Branding has become an integral part of the business eco-system, but how can we become experts on the subject? As part of an ongoing series, PSFK will be chatting with alumni from the School of Visual Arts (SVA) Masters in Branding program. We caught up with former student Hansel Perez to discuss how owning who you are is a part of branding, and how today’s most innovative companies have used this lesson to play to their strengths.
What made you decide to enroll in the Master’s in Branding program. What is it about our current society that makes branding so important?
I first heard about the Masters in Branding program at the School of Visual Arts when my girlfriend emailed me a link to its homepage. She thought the logo was cool. As I explored the site and read the program description, I felt butterflies. The program seemed tailored for me. I applied, was accepted into the class of 2012 and married the girlfriend who sent me the link.
While we may not be aware of it, branding is crucial. How we present ourselves tells others what our values are and whether they can trust us. If you’ve never thought about your personal brand, do it now. Seriously. Ask yourself: if I were someone else, what would I think of me after a one-minute meeting? We have to get over the romantic notion that it doesn’t matter how we’re perceived. To show respect for others and to be happy in this super-connected world, we must first take ownership of the personal impressions we make. The next steps are to:
1. Love who we are
2. Honestly be ourselves
3. Let the right people know
That is good branding.
Corporations are made up of people and like people, corporations can be good or bad. What a person does with their gifts and talents is their choice. What a corporation does with its resources is up to a small group of leaders. I choose to work for a company whose leadership I trust to do the right thing–not just for the company, but for the world. Branding is a crucial component of communication, telling the world the values we stand for.
How has having a Masters in Branding degree helped you to further your career?
I was fortunate to use what I was learning in the Masters in Branding program immediately at my job. I am an animator/video producer in my company’s internal creative agency. With an undergraduate degree in traditional animation, I thought my contribution would only extend to motion graphics. But learning about the principles of branding and what is current in culture, business and art gave me a new voice and new confidence. I volunteered to work on several brand-related projects and was able to participate in discussions well outside my video production role.
What is the most surprising thing you learned about the process of branding during your time in the program?
Studying companies that market products well and position themselves as leaders had an unexpected effect on my life. I discovered that the case studies and books I was reading had similar themes running through their pages. Be true to who you are; don’t lie. If your idea doesn’t work, find out why–and fix it. My branding education had a human quality about it that influenced my career and my personal life.
What do you feel is your most valuable experience coming out of the Branding program?
Learning how to present confidently was the most valuable lesson I learned. My classmates and I gave presentations almost four times a week. Our teachers are all leaders in their field, which was nerve wracking: We knew we had to bring our best every time.
Name two brands you think are standout examples of innovation in terms of their branding strategy, and tell us why.
1. Netflix: I am fascinated by the trajectory Netflix has taken from a branding perspective. As a long time subscriber, my relationship with the company has changed through the years. Their evolution has been one of disruption: first to brick and mortar video rental companies and now to network and cable television. Netflix is defining how we consume entertainment. While the company itself changes to meet new business opportunities, their brand remains consistent.
2. Pixar: Before Pixar, the process for feature animation was working in reverse, with marketing, not creative influencing the narrative of movies. Story was supposedly the driving force in every animation studio, but Pixar meant it. The story quality of the average Disney animated film was improved by the Pixar school of filmmaking. Feature animation regained the center of the Disney brand.
If you had to offer one key piece of advice to interested applicants, what would it be?
Applying to any postgraduate program is an introspective process that should leave you focused. I would suggest that applicants maintain this focus as long as possible. Regardless of the outcome, what matters is that you know what you desire, and why. Use this focus to plan your next move in an authentic way.
What is the one lesson you learned during the program that you use today in your job on a daily basis?
An important lesson I learned in the program is how to view my company’s brand holistically. This broader perspective now influences every project I work on. It helps me ask better questions in the beginning and improves the overall quality of my work. Having the ability to think about the brand from multiple angles is critical when producing work that will live outside my computer screen.