Five Things Santa Claus Can Teach Us About Personal Branding

Recently, my five-year old daughter and I had breakfast with Santa at Macy’s here in New York City. Santa was in town for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and to officially kick-off the Christmas holiday season.


Watching my daughter so mesmerized and overflowing with excitement to meet Santa, telling him she wanted a Frozen Elsa Pop-up Doll and then proceeding to give him a “high five” got me thinking.

As a personal brand strategist, what branding lessons can we learn from Santa?  After all, he has one of the most iconic and recognizable brands in the world, as well as being the very successful CEO of the largest toy production company in the world.

Five Things Santa Can Teach Us About Personal Branding

Whether you believe or not, if you want to build a powerful and very recognizable personal brand, here are five things we can learn from Santa:

1. Compelling Personal Story:  Santa Claus, also know as St. Nicholas, got his start in the 4th century province of the ByzantineAnatolia, now in Turkey. Nicholas was famous for his generous gifts to the poor.  In the 16th century in England, Santa became known as Father Christmas, known for his spirit of good cheer at Christmas, bringing peace, joy, good food, wine, and revelry. Since the 20th century, Santa brings presents to good children once a year on December 24th, the night before Christmas. Also, he has been featured in numerous books, movies, and songs, making his image recognizable to multiple generations.

Lesson: Successful brands take years to build. For people to believe in you, they must be able to connect to you on a deep personal level, knowing you are authentic, and your intentions are true. Although Christmas has become highly commercialized, Santa is respected for not just “chasing the cash”.

2. Clear Brand Message:  Santa is clear on “Who He Is” and “What He Does”. Santa Claus is an expert in secret gift-giving. He brings presents to good children once a year on December 24th. Santa keeps a list of who’s been naughty or nice, and checks it twice. If you’re good, you get a present. If not, you get a lump of coal in your stocking. It’s clear and direct!

Lesson: If people can’t figure out what you do, they are not going to do business with or recommend you. Also, it’s important to be able to set clear boundaries so you can stay focused on what you do best and are most passionate about.

3. Great Team Around Him: To have a great brand, you can’t do it alone. With Santa, he has a whole team of elves that helps him, plus flying reindeers to pull his sleigh. They also look out for Santa in protecting his image and reputation. Santa even accepts diversity, such as Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Santa’s brand is bigger than ever.

Lesson: Ask yourself: Who is watching out for your brand?  Is your support staff willing to think outside the box? A trusted team is critical when building a personal brand. Just like your money, you need to manage and protect your personal brand and online reputation.

4.  Excellent Reputation:  Santa is not “all about himself”. He has a reputation for secret gift-giving and doing well. He is also known as Saint Nicholas, who is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, children, brewers, pawnbrokers, and students in various cities and countries around Europe.

Lesson: Successful personal brands take years to build and seconds to destroy in the court of social media if you’re not careful. When assessing opportunities or posting to social media always ask yourself “does this support my brand and reputation?” Having a reputation that can cross platforms into various fields can also have its advantages.

5.  Jolly Personality:  Santa is known for being a happy, jolly, and very likable person. His positive energy lights up the room and makes people want to be around him. When he meets children, he gives each child his full attention, which makes them feel like they are the only person in the room.

Lesson: Positive energy attracts people. When you make people feel like they are special or take the time to help them with a problem or challenge, they will be your brand ambassadors. Listen carefully to your clients and what they want. When people believe in you, they will share with others “Who You Are”, “What You Do” and “What’s Your Story” and do your marketing for you.

As 2014 comes to a close, enjoy a happy and healthy holiday season. May your personal brand stocking be filled with good will, and here is wishing that 2015 brings great joy and happiness.


The NFL Crisis: Why Professionals Need Personal Brand Management

article-frontpage-9-9-0910webOver the past few weeks, you cannot turn on the TV, read the headlines, or go online without another breaking news story about a NFL player  involved in a form of violence (100 cases to date). While this crisis has exposed the serious domestic, sexual, and child abuse issues existing within the NFL, it also shows the complete lack of understanding of effective management of personal brand and reputation by those in the public spotlight and high-power business positions.

In this day and age, people are tried, convicted and sentenced in the court of social media. It only takes one action, one comment, one tweet, or one video, someone seeking 15 minutes of fame or money for your personal brand and reputation to be ruined. And this rule extends past sports and the entertainment industry to include business professionals who are in the public eye.  Just look at the recent social media firestorms targeted at Roger Goodell, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, or ousted Mozilla CEO, Brendan Eich

As a personal brand strategist who helps individuals to rebrand themselves after traumatic career setbacks, the NFL crisis shows the shocking power of a personal brand…

“IT IS POWERFUL…you can either harness this power or it can electrocute you.”

Why You Need A Personal Brand Manager? 

If you are in the public spotlight in today’s world, you need a dedicated personal brand manager.  Here’s why:

1.  Personal Brand + Reputation = Money – At the end of the day, ask yourself who’s watching out for your brand?  Just like your money, you need to manage and protect your personal brand and online reputation.  This is how you earn your living. You may be leaving money on the table or losing money because of a bad personal brand and reputation.  If you don’t have a dedicated personal brand manager, GET ONE!  A good publicist and lawyer can only do so much in the clean up department.   If your management team only says “YES” to you…NO ONE is protecting your brand.   One client calls me “The Hammer” because I tell him when actions or opportunities don’t support his passions, personal brand, or reputation.  Just like a football coach, a great personal brand manager knows how to tap into your passions, strengths, and push you out of your comfort zone to take your personal brand to the next level and earn top dollar.  Just look at Michael Strahan as an example of someone who knows how to manage his personal brand and reputation.

2. Employers Only Care About Their Own Brand and Reputation – You will never convince me that allegedly Roger Goodell never saw the complete video of Rice knocking out his then fiancée in the elevator before it went public.   It is clear the NFL was hoping the incident would just go away, and their light 2 game ban came across as too lenient.  While there is no justification for domestic violence, I will give Rice credit.  He did allegedly inform the NFL and Goodell of the incident right away.  If you are ever in a media/PR crisis, you cannot trust your employer will have your best interests in mind.   By Rice and the NFL not publicly disclosing the video, it looks like they tried to hide the truth.  In the court of social media, this is conviction in seconds.   In a personal branding crisis, you must take control and be the one to tell your side of the story.  People are more likely to forgive you and give you a second chance if you immediately take accountability for your actions, be extremely open and honest, and take swift proactive steps to seek help to rehabilitate yourself or admit your comments were wrong.  Look how Michael Vick went from being a star, to being convicted and hated by PETA and others, later getting his professional football career back by cleaning up his act, becoming the poster boy for protecting animal rights.

3. Professionals in the Public Eye Are Held To A Different Standard – When you are paid big money, viewed as a role model, or in charge, and have access to the top management, people expect you to know and act better than the average person, regardless of your upbringing or past experiences. Peterson’s excuse for beating his four-year with a switch was that it was “ok” because that’s how he was raised.  It just doesn’t cut it when you’re in the spotlight!  The same was true for Joe Paterno.  While he did what was required by law in reporting the Sandusky incident to his bosses, when Penn State took no action against Sandusky people felt Paterno had a moral obligation to go above and beyond to report the incident to the authorities.  As a Penn State Alumni, I felt this way, too. The end result smeared a pristine reputation, which had taken decades for Paterno to create that bordered on sainthood.  All of his successes with his students (i.e. highest players graduation rates) were forgotten because of the depravities of one person who Joe had removed from his staff.  Also, the outcomes may have been different if Joe had spearheaded an aggressive campaign against Sandusky from the moment that he learned of this inappropriate behavior.

4. Successful Personal Brands Take Years to Build and Seconds To Destroy – Miley Cyrus, for better or worse, has been effectively managing her brand.  Remember when she was the wholesome Nickelodeon child star?  This seems like a distant memory.  Although many of her public exploits have seemed outrageous, they have been carefully orchestrated to make her seem the hero to a generation of youth, and her brand name is stronger than ever.  Derek Jeter has had a personal brand and reputation that he has developed carefully throughout his career, and it has helped him become an iconic figure.  He is as well known on the field for his exploits as he is known for his charity work through his Take Two Foundation.  There has been careful brand management of his name and reputation over the years, and as he retires, it clearly has paid dividends.

Ten years ago, there seemed to be a small market for personal brand management, that only the elite of the elite may need someone to manage their brand.  In today’s media obsessed culture, the rules have changed.  Those who learn how to manage this new world effectively can use personal brand management to bring their reputation to new levels, becoming icons in the public eye, or trusted authorities.

Has your personal brand or online reputation been damaged by online negative comments or social media attacks?

Do you know how to protect and manage your personal brand and online reputation?

Or do you have your own story of suffering a traumatic career setback and want to share with others?

I hope this post has been helpful and would welcome your comments.  If you need help in rebranding or repairing your online reputation,  Cre8iv can help.  call + 1 646.535.9450 or email.

Personal Brand Management

Personal Brand Management

Once you have established a brand for yourself or your business, you must then take on the task of managing your brand to maintain the ground you have gained. The work that goes into building the brand at the beginning is immense. It involves hard work, dedication and commitment. It requires a diligence to always be on the lookout for those that want to detract from that reputation you have worked so hard to build so you can stop them before they can inflict any wounds. A constant vigilance must be kept on internet postings, review boards, references, and opinion outlets that flourish in the online world. This is a tall task to undertake for anyone. The time that is spent maintaining your personal brand is well spent; however, not everyone has that time to spare. This is when an online brand manager can assist you.

There are companies that devote their time and efforts to constantly maintaining and protecting your brand. They scour the internet on a daily basis, searching for anything negative that may come up in regard to you or your business. When they find something, they immediately take action to mediate it, minimize it or eliminate it if possible. In addition, they will make positive comments or remarks to reduce the impact of the negative entries, or replace them all together in time. These companies can take this service a step further as well. Instead of simply waiting for negative comments and then moving to fix them, these companies can also proactively post positive remarks to make sure that any new information about you or your business is seen in a positive light. Maintaining an established brand takes a large amount of work, but is worth every minute in the end.

Personal Brand

Personal Brand

Your personal brand, especially in the context of owning or running a small business, is the image that the public sees when they hear your name.  Think of the word, “Coke.” You get an instant image of a red can of soda with writing on the side.   That is because the company that owns that soft drink has spent millions of dollars and several decades constantly building, maintaining and strengthening their brand.  To relate this back to our context, what do people think of instantly when they hear your name, or the name of your business?

One way to finds that out, is to consult with people that you trust and ask them for their descriptions of you and your brand.  You may get a variety of answers, but it will give you a good cross section of opinions to start with.  Another way to uncover what your brand has become is to listen to the way people describe you when they are talking about you, or introducing you.  What descriptive words are used?  What points do they include or emphasize?  This will give you another building block to use later when you set out to polish your personal brand.

You may find that you have no significant branding in place, and you need to build one from scratch.  This is where you need to decide what you want the public to think of when they hear your name.  What values do you have that you want others to be aware of?  Decide what is important to you, personally and in business, and make sure that you let others know.  Decide what your actual skills are and what talents you have that you will offer to others for their benefit.  This will help you determine exactly what service you are providing and how you are providing it.  Holding your own performance to the highest standards in delivering these services will then help to create a brand that will be well known, and that you can be proud of.