While I normally blog about online reputation management, today I’d like to talk about lessons that job applicants can learn from big brands.

Companies have long understood the power of branding. They spend millions of dollars a year making a promise to customers that goes beyond the technical and physical attributes of their products. They build an identity that customers trust, compelling people to choose them over their competition.

In the most competitive job market since the Great Depression, there are four powerful takeaways can you learn from corporate branding. You can apply these principles to yourself to more effectively market yourself.

1. Unique Selling Point

Corporate Branding. All companies must identify what differentiates their product. Why is it better than other similar products out there? Quality? Speed? Customer service? Excellent design?

Personal Branding. Identify your own unique selling point. What makes you different? Do you do things faster than your peers? Do you obsess over quality? Are you people-oriented and diplomatic? Can you break down complex tasks into bite-sized chunks? Think about what makes you unique, and ask a few friends and colleagues which qualities of yours stand out to them. Then weave these attributes into your “elevator pitch” (your 30 second description of who you are and what you do). You’ll use this pitch countless times on people ranging from recruiters to job interviewers to business partners to clients, so make it count!

2. Competitive Analysis

Corporate Branding. A company must position itself effectively against its competition. A business analyzes how other companies in its space are acting, to see what works (and what doesn’t). Then they can then create a much more compelling brand for themselves knowing how they stack up against what’s already out there.

Personal Branding. Use your competition to your advantage. Look at how other people offering similar services portray themselves. Go to your career center to see resumes of people in your field. If you’re an artist, browse artist galleries on the web to see how they’re showcasing their abilities. Then take the best qualities of each one and mix it with your own style. You can learn a lot from other people in your space.

3. Values

Corporate Branding. A company’s values guide its decisions. “The boss says we need to lay someone off. Jane suggested firing our phone tech support guy. But that wouldn’t align with our values of superior customer service.” Corporate values such as customer service lay the foundation for decisions that align with it’s brand promise.

Personal Branding. Personal values act in a similar way. They are the principles that shape your work habits and the way you interact with other people. Take a hint from your personality traits to find what values are important to you. Are you extremely shy? That may mean you prefer working on a project alone until it’s absolutely perfect before showing it to other people. Your shyness may stem from perfectionism, which says, “This person values the highest standards of quality in all their work.” Identify the values that guide you, focus on the ones will be most critical to your future success, and highlight them when talking about your work.

4. Impressions

Corporate Branding. An “impression” is when someone looks at a logo, picture, ad, website, or other visual media related to a company and that image gets embedded in their mind. Each impression strengthens the connection between a company and its brand promise for that person. Corporate branding pushes a company’s image onto as many people as possible, because the more potential customers see the brand, the more they trust that company can deliver on its promise – and the more they think about that company as they go about their day. Impressions aren’t limited to advertising – companies also brand their invoices, newsletters and all communications, using their logo and tagline to strengthen the relationship between their name and their brand.

Personal Branding. With everyone you meet, strengthen the association between your face and what you excel at. You want your name to be seen in a positive light by as many people as possible. That means every time you post a comment on a blog or forum, leave your name. Every time you send an email, include a full email signature with your position or degree. Every time you complete a project or presentation, put your name on it! Take pride in all your work and connect it back to your personal brand. The more people come across these “digital breadcrumbs,” the more you convince them that you can deliver on your brand promise. So include your name, your tagline (what you do and who you do it for) and your contact info in all your work.


The tactics above are used successfully by the vast majority of successful businesses. Start thinking of yourself as a business, as You, Inc., and plan a course of action to make your brand stand out among your peers. Two quick ways to do that are to start using social networks effectively. In the information age, I highly recommend you create an effective LinkedIn and Twitter profile, then leverage them to achieve your goals. To get started, see 14 Tips To Use LinkedIn more Effectively and 10 Tips to Make Twitter Actually Useful. Good luck!

Pete Kistler (iSchool ‘10) is a leading Online Reputation Management expert for Generation Y, one of Entrepreneur Magazine’s Top 5 College Entrepreneurs of 2009, one of the Top 30 Definitive Personal Branding Experts on Twitter, a widely read career development blogger, a Judge for the 2009 Personal Brand Awards and co-author of Career Launchpad (Perry, 2009) and From Tweet to Hired (Brand-Yourself, 2010). Pete is the CEO of Brand‐Yourself.com, the first online reputation management platform for job applicants, named one of the Top 100 Most Innovative College Startups in the U.S. Connect with Pete at his siteLinkedIn and Twitter.