This is a story about one of the most successful branding campaigns in history and a critical lesson financial advisors everywhere should heed.
It was the early nineties. Computers, still a relatively new phenomenon, were advancing exponentially in terms of such coveted (and ever-evolving) features as memory, speed and size.
Software notwithstanding, it was the hardware that had many consumers scratching their heads. There were so many moving parts in selecting what to look for in a computer and which model to purchase that most buyers ended up relying on such hit-or-miss propositions as friends’ recommendations, spec sheets they didn’t know how to read (much less understand), glib salesmanship, bundled software suites, even aesthetics.
That’s when Intel saw an opportunity. The buying public had certainly heard of microchips – the whole computer industry had been built on them. But most laymen really didn’t understand their role, other than the fact they’d been told chips were the essential component that allowed a PC to do all the marvelous things it was capable of doing. And, as a nameless, faceless provider to any number of well-known computer manufacturers, Intel needed a way to stand out.
With that goal clearly in focus, Intel took its computer chip directly to the buying public, giving it a catchy, alliterative name (the “Pentium Processor”) and unleashing a relentless decades-long and multi-faceted marketing blitz targeting consumers.
Intel’s TV ads were everywhere and across multiple domains, including some of the most valuable real estate on television: Super Bowls, World Series, ESPN, 60 Minutes, MTV, nightly news shows, game shows, reality TV, top-ten prime time dramatic series. For nearly two decades it was almost impossible to turn on a television set in America and not see an Intel ad.
What’s more, early on the company launched an ambitious “Intel Inside” in-store campaign that included voluminous point-of-purchase signage, affiliate incentive programs, and tens of millions of ubiquitous, shiny and metallic-looking stickers on each and every computer that contained an Intel chip.
Soon, the equity that consumers had in the Intel brand began eclipsing even that of some of the biggest and best-known hardware suppliers, including Dell, IBM, HP, Commodore, Compaq, Gateway, Tandy, even Apple. It got to the point that unless computer buyers saw that little “Intel Inside” sticker on the front of a computer, the vast majority would simply frown and move on until they found one that did.
The idea of branding a component or an ingredient was hardly new. Brands like Nutra-Sweet, Teflon and GoreTex had been doing the same thing, and with some success, for years. But “Intel Inside” elevated the concept of component branding to an all-new level and allowed both the computer hardware and consumer electronics industries to benefit in so many unforeseen ways.
The lesson for advisors and other members of the financial advisory community?
It’s a simple one. It’s not the external trappings or the bells and whistles. It’s what’s inside that counts. It’s what’s inside of you as a professional – the things that make you different, unique, and special as an individual. And it matters how these things are packaged and showcased to the world.
Personal branding is critical for financial advisors. That’s becoming more and more apparent every day, and most are learning this lesson the hard way. In a crowded and ever-growing field, it is incumbent on every last advisor to establish his or her brand in a way that sets them apart from the competition. And, like Intel, they must do it relentlessly.
Let’s be clear. I’m not talking about self-promoting. I’m not talking about just advertising or high-profile social engagements or name placements. I’m talking about crawling inside your target audience’s mind and carving out a meaningful piece of it for yourself – call it share of mind – teeming with precisely the attributes and personal traits most consumers are looking for in an advisor.
To extend the Intel metaphor, each advisor must begin to think of him or herself as a computer chip; as the device inside of the commoditized financial advice industry that investors need to achieve their ultimate financial goals. But when it comes to personally branding yourself as the solution that will get you where you want to go, don’t focus on such lightweight trappings as your office, your company or your logo.
Instead, just like Intel, you should focus on what’s inside of you, i.e., your experience, integrity, personality and ability to look beyond the horizon, along with your unflinching commitment to being as open, honest, and candid with your clients as humanly possible.
Doing this requires transparency and authenticity. Any glimpse of your website, your social profiles, your videos, or any other marketing channel that gives the public a look into your business, must also give them a look into your soul. You can’t hold back from being silly, odd, loud-mouthed, or stoic — if in fact you are such a person.
The most recognized advisor brands are distinctly unique and differentiated from the crowd because they show off ‘what’s inside’. Douglas Boneparth of Bone Fide Wealth, makes it clear that he is “not your parent’s advisor” and is such an original that he even uses his hair as a logo. The Reformed Broker, Downtown Josh Brown, unapologetically expresses his polarizing views. Brittney Castro of Financially Wise is a personal branding force of nature, relentlessly showcasing her friendly and polished image on every possible channel. Of note is the fact that these advisors, while not the largest, are ranked among the top 100 most influential in the nation by Investopedia.
Simply put, your personal brand is your equity as a financial advisor, which is why constantly working on building that brand is so critical to your future. Your brand is not what you say about yourself. It is not the plaques on your wall, the degrees you may hold, or the honors you may have won. It is what your clients and your potential clients say – and, more importantly, think – every time they hear or see your name.
As an advisor to the advisory community, I firmly believe that building a personal brand and survival are virtually one and the same, especially in our current environment. Having extensively studied consumer behavior and analyzed the enormous power of sound and strategic messaging, I know that the most effective way to build your personal brand and gain share-of-mind among your target audience is not just to focus on what’s inside you, but to make what’s inside you the very heart of your message.