HR Brand: Generic or a Name Brand? What’s it Going to Be?

I have come to the conclusion that what seems to be the new buzz du jour about developing one’s personal professional brand is not new at all.  The concept of branding has been around literally forever.  And yet, so few professionals give it any thought or spend any time or effort in discovering what their brand label should say.  I theorize that the reason for this is that it is far too easy and comfortable to be like everyone else.

I also theorize there is no such thing as doing a job that is so mundane that we cannot find a way to brand ourselves. Human resources plays a critical role in an organization, and so branding oneself in a strong and compelling way is not as hard as one might think.

I remember the first time I was introduced to Generic Brand foods it was my first trip to Europe as a college intern.  I was food shopping and I noticed the white labeled canned foods with NO Picture.  Just the words listed on the label identifying the contents of what was in the can.  I noticed the white labeled foods were CHEAPER than their brand name competitors.  I happen to love peas, so I bought the can that said “Pois” – which is French for peas.   Now, I can’t say that I noticed any difference in the quality of that can of peas than in a brand named can of peas, but I did notice that the generic was cheaper!

As I said, the concept of Branding has been around forever!  In fact, we can learn about branding from all of the wonders of Mother Nature. Plants and animals naturally display a type of brand in order to propagate and stay alive.

What Makes You Unique?Let’s take the fabulous peacock.  He’s marvelous.  He’s stunningly beautiful and he knows it.  He struts his stuff like nobody’s business.  How can you ignore him?  And by way, he is certainly entitled to the attention because he’s gorgeous!  And boy, does he have swagger!

If you have ever heard the Mocking Bird sing and serenade you would be impressed.  This nondescript-looking creature has a set of lungs, a vocal range and endurance like no other!  This bird can sing, and sing and sing, and he never repeats the same note.  His melody is all over the place. And he goes on for hours, and hours and hours, until he finds a mate.  (The singing of this bird is wonderful unless he has perched himself outside your bedroom window at 2:00 am…….)

The New Guinea Bird of Paradise’s mating dance has been the subject of the National Geographic Channel.  The back sides of his feathers are stunning.  They are a flat black with vibrant aqua markings that he not only flares in front of a female, but then proceeds to dance and prance around her – backwards!

Alright, enough about the mating practices of nature.  The beloved author of children’s books, Dr. Seuss was also onto the branding theme.  Even though his books were written to entertain and teach children, he has deep messaging that even adults can learn from.  Through his work we read that he was encouraging kids to be different, to be unique and comfortable about being themselves.  A Dr. Seuss quote that I am particularly fond of is “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”

To brand oneself takes courage and it warrants a thoughtful process.  But you don’t need to over-think it.  Are you special?  No?  Then figure out what makes you special.  Yes, you say?  Then let the world know.

The Peacock, Mocking Bird and New Guinea Bird of Paradise stand out among others and they are very hard to ignore.  The attention they get is certainly justified, because they deserve it!  They do something that no other bird does in ways that no other birds do!

What do you do that no one else does?  What is your special way?  What do you do that adds value, saves money, saves time, reduces turnover, alleviates litigation, keeps the unions at bay, coaches senior management, and/or helps others?  The list goes on.

What do you uniquely do, that justifies attention from others?  When you have this figured out, go ahead – get your STRUT on and show some swagger! The world, my friend, is watching!

Susan Howington is the CEO of Power Connections Career Services, Outplacement and Executive Coaching company.  As a Career Transition, Career Management and Executive Coach, Susan specializes in helping her clients understand and live their brand.

Photo by Kritchanut


  1. Di Chapman says:

    This is a great article on branding for everyone, not just HR professionals!