Developing ‘Brand You’: The Way to Drive Home Your Main Points
As part of our month-long anniversary celebration, I’d like to highlight some of my favorite blog posts from along the way that I think will really resonate with applicants who are gearing up for submission this fall.
Think for a moment about the audience for your business school application: you will be spending hour upon hour writing a magnum opus may be read by just one person, or a select few at most.
These people have dozens of applications they need to get through each day and even the most diligent may at times miss some points in your essays. That’s why you need to make things as easy as possible for the admissions committee members by making sure they can’t miss who you are and what you can add to the class.
The best applications feature three or four aspects of the applicant’s character and experiences that anyone reading the essays can’t help but identify. These three or four traits combine to form “Brand You.”
We all know the power of brands. Companies spend tons of cash to make sure you know how they deliver value and what they stand for. While there are many more subtle facets to their full corporate identities and many nuances to their product/service offerings, firms need to make sure that customers have a complete and unambiguous understanding of a limited list of characteristics.
Take, for instance, this list of traits for a few well-known companies:
1. Low prices everyday, huge selection, one-stop shop
2. Great place to hang out, socially responsible, respect for employees
3. Great design, simplifying the complex, cool
4. Irreverent, youth-oriented, influencing lifestyles
5. Fun, family, fantasy
Even from just these short descriptions, you can probably guess which companies we’re referencing (answers below). That’s because these messages have been pounded into your head through repetition, multiple interactions with the firm or exposure to marketing messages.
Similarly, candidates need to make sure the people who read their applications make no mistake about the core of their character and experiences. Certainly, all applications end up covering more than three to four points if they capture the wonderful complexities of us as humans. But if we give equal weight to 20 traits, we water down the main things the admissions committee needs to know about us.
Sure, a candidate wants to be known as a “natural leader, intellectual, creative, driven, community-minded, responsible, action-oriented, nurturing, committed, rigorous, internationally-focused, physically fit, welcoming, laid back, institution-building and adventurous,” but ultimately, we really don’t know what this person stands for.
People “branding” themselves like this have made choices on what they want to emphasize:
“A behind-the-scenes leader, creative problem-solver, and passionate about international development.”
“A great motivator, cutting-edge thinker on financial markets and committed to education.”
“Dedicated to environmental causes, a skilled negotiator, a committed mentor and family-oriented.”
Reinforce the main three to four traits through repetition; other aspects of your character and experience will come out naturally.
Just a few words can trigger our thoughts about a brand. Did you get these from the short statements above?
It’s never too early to start mulling over the general outlines and topics for your essays. Paying attention to what makes a “great essay” long before you start writing will help you sort through your best concepts.