Relevance, Reputation, Reinvention: Today’s Trifecta For Modern Brands and Professionals

I’ve been gainfully employed since my first job right out of college (fine, I’ll share my age—that was back in 1995). I’ve also worked with large brands for the bulk of my career—helping them navigate the digital world back when Websites became a part of the business, then with social media and mobile and now—through strategic positioning to help them not only connect digitally to consumers but remain relevant in their lives.

And many legacy brands should be worried about how relevant they are because everything they think they know about being an integral part of the lives of their consumers has changed. In the world of CPG (consumer packaged goods), there is more choice than ever and millennials especially aren’t particularly fond of brands their parents swore by (because, hey—parents). In the tech world—if you don’t innovate and re-invent yourself relentlessly, you die or become drastically irrelevant.

I did some work with BlackBerry in the past decade and so much has changed in the mobile space. If you’re in the worlds and food and fashion, tastes have changed. I spend much of my professional life working with large brands who are either fighting to stay relevant or become more relevant or to preserve their relevancy or to create relevancy from scratch. CMOs at brands (especially consumer brands) are painfully aware that if they are not relevant in culture—they become invisible. And when they become invisible—it’s only a matter of time for the brand’s decline and ultimate demise.

But it’s not only brands who need to worry about becoming invisible—it’s professionals too.

In today’s modern workforce, we’re only as valued as our last contribution, combined with our reputation both inside of our companies as well as outside in our industry. Over the past couple of months, I’ve recently attended and participated at three events bringing three different parts of my professional life together—The ANA, SXSW, and the Adobe Summit (Marketing, Culture, and Technology). I’ll be honest with you—as a full-time employee working for a large agency, only one of these was a no-brainer. I spoke at the ANA as a representative of Edelman who I work for. We have senior clients there and I have follow-up meetings with some of them. The other two, require more leaps of faith. I’ve been to SXSW for twelve consecutive years and it’s always more serendipitous in terms of what you get from it and I attended the Adobe Summit for the first time upon being invited as part of their “Adobe Insider” program.

Making the decision to attend the Adobe Summit as part of their effort to reach targeted audiences was in part, a recognition of how important two of the three Rs are when it comes to professional life—you don’t get an invitation like this if you are irrelevant or if you have a poor professional reputation, a brand like Adobe has to be choosy with who they engage as advocates and partners.

Some of Adobe’s “Insiders” from the 2019 Adobe Summit

In the professional world, our reputation is everything and it’s built or unbuilt on relationships or the lack of

So I’ve been thinking a lot about this trifecta recently. As someone who in their late 40s and technically works in marketing—I see articles stating how being 40 is becoming the new “old” in certain professions (including mine) and it reminds me how important re-invention is as well. I haven’t had a formally structured role in almost a decade and have consistently re-invented myself and it hasn’t necessarily been about learning new skills as much as it has been about taking what I do learn and turning it into a tangible output that either our clients or my employer values. I think professionals get re-invention wrong and treat it a marketing or branding initiative— “I was known for that and now I want to be known as this”. It’s less about how you market yourself and more about what you PRODUCE.

When you start producing enough of what you want to be known for, re-invention comes more naturally.

Re-invention, Reputation, and Relevance. I can see so many parallels between professionals and brands. For brands seeking to improve their scores across all three—it takes small armies and it has to happen at the product level, not just marketing. For ourselves as professionals, we have to become our own army and advocates, because nobody is going to do it for us. Our parents may have been brand loyal, but that’s changed to a value exchange dynamic and the same goes for professional life—employees and employers enter an agreement of value exchange with each other and when it works best, both benefit equally. All three take significant amounts of energy and resources and investment. And it also takes getting out of your comfort zone or being willing to try something new without knowing what the end result will be.

As I sit here, recovering from a few intensive days in Las Vegas—I am reminded of how much these things matter both in work and life.

CMO, strategist, thinker and doer. I write about human behaviors and the relationship we have with technology and brands

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