A trucker hat, jeans and t-shirt, and arm tattoos certainly help Ben Couzens to stand out at the office.
Aside from his edgy look, the Melburnian also happens to be a country-raised, softly spoken artistic director of one of Australia’s leading ad agencies. He’s known for loving a joke, never being short of an idea, always hitting deadline, working hard and playing in a band in his spare time.
These attributes have all contributed to a personal brand that has helped him rise through respected advertising agency Clemenger BBDO, where he has made some of the best-known ads in Australia.
Couzens says his “personal brand” – or the way he chooses to present himself – isn’t a deliberate strategy. Instead, it’s a true reflection of himself that has emerged after learning from a previous boss that while he should take his job seriously, he didn’t need to do the same for himself.
“I think it’s important to be yourself and handle situations and people in your own unique way. If everyone handled things in the same way, coming to work would be pretty boring,” he says.
Kellie McDonald’s personal brand extends to wearing the colour orange every day, in what has become a powerful personal branding tool for the Queenslander. The founder of Ginger Days Recruitment, which sports a bold orange logo, says wearing her corporate colours helps existing and potential clients recall her business name. Having a strong personal brand also gets her foot in the door, she says.
“I always make sure I have something orange on, whether it’s a phone cover, a watch or a handbag so it ties back to my brand,” McDonald says.
Being known as the cool guy, the office wallflower, the computer geek, or the one always up for a beer after work, affects how others view you – including your boss.
Finding a positive way to stand out at work is increasingly competitive, prompting some recruitment firms to offer professional development services in personal branding.
Rachel Quilty, the chief executive of Brisbane personal branding firm Jump the Q, says the number of professionals wanting to develop a specific strategic style has grown.
“Consider yourself a brand. Image management is vital in today’s business world. Improving your image and personal brand is an investment in building your personal profile, reputation and the results you will achieve – and deserve to achieve,” Quilty says.
Those with an excellent personal brand, reputation and references will be hired first, promoted quicker and afforded more authority and respect, she asserts. “Personal branding also affords you more mobility within your industry.”
Personal branding expert Heidi Alexandra Pollard says your brand is built from the thoughts, words and reactions of other people, so is shaped by how you present yourself publicly, both offline and online. Your personal brand is something you have control over, so work on being the image you want others to see, she says.
“We believe that who you are is more important than what you do, so who cares if you are the cleaner, secretary or clerk – if you do it uniquely and with your own memorable style, you will be remembered, respected and referred,” Pollard says.
Considering the three words you would like people to think of when they hear your name can be a great way to determine what your personal brand might be, she says.
You represent and live your brand via your handshake, your social media presence, your business card, desk or office space, the way you dress and the accessories you wear and use, she adds.
“Consistency is key. It’s no good promoting what an efficient and effective personal assistant you are if your appearance is messy and dishevelled,” Pollard says.
“Think about how you can publicly be that brand, and then map out all the elements of your personal brand and even clip photos, images and brands that you feel represent who you are.”
But creating a personal brand has to come from the heart, advises career psychologist Danielle Fletcher of Ascends Personal Branding.
A personality profiling tool like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator can help achieve a deeper understanding of your personality traits and how you can use them to achieve your goals, she says.
“Knowing your strengths and talents enables you to carve out a niche, but understanding your personality is what will really help you to drive your brand forward.
“Strong brands are built through constant reinforcement of their key messages, and people’s perceptions of each other are the same,” Fletcher says.
Couzens says while it’s common to judge people on how they look, it’s irrelevant.
“I don’t think you need a gung-ho personality or to have bright pink hair, or be covered in tatts to stand out or make an impact at work. But I do think you can make an impact by jumping in feet first and giving things a crack, having a say and asking questions if you don’t understand or agree with something,” he says.
His boss, Peter Biggs, agrees, describing Couzens as a true professional. “He thinks ‘we’, not ‘me’. He’s unflappable. He has a mercurial brilliance. And he has intimidating tattoos.”