Archive for the ‘Personal Branding’ Category

Why some brands nail it (and others fail.)

Why Some Brands Nail It and Others Fail. (Three Clues.)


Today, it’s just not enough to be brilliant. People must know and remember that you are.

Imagine this scenario: You’re looking to set up and run your own business, and you desperately want to be known, remembered and recognized. OK. Focus on creating a compelling brand right from the start. After all, your brand is one of your most valuable assets. Get it right, and it will position you and your business long term as totally irresistible, powerful and engaging.

Then, consider that today’s most successful brands are more conscious than ever about how they communicate with their audiences. If you carefully craft your brand’s voice, language, tone and behavior, you’ll have a much better chance of capturing your audience in a world with a low-attention span.

1º Set the Right Tone for your Brand.

Assume your brand is going to have an ongoing two-way conversation with your world 24/7. You want to be engaging with people, and interact with them across multiple platforms. Please note: Your tone is almost more important than what you say.

Takeaway 1: Realize that your brand has its own voice, and it’s your job to set the tone in all the language around your business. Notice how you are talking to people whether it’s face to face, written communications or online. If you speak with clarity and sincere intention, it’s going to resonate, hit home – and people will be able to hear you, understand what you’re doing, and then, want to climb onboard. (That’s a very good sign.)

Takeaway 2: Be consistent about communicating you are who you say you are. If your brand’s voice is authentic and aligned with your values –i.e. what you stand for – you will come across as trustworthy and genuine. If you come across as withholding or secretive, people will disappear (quickly!)

2º Mind your Brand’s Behavior.

Brands are like puppies (seriously.) They need a lot of attention and a firm hand.

Takeaway 1 Think about how you’d like your brand to be perceived by your audience. Communicate that to your team, make sure everyone is on the same page so there’s the promise to do whatever it takes to deliver exactly what you’re promising. (Under delivering is not a smart business strategy.)

Takeaway 2 Every brand has an attitude. It will either work in your favor or not. Be aware that the world is going to have a particular set of feelings around you, your brand and your business. Double check that your brand is welcoming and engaging from the start. Your business will land a high score when it comes to empathy if people feel your brand cares about creating strong emotional connections with them 24/7. (Keeping people at arm’s length is not an option. At least not on the 21C new brand landscape!)

3º Inspire Others. Share your Purpose.

When you tell people what you do and how you do it, it’s interesting (of course) but it’s not always that inspiring or helpful. But when you talk about why you do what you do, a different dynamic starts to happen.

You’ll notice people lean in, listen closer and an emotional connection start to kick in. People are craving to hear your why. What’s more, it takes courage to live your why– it’s your purpose, after all, says Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why.

Takeaway 1: Look at making your why part of your brand story, dialog and communication in all things, online and offline. In full disclosure, it’s going to take a little more effort than just talking about the nuts and bolts of your business. This is about looking at why you’re starting the business in the first place. What are the defining moments that led you to this very point in time? Why are they meaningful to you? And, just as importantly, why should anyone else give a damn!?

Working out Your Why is a highly-charged process and hugely rewarding. It’s one of the most powerful exercises you can do. PS Try it: it will transform the way you think about your life and business!


A 5 Day ‘Business-Unusual’ Retreat in San Miguel de Allende August 21-25, 2016


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Sunday August 21, 2016 – Thursday August 25, 2016

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

For the full program package,

go to

I’m thrilled to be launching the ‘Business-Unusual’ Retreat with a focus on creativity, intention, desire and 21C business right in the heart of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico in August. That’s five magical days & five nights in Central Mexico…

It’s really about giving yourself the time to uncover your most creative self and return to your business and digital world with a clear brand vision –– one that will cut through all the clutter (and make your message sing like a mariachi!)

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High in the mountain town of San Miguel de Allende in Central Mexico (UNESCO World Heritage site) – and housed in an enchanting 18th century villa, Casa Rosada, you’ll be able to unplug and get clear in a series of 21C Business- Unusual workshop sessions: I’m leading the creative strategy/branding sessions plus we’ve planned a inspirational half day in the Mexican campo (countryside) for equine-guided experiential learning led by a Kentucky trainer Marti McGinnis. This is about making heart-felt connections with a 1,200 lb horse. I’m also delighted to have renowned New York photographer Elizabeth Watt join us for her insightful heart-felt sessions on the The Art of Seeing. PS And I’m going to run a session on creativity and desire where we’ll explore how to coax out our creativity. I’ll  share a little about my personal story re how got started right here in San Miguel in 2014. Magical things happen in this 15C mountain town.

Q. Why Business-Unusual?

wynnie streest smaYou can not do business as usual. Not any more. In this New Digital Era, your best competitive advantage is being transparent and showing up like you mean it.  What’s more, keeping your clients at arm’s length or keeping a low profile is no longer an option. Seriously.

For the full program and package details, go to

See you over on there! Va

10 Best-Kept Secrets to Creating an Irresistible Brand.

1. We live in a Global Village All good brands like to land a spot on the global map. What’s more, the world is watching 24/7. So creating an irresistible brand means you’re going to have to speak directly to the big wide world out there — with intention, in your voice — so people can hear you, and sense that you ‘are who you say you are.’ So what’s the tone and energy around your brand?

2. Storytelling is the Currency of our Time Share your Brand Story with the world in a new, provocative way. Connect the dots, look at the defining moments in your life and your business, and what led you to the very spot you are standing in, right now. There’s a narrative right there…in that journey, and the more it connects emotionally with people, the better. Because a true, heart-felt story resonates deeply. So don’t keep them at arm’s length. They’re longing to connect.

3. Curiosity and Willingness? There’s nothing quite like the desire to go to new places – and see the future. It helps if you are a nimble and agile thinker as it keeps you alert to new opportunities as they fall in front of you – and the inclination to act on them. Understand that people can sense and pick up on this desire. So my question for you is: Are you willing, curious and alert? PS complacency is a killer.

4. Peripheral Vision The ability to see outside the lines of sight is critical right now. In life and in business. It helps to shift your perspective, see the other person’s point of view. It often brings compassion, a heightened sensitivity and the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. This kind of empathy and understanding goes a long way in building trust and meaningful relationships in your business. Are you understanding what other people’s issues are and how you can make a difference? Can they see that twinkle in your eye?

5. Desire to Go Big, Bold and Provocative In this over-saturated marketplace, one of the best ways to soar above your competition is by creating your own signature brand that will make you stand out. Focus on what makes you truly different. Then translate that across your business. So how brave and fearless are you when it comes to showing up bigger and bolder? This is not the time to be small. PS If you can brand with heart, and with intention, you’re going to be miles ahead of your competition.

6. Take the Role of Brand Guardian Seriously You are the guardian of your brand. You’d be amazed at the number of business owners who are not paying attention to their brand. Brands like to be nurtured need your attention 24/7. You brand is never done, so to speak. It needs to change, grow and evolve just like everything else. So what kind of Brand Guardian are you? Because if you nurture your brand, people will be able to tell, and feel the difference. Guaranteed.

7. Wear the Hat of Master of Serious Play Believe it or not, brands have a tendency to want to play, live out loud and have a bit of fun along the way! It’s the one characteristic that is hugely attractive to people/clients and it will certainly keep them paying attention! Of course, it’s about keeping a fine balance between being professional and playful so make sure you can walk that tightrope with grace. PS if you’re not having enough fun with your brand, go out and start addressing this issue immediately. It will pay off, I promise.

8. Knock the Socks off your Clients (and your Competition) There is something very valuable about delivering what you say you will. It doesn’t happen every day, by the way. On the other hand, if you over deliver and add value, your clients will see the difference, and be asking for more. So how are you knocking the socks off your customers? (Because your competitors will be hearing about it.)

9. Fact: We live in a Design-Driven Culture You better get used to the fact that design is here to stay. If you’re not paying attention to the value of the design aesthetic in your business, you’re going to be hurting the bottom line. In fact, research tells us that our brains process images/visuals 60,000 faster than just plain text. So how much attention are you giving to being the visual storyteller and visual thinker in your business? Look around. See what appeals to you visually and then bring some of that magic back into your business.

10. What’s the Buzz around Your Brand? All good brands love a lot of attention. They weren’t created to sit in the back seat let alone be apologetic. There’s something totally irresistible about being truly authentic and credible. Use language that is engaging, real and true. Get out of your comfort. Expand your boundaries. Dare a little. You will find it’s worth it.

@2015 Mary van de Wiel |

How to create a strong brand message that’s irresistible (7 clues)

1. This is Business Unusual. We’re living in a 20C Global Village If you have a presence online, don’t forget for a second that the world isn’t checking you out 24/7. Whether you know it or not. Creating an irresistible brand message means you’re going to have to show up and speak directly to the big wide world out there — in your voice, in your language so people can hear you. They need to sense that you ‘are who you say you are.’ So what’s the tone and language around your brand?

2. Storytelling is the Currency of our Time  It’s time to re-imagine and reframe your brand story and message for your audience in a new, provocative way. Connect the dots and defining moments in your life, your business, and what led you to the very spot you are standing in, right now. Because your defining moments and stories around them are what’s going to connect emotionally with other people. That’s irresistible. Story resonates deeply with people. Don’t keep them at arm’s length. They’re longing to connect.

3. Curiosity and Willingness There’s nothing quite like the desire to be transported to new places – and see the future. It’s something we all crave. So if your business can deliver people to another sense of place or discovery —  make sure that’s embedded in your messaging. That’s irresistible, for sure. Allow your clients to sense and pick up on this desire.  Are you paying attention? Being curious and having a sense of wonder in your messaging is magic. PS Complacency is a killer.

 4. Peripheral Vision The ability to see outside the lines of sight is critical in your business. It helps to shift your perspective, see the other person’s point of view. It often brings compassion, a heightened sensitivity and the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Bring your own kind of empathy and understanding to your brand messaging. It goes a long way in building trust and meaningful relationships in your business. Are you understanding what other people’s issues are and how you can make a difference? Can’t do business without trust. If you’re trustworthy, people will feel it and head in your direction. That’s irresistible.

5. Desire to Big, Bold and Provocative In this over-saturated marketplace, one of the best ways to soar above your competition is by creating your own signature brand message that will make you stand out. OK Focus on what makes you truly different. Then translate that over into your business. So how brave and fearless are you when it comes to showing up bigger and bolder? This is not the time to be small. PS If you can brand with heart, and with intention, you’re going to be miles ahead of your competition.

6.  Take on the Role of Brand Guardian You are the Guardian of your brand. It’s a role to be taken seriously. You’d be amazed at the number of business owners who are not paying attention to their brand. Brands like to be nurtured need your attention. (A bit like puppies. Seriously.) Your brand is never done, so to speak. It needs to change, grow and evolve just like everything else in your business. So what kind of Brand Guardian are you? Because if you nurture your brand, your customers will tell, and feel the difference. Guaranteed.

7. Master of Serious Play Believe it or not, brands have a tendency to want to play, live out loud and have a bit of fun along the way! That’s irresistible. It’s the one characteristic that is hugely attractive to clients, and it will certainly keep them paying attention… Of course, it’s about keeping a fine balance between being professional and playful so make sure you can walk that tightrope with grace. So if you’re not having fun with your brand, go out and start addressing this issue immediately. It will pay off, I promise.

OK Your turn! I’d love to hear your best-kept secrets about how you’re creating the most irresistible brand messaging out there!

Zinging along,


@2015 Mary van de Wiel | CEO Creative Captain Zing Your Brand & Co.


Why a Brand Audit will help your clients recognize who you are.

We’re living in a 21C new world.

I call it Business Unusual. Because we’re all having different kinds of conversations across more platforms than we could ever imagine….

Some days, we’re not even quite sure how we’re going to manage our messaging  – and keep it on target, consistent and, of course fascinating. (You know that feeling, right?) I do!

So taking a close look at your brand and the story you tell – as well as the messaging you put out to the world – is one of the best ways you’re going to catch (and capture) people’s attention today.

How do you do that? Through doing a a brand audit. It’s going to give you all the information you need to be more recognized and seen by the people you most want to see you…

The best part?  This is really about your strategy for Your Brand 2015 – because the art of communicating you are who you say you are has never been more critical.


  • Understand that building your brand is going to be your most competitive advantage in 2015.
  • Recognize that we’re all wired to connect with others on an emotional level.
  • Doing a brand audit in January is going to help your message resonate and hit home with people, particularly if you share that you are who you say you are. 

A New Brand Landscape & Co

A New Brand Landscape is a philosophy of self awareness designed to help you identify and recognize who you are  so others can. In such an over-competitive marketplace, this is one of the most effective ways of making sense of the unpredictable changes going on, turning the lens inwards on your unique value, embedding your unique energy into your business brand  – and then…. ah-ha…being willing to show up in a more mindful, and authentic way

FYI One of the most common issues that keeps coming up in conversations with clients is: how can I best communicate who I really am on this new brand landscape? How can I speak in my own voice so others know exactly who I am, what I stand for, and why anyone should give a damn?

This is exactly the level of self awareness that is going to shape your brand, your story and your reputation going forward.

OK Take a look at the info-graphic below: It will help you start re-imagining and reframing the way you think about your brand. It doesn’t matter whether you’re looking to close more sales, stand out in the marketplace, build a community or looking to kick start your business… It will help your potential audience understand who you are and what you stand for.

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1.) Brand Audit: An Un-Biased Evaluation.

Because every healthy, highly-functioning brand wants an Audit. 

You get regular checkups with your doctor, right? Well, ditto your brand. This is where you go in and pull back the layers, find out what’s really going on behind your brand and story, where it hurts and what’s getting in the way…

Where to start: Believe it or not, there are always invisible clues staring you in the face. Keep looking because this is where it gets interesting. The last thing you want to be doing is shooting yourself in the foot when it comes to your brand and business.

Ask yourself: is my messaging communicating who I am, what I do, why it matters and why anyone should give a damn? This process is really about bringing more meaning and purpose to the business table. How willing are you to evaluate, assess and tweak the kind of messaging you are sending out to the world, 24/7?

Take away: Look for the clues that are doing your business a disservice. Ask your colleagues for their honest feedback. If your site communicating the message you want out in the world? Does it reflect you, and your own unique value? And is it obvious and clear what your purpose is? Take a long look…what are you coming up with?

 2.) Brand Story: Why you do what you do.

Because every healthy brand loves a well-articulated & irresistible story. 

This is where you look at YOUR WHY.  Because understanding your WHY will give you all the clues you need to create a meaningful story. PS Here’s another blog post that will help you  craft a meaningful story about you, your business and your brand.

Let’s face it: This is about coaxing out your creative essence and getting right to the heart of your brand. Ask yourself: Does my brand have heart Y/N? (What’s your answer?!)

Where to start? Start tapping into the reasons why you’re working at what you do. Or why you started your business in the first place? I bet you have a remarkable ‘back story’ that would fascinate people. As in: share something about you that they’d never be able to know. Articulate that story. Make it personal – be creative and courageous, too.

Ask yourself: This is about making human connections through your story. How willing are you to tell your story_ as in: the story you don’t normally share with others? Does your current brand story keep your audience at arm’s length? Or does it help people understand exactly who you are. It’s a good feeling to allow others to understand YOU… Are you allowing that connection to happen?

Ask yourself: Are you willing to get out of your comfort zone? Actually open up just a little so others can get to see you, know you, like you — and trust you. Because that’s when people open up their wallets — and buy from you.

On a personal note: When I started sharing my story of being a Dutch sea captain’s daughter, for example, I was amazed at the reaction… People seemed to have trouble remembering my name but they had no problem remembering the Dutch sea captain’s daughter. Why? Because it’s a potent, visual picture that tells a story …and lands a spot in their psyche.

OK I know: that’s not exactly getting myself out of my comfort zone. But there’s a whole big story around that: As in, I learned how to see the horizon even in stormy weather. When I started sharing the ups and downs in my story, it resonated more with readers… See the difference?

3.) Brand Identity: Are you who you say you are?

Because every healthy brand longs for a fascinating identity.

We live in a design-driven culture. So you better get used to the fact that design is here to stay! If you’re not paying attention to the design aesthetic around your business, you’re going to be hurting the bottom line.

Where to start: Understand there is nothing more compelling or important than building a brand identity that helps you show up like you mean it. Our brains are wired to pick up on visual imagery. We are, at heart, visual storytellers.

Ask yourself: Is my logo, color palette and language inviting, warm, energizing — or is it making people want to look the other way? (Believe me. Sometimes I take one look at a business card someone has handed me, and I want to cringe. Because the color, font or the design – is about to suck all my energy. Not a good business strategy.)

Ask yourself: Out of 10, what kind of score would I give my current logo, site, marketing materials? Would this material stop me in the street and make me… gasp?! If you can’t holler HELL YES to that question, well… I’d suggest you think about what kinds of design excite you and make you want more…

4.) Brand Transformation: Why what you do matters.

Every healthy brand adores fine-tuning along the way.  

Your brand is never static. It’s not just your logo. Or your tagline. Or the color of the uniforms your staff wear. Or the color palette on your website. Your brand is a living, breathing organism that needs regular monitoring, checking in and keeping things on track.

In this final step, think about WHAT you do and why that matters. Why your audience/tribe should care about buying from you or signing up with you or visiting your site (online or off.) This is about paying attention to bringing as much energy and mindfulness to your brand so it feels alive, engaging — and totally authentic.

If you still think your website as a kind of  ‘static holding place’ that really has no significance in the scheme of things, you are making a big mistake. Everyone is checking your website –before they contact you. Before they choose to work with you. It’s the energy you create around your site and online presence that is now the determining factor as in: whether people decide to work with you, or not.

Ask yourself: Rather, ask some of your favorite clients/colleagues for some seriously-honest feedback. As in: What kind of feeling do you pick up when you go on my site? Does my online brand communicate what I am really like? What we really do? And the unique value I really bring to the table? Listen to the answers carefully.

If you’d like a little help around getting your brand audited, there’s an option of booking a 75 minute session with me, check it out here:

In my Brand Audit, we’ll zero in on exactly what your brand most needs to it land a spot on the new brand landscape:

  • Business Strategy: We’ll look at how to manage your reputation so you show up like you mean it. We tap into what makes your customer’s brain tick so your brand message can better relate & resonate with them. 
  • Creative Storytelling: Let’s look at how to craft your own messaging with exactly the right tone, voice and language. (You’ll never keep your audience at arm’s length again.)
  • Brand Marketing: How to amp up your Emotional Intelligence (EQ), strengthen your relationship with your audience and create more trust so they’ll be your raving fans forever.
  • Emotional Intelligence: How keep you audience leaning in closer – hearts beating, eyes gleaming. How to monitor the kind of messaging your brand is communicating 24/7. Reality check: Your brand is sending out subliminal messages and invisible clues whether you know it or not. 

Any questions about the process? Get in touch and we can continue the dialog: Or say hello on

And please comment below on how you best  evaluate and assess your business brand. Love your insights, as always!

Jazzed and zingingly yours,



The Best-Kept Secret to a Killer Brand Story

Let’s face it, story is all around us. Since the cavemen shared stories around the campfire to reading the news on our cell screens, it’s been at the heart of every transaction. It defines who we are, and it’s the way we connect with each other. It can be absolutely profoundly powerful – and transporting – because it takes us to another place. Remember when you last pleaded, in that little voice, ‘tell me another story, please?”

Telling your personal brand story in the most fascinating way is going to make your brand stand out in this marketplace. What’s more, it’ll captivate and transform your world, your audience or your consumers.

Just take a look at what’s happening across the social media platforms. What exactly are 500 million people doing on Facebook? Well, mostly they’re sharing their stories in words and pictures. They’re craving that emotional and powerful hit that comes through telling a story. It’s the ultimate form of creative expression which is an innate desire, and characteristic of humans, by the way. So if you’re haven’t been crafting your own killer personal brand story, now is a good time to start.

Technology is making sharing stories more fun and more frictionless. Social innovator Rachel Botsman and co-author of the influential book What’s Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption, talked at TEDx SYDNEY about the new ‘trust mechanics’ online, and explored how technology is actually enabling trust between strangers in the new peer-to-peer social revolution. (You can hear her talk at TEDx Sydney, Australia May 2101: A Case for Collaborative Consumption

So how do you start shaping your brand story so it has a distinctive and emotional resonance, shows you to be a real and trustworthy human being, and hits home with your audience? Here’s the secret: You start digging deep:

Identify the defining moments in your life
Look at the trajectory of your life and/or career and identify which are the defining moments for you. Why do they stand out? What happened exactly, and why are they so significant to you? Let your memory take you right back there and probe a little more. The idea here is to pick one of your defining moments and then weave it right into the fabric of your brand story.

Here’s one of my favorites. It’s a brilliant brand story: Jeff Nussbaum is a partner at one of the country’s most prominent strategic speechwriting firms, West Wing Writers, based in Washington, D.C. If you go to the About page on their site and click on Jeff Nussbaum, you’ll see how Jeff has shaped his story by capturing one defining (and traumatic) moment in his life:

Jeff Nussbaum | Partner
The first speech Jeff Nussbaum wrote was to defend himself against suspension from high school. It was unsuccessful. Since that time, Jeff has written speeches, op-eds, and promotional materials for heads of state, corporate executives, foundations, professional athletes, actors, and trade associations.

Get the idea? I can only assume Jeff’s defining moment was quite a dramatic experience. But see how he has turned it around, and crafted a highly idiosyncratic, captivating and moving personal story?

FYI: Storytelling is critical to your personal brand and business for a couple of reasons:
• An authentic personal brand story makes you totally memorable (in the best way possible)
• It differentiates you as desirable (what could be better?)
It brings your brand to life (nothing worse than a bland brand so this is all good news)
• It gives you a distinct competitive advantage (FYI not many people out there can tell a good brand story)
• Your audience becomes hugely responsive (absolutely)
• It lands an unforgettable spot in the psyche of your audience (what more can I say?)

Warning: Our brains are constantly on alert, scanning the horizon for insincere messages. Just write your story with absolute sincerity. Consumers out there are savvy. They can smell a fake story a mile away. Be exactly who you say you are. Then, watch heads turn!

So have you identified one of your most remarkable defining moments yet?

This was published on January 30th, 2011 at 5:30 am on Dan Schawbel’s award-winning Personal Branding Blog by weekly contributor Mary van de Wiel.

Dare to do Cartwheels. (No Tumbling Please.)

Cartwheels are one of the basic moves in gymnastics. Practicing cartwheels tends to strengthen your upper body and helps you learn other tricks like handsprings. Firstly, you need to kick your legs into the air while pushing on the floor. If you are less confident, then use grass and a slight slope. –

I find there’s something exuberant about watching anyone doing cartwheels. It makes you stop, pay attention, gasp. After all, no one likes to see anyone tumble. Ditto brands.

I’m about to reveal a personal story with readers about my brand doing cartwheels. I am pulling the curtain, so to speak, on Zing Your Brand & Co., and allowing you to get a peek behind the scenes. This is, of course, in the hope it might inspire and/or propel you into the exhilarating World of Brand Cartwheeling.

In a nutshell, this is about rethinking your brand through a visual lens, and doing a complete overhaul. Or, as my New Zealander-designer-friend-who-lives-in-Australia calls it, a giggly-up.

In full disclosure, I’ve been playing with my brand lately. I’ve been longing for a different kind of visual energy – a more advanced creative metaphor, so to speak, for my brand. And, because I’m a visual storyteller, I expected I could make this happen in a flash. It didn’t quite work out that way.

What’s more, I’ve always believed in the power of symbols but this journey was taking me longer than I thought. I turned to my New Zealander friend, a brilliant visual thinker and, in fact, my design soul mate for over 16 years. (FYI He’s based in Sydney. He no longer takes on new clients, and asked me specifically not to give out his contact details. You bet, I’m sorry.)

Here’s what I’ve discovered in the process of doing cartwheels with my brand, and hope it will dare and inspire you to do the same. Ready?

1) Exuberance: Every brand can benefit from a dose of exuberance. Even though Zing Your Brand & Co. always carried a certain kind of energy, I wanted a bigger dose of exuberance – a bigger bolt of energy. More drama. (After all, I was a drama major.)

So this was my design brief for a new visual symbol: I told my Kiwi friend-designer how often I ask clients these two questions: When is the last time you checked the pulse of your brand? Is your brand showing vital signs?
He responded with this exquisite red object. He calls it ‘this round blob.’ Its original intent was one of questioning, and it was showcased recently, for the first time, as part of my Dead Brand Walking presentation in Las Vegas. So this symbol basically emerged as a question-motif for a keynote presentation. Lesson: Dare to be exuberant.

2) Agility: Every brand can benefit from agility and nimbleness. ‘This round blob’ resonated with me. It called me, and I knew intuitively that instead of just being a symbol for Dead Brand Walking, I was going to transform into a bigger metaphor for ‘zing-potentiality.’ Four weeks ago, I moved quickly and incorporated it across my site FYI The symbol is now currently in the process of being trademarked as part of the company. Lesson: Move quickly.

3) Living Outloud: If it feels good, it’s good for you and your brand. This visual metaphor speaks to people. Since this red symbol showed up on my site, business cards, the lot – there’s been a remarkable response. One person liked it so much they thought they’d like to adopt it for their own business! Another wants to see this on a t-shirt so she can wear it all over town. You see, a visual symbol speaks to people, in different voices and in different ways – that’s living outloud. It’s what puts a twinkle in the eye, and a spring in the step! Lesson: Dare to live outloud!

On a final note, I salute my Boston-based friends and colleagues, Nick and Nikki Smith-Morgan, who dared me to do some serious cartwheels!

This article was first published online on Dan Schawbel’s on April 10, 2011

Mary van de Wiel is best known for her global expertise when it comes to coaxing out the real power in brands to dramatically increase sales. Van is founder and Creative Director of She is the author of soon-to-be-published Dead Brand Walking: A Brand Therapist’s Viewpoint. Follow her on Twitter.

A Playbook for WOW Power: Understanding Interviews

There’s something I like about speaking to graduating students. It’s thrilling but there’s always the same poignant and pressing question in the Q&A session: “With so much competition out there, how do I make myself stand out and land that job?”

My best answer? It’s about Wow Power. Go out and be the best visual storyteller of your brand. Bring your brand to life (or, larger than life) and interviewers will sit up and pay attention. Here’s five strategies (some visual, some playful) that have the potential to knock the socks off anyone sitting opposite you in the interviewer seat.

FYI The first two address serious mindset issues. Learn to manage these upfront, and your job hunt just got easier.

1. Grip I can’t help notice the somewhat crestfallen looks on some students’ faces in sessions. I’m whipping up massive doses of inspiration, ideas and courage, and I look around, and see despair. Sound familiar Y/N? It’s time to get a grip. Learn to be resilient. (Proceed to #2.)

2. Resilience There’s power in learning resilience. If you’re resilient, you’re going to approach job hunting totally differently from someone who is feeling helpless, passive, or as I’ve seen too often, subliminally already expecting failure.
Where do you stand?

Imagine a continuum: At one end, helplessness and a paralyzing fear of the future; and at the opposite end, there’s the desire to rise to the top and succeed. Where do you stand?

If you’re slanting towards being optimistic, you’re certainly not going to give up. You’re going to get into the habit of interpreting setbacks as temporary. You know you can handle it, move forward and succeed. This is learning to think like an optimist. Embrace it. It’ll help you deal with the unexpected. If you’re veering in the opposite end of the continuum, then this is a clue you might need additional help.

3. Splash Create your own highly-personalized and visual splash page on It’s free. It doesn’t take long to set up, but treat it seriously. This is a public page where you can park your own brand for visitors to get a sense of who you are, and what you’re looking for. It’s perfect for visual storytelling. (Browse around the site first and check out other members’s pages.) Write up your resume. Add your photo and social media links. Before the interview, instead of sending an attachment of your resume, include your personalized link in your email. FYI Is your resume on LinkedIn? It’s the first place recruiters go to search for candidates.

5. Mini Billboard Even if you’ve never had a job before, or you’re out there looking, think about the power of handing out a business card. If you do it right, it’s an irresistible piece of visual storytelling. You’ll stand out. Of course, it has to reflect you and your brand. Want to add a title for fun? Make one up. Take, Director of Possibilities, for example. It’s provocative but in three words, you’re telling me you’re going to solve my problems. Use the back. Treat your business card as your own mini billboard. Heads will turn. You might need a designer to help you. I did. It’s worth it.

FYI There are free printing options galore but if you want the name of a terrific printer, you can get 500 two-sided cards printed in NYC for just over $100. There’s no excuse for cheap cards that don’t have a punch. I highly recommend Variable Graphics in NYC. Kenny Raskin is your man. (I don’t usually include recommendations but cheap, ugly cards are not a good idea. Believe me.)

4. Flip If you haven’t bought a Flip Video yet, this could be a deal maker for you. (Job maker?) This snappy video fits in the palm of your hand, comes in kooky bright colors and couldn’t be easier to use. Prices range ($129.99-$199.99) Check out J&R or the official Flip Store Walmart, other places, too.

What’s the idea? Get a friend to shoot you for 90 seconds to two minutes talking about your expertise. Or, the kind of job you’re looking for, and why you’re the best candidate. Or talk about what you do best. Be yourself and professional at the same time. Personalize the video. (Don’t send the same one to different companies.) But be smart about this. You have to know your audience and where you’re sending it and why. Make sure your message, content and delivery are appropriate to the company. Dress the part. What’s your tone? Get the idea? If not, you’re going to shoot yourself in the foot. FYI Or, create a series of videos. Put them on Be smart about creating the titles so they’re snappy, appealing.

5. Own. If you haven’t already registered your own name as a domain, do it. When I first interviewed Dan Schawbel on NY Brand Lab Radio, he told me it’s one of the first things he advises students. This is your name so protect it. It’s one of your most valuable assets. I’ve heard resistance to this idea. Remember: Your name is your power base. Own it, protect it and leverage it. You’ll be happy you did one day. Before someone else gets it, register your name at a site like (approx. $9.99 a year)

Here’s to your success and knocking the socks off any interviewer!

This article was first published online here: Dan Schawbel’s award-winning

9 Odd Strategies for Coaxing Out your Brilliance

The nice thing about being human is that you don’t have to be normal. You can choose to be odd, for example. I prefer odd. Particularly odd brands. If there’s a quirky or idiosyncratic vibe going on, all the better. Why? An odd brand tells me something vital is going on. For a personal brand, that’s hugely appealing.

If this kind of stuff interests you, I’m going to pile up nine odd strategies that will get your creative juices firing, and your personal brand pumping. If you start practicing even 50% every day, you’re going to notice a difference in the way you feel, how you perceive yourself, and your own creativity and brilliance is going to start working for you to the max. Here goes:

1 Doodle This practice involves exercising your right brain and one hand. Just start doodling. Not a doodler? OK Then pick up a crayon or paint brush or magic marker, anything that might amp up your inner creative genius. It works, believe me. If you don’t believe me, check out Sunni Brown, leader of the Doodle Revolution: www.sunnibrown. (Stop looking so anxious! This is the best route (most fun) to tapping into your brilliance.)

2 Steam I’m not talking about letting off steam. I’m talking steaming brussel sprouts. According to Brian Collins, Chairman and Chief Creative Officer of Collins, his NY-based innovation-led, brand-building agency, going vegan three days a week increased his creative energy, shifted his mindset, and he lost weight along the way. You can hear Collins on NY Brand Lab Radio raving about life, branding, business and his favorite steamed lunch: Go check his site:

3 Lemming If you feel tempted to do what everyone else is doing, catch yourself. Stop right there. Want to be a lemming? (By all means.) But the courage to resist following the crowd is a sign of courage, integrity and conviction. Please don’t jump off the cliff. Be brave, create your own oddly brilliant brand – and do it your way. It’s the best decision you’ll ever make.

4 Desire This is a feeling. It’s about a longing. It also happens to be a quintessential brand attraction magnet. Get clear on exactly what it is you do best, what’s so oddly different about you. Leverage that and you’re on your way to stepping into your brilliance. FYI The ‘oddly different’ is exactly where your brand power lies.

5 Pulse So how do others really feel about your brand? Do an informal survey. Ask this question, “On a scale from 1 (blah) to 10 (sparky/zingy), how would you rate my brand?” This is called checking the pulse of your brand. FYI You want honest answers so don’t ask best friends. As soon as you get your average rating, you’re going to know what you need to do.

6 Homeless Always carry a piece of fresh fruit in your bag. Why? The next time you pass a homeless person on the street, stop. Offer them a piece of fruit if they’re hungry and listen to their story. That’s what Karen Karp dared our listeners when she was talking on NY Brand Lab Radio recently. She’s president of Karp Resources, an enlightened innovator in the business of food, and she starts up remarkable conversations with homeless people on the street. Open up your world. You’ll discover heart-felt treasures. It’s another key to your compassion and brilliance.

7 Underbelly When’s the last time you checked the underbelly of your brand? It’s that part of your brand that doesn’t see the light of day. It’s the part that might not be serving your interests. Perhaps there are some serious issues you’re ignoring. Dare yourself to see what’s lurking in the corners. Put the spotlight on the issues. Address them, sooner than later. You’ll feel freer. (You have my personal guarantee.)

8 Soar If you want to live a little, turn off your computer. Go catapult yourself into a different zone every day. Go soar. If you don’t, your creative genius is going to get stifled. Step outside. Smile at a stranger. Gaze at swans gliding in a lake (I did that today.) Choose a different café and do nothing. FYI Your brilliance is begging for down time.

9 Spike If you brand is lacking oxygen, it’s a pretty good sign you’ve got a Dead Brand Walking on your hands. Energy is the most invigorating and luxurious force in the world. Use it. Spike your brand energy. Re-invigorate your brand voice, attitude, language. Don’t keep people at arm’s length. Your audience is craving real and authentic. Dare to give your brilliance to them.

This article was first posted on Dan Schawbel’s Personal Branding Blog.

Winning Brands Don’t Happen by Magic

If you want to get a sense of what it takes to be a winner, I’d encourage you to get your hands on the documentary film, The Audition. It’s breathtaking and heartfelt as it documents the 2007 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Each year thousands of hopefuls compete for a cash prize, the chance to sing on the storied Met stage—and the opportunity to launch a major operatic career.

Directed by award-winning filmmaker Susan Froemke, this suspenseful narrative provides a revealing look at what it takes to make it as an opera star, and the intense challenges and pressures young opera singers face as the stakes get higher. FYI The documentary crew was given unprecedented access to the singers, judges, and events backstage at the Met.

Well, on Sunday March 13, the Met Opera National Council Auditions took place. I was sitting in the audience this year at Lincoln Center, and it’s all because I fell in love with the story. Five winners walked away with a future secured on the Met stage.

Here’s my thoughts on what was so intriguing about that day – and so powerful about that film – because it feels as though there’s a metaphor lurking around here. It’s all about how to make your personal brand a winner, of course.

In pursuit of excellence: You could see their desire for excellence bursting right up there on the Met stage. These young opera singers were standing in their brilliance, giving their best because they knew what they wanted, where they wanted to go, and why it mattered. So if you want to soar above the rest of the competition, you have to be in pursuit of excellence every moment. You have to define what it is that has value, and then what you are willing to do about it. After all, this kind of winning takes thousands of hours of preparation, training – and blood, sweat and tears. There’s no way around it.

Discipline: It must take millions of small steps to get to that Met stage. Absolutely nothing gets in the way. Like professional athletes, these singers have to adopt a different kind of mindset. They have to look at their world through a different kind of lens. So if you want to catapult ahead of the pack, you have to rethink all things. Your mindset has to be set and focused on one goal. Total control here. No negotiations. It’s that simple. Using discipline to accomplish one’s important goals is essential.

Performance: Imagine the moment of walking out on that stage. Vocal chords in top form. Their choice of song, posture, attitude – are all indicators as to whether they’re going to be a winner, or not. Guess what? They all have coaches watching their back all the way. So if you’ve determined to be a winner brand, find someone who can help you evaluate your performance. Whip you into shape, if you need it. You’ll need to trust them. And they’ll need to understand your goals so they can encourage you to improve.

FYI We happen to live in a culture where failure is an acceptable part of the learning process. You just need to be prepared to take the risks. (Of course, knowing what you want takes lots of practice. Assume it’s likely you’ll have some failure along the way.)

OK. I encourage you to watch The Audition. The film is so instructive. These young opera singers are exceptionally gifted people but they also have staying power. Watch them do what they do. Because they stay the course, and understand what it takes to do the job. The idea that talent is innate is utterly overrated. Nothing happens as if by magic.

This article was first published on Dan Schawbel’s blog: