’s about honoring your commitment to the new brand without abandoning the old.”

The same goes for your personal brand. You used to be a creative on client side and now you want to break out into an agency account manager role? You might well have the necessary skills, but it’s only natural that those around you will want to verify your credibility. “To protect your personal brand, you need to develop a coherent narrative that explains exactly how your past fits into your present,” writes Dorie Clark, author of Reinventing You, in the Harvard Business Review.



Time was, Old Spice was something you dug out of the bargain bin in the local chemist to give to your Dad at Christmas.

Thanks to a fun advertising campaign portraying the Old Spice Guy as someone men wanted to be and women wanted to be with, the identical product now competes with other, bestselling deodorants.

The lesson for you and your personal brand: Want people to get excited about your area of expertise? Your safest bet is to show them why it’s fun, current and interesting through your words and actions. Look for ways to make your work relevant to them, their needs, lifestyle and work.

Tell stories, use analogies and metaphors to demonstrate your passion for your field and why they should care about what you do. Your role, business or the service you provide might be what it always was, but that doesn’t mean you have to be too.


[i] Source: VIM Group




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