Branding is one of the most important tools a business can use. Whether consumers know it or not, every purchasing decision that they make – be it for a product or service – is rooted in the brand. Thus, it is somewhat of a surprise that branding for individuals did not become popularized until 1997, with Tom Peters’ article “The Brand Called You.” In his article, Peters remarks on how changes in the marketplace and technology make developing a personal brand more accessible, as well as more important. The increasingly competitive marketplace combined with the rise of social media means that personal branding is even more important and more attainable today. Thus, it is vital for students entering the workforce to develop a brand that will allow them to distinguish themselves. This research examines whether or not students understand what personal branding is and if they have taken the steps to develop their personal brand. The research questions are as follows:
• Do students understand what personal branding is?
• Are students able to define their skills?
• Do students have a career plan?
• Do students have a plan to promote their brand?
A pilot study was first distributed to students of Arizona State University which found that students lack an understanding of what personal branding is and have a need for the knowledge and tools to develop a personal brand. A workshop was then developed to address these issues. This workshop was held three times: first, for a Landscape Architecture class, second, for a marketing class, and third, for a student sales organization. The workshop discussed branding, personal branding, and then the participants were able to begin working on developing their own personal brand. The students in the first workshop had two sessions and were able to complete their own personal brand process with the workshop leader, while participants from the second and third workshops completed it on their own, after only a single workshop session. After completing the in-person workshop, participants shared their brand with their fellow students in a Google Plus page. Finally, participants completed an exit survey. This exit survey was used to measure the research questions.
The first workshop proved to be most effective, even though the participants in the first workshop were all landscape design students and the majority of the participants in the second and third workshops were business students. It was found that unless the students’ own brand development process was finished during the workshop or affected the students’ grade, it would not be completed. It was also evident in all of the workshops that slides with imagery were more effective at starting discussions than the text-heavy slides. As such, future workshops should be designed with a greater time allowance, the intent of the students’ own brand development process to be completed during the workshop, and the presentation should be redesigned to better initiate discussion among participants.