Author: Catherine Kaputa

What Animal Are You in the Career Zoo?

Posted July 7, 2023 by Catherine Kaputa in Uncategorized / 0 Comments

What animal signifies Brand You?

Often in doing a brand assessment, asking focus group participants to identify what animal or car they associate with a brand is more enlightening than traditional analytical methods and questions.

Symbolic associations can be powerful branding. We all know the symbol of the United States, the bald eagle – it conveys power. But the bald eagle was not the only animals our founders considered. Other animal imagery debated was a cow with horns, a goose, a bear and a white-tailed deer. (See Stuart Halpern’s interesting article about the search for a symbol of the United States in the Wall Street Journal: July 1 – 2, 2023.

Even the British got caught up in the branding suggesting a zebra with 13 stripes, each symbolizing a state with Massachusetts strategically placed on the animals behind.

The eagle’s imagery had staying power and strong symbolism with 13 arrows in one claw and an olive branch in the other. Its powerful wings became a stymbol of liberty. Prominent on the eagle’s breast was the motto E pluribus unum Out of many, one.

The bald eagle also satisfied Benjamin Franklin’s desire for a native American bird representing America’s courage in breaking away from Britain.

So what animal represents you best. To find out what animal your strengths are most aligned with, take our animal assessment test

Sometimes Age is An Asset in Personal Branding

Posted July 7, 2023 by Catherine Kaputa in Uncategorized / 0 Comments

How come silver-haired male stars are hot, but the older women, not so much? A recent WSJ headline said it all: “Harrison Ford is 80. He’s Proof: Silver-Haired Stars are the new Box Office Gold.”

Harrison Ford is back as “Indiana Jones.” Tom Cruise (60) stars in “Mission Impossible.” There’s Arnold Schwarzenegger (75) in “FUBAR” and Denzel Washington (68) in The Equalizer 3.” And Kevin Costner(68) stars in “Yellowstone.”

This silver-haired pack is successful not only because they are reviving beloved franchises, they ooze sex appeal.

Silver hair is not such an asset for women, though, especially in the corporate and media worlds. A year ago long ago Canadian news anchor Lisa La Flamme (58) says she was fired over letting her hair grow gray. Look at the young, attractive women who are the reporters and anchors on news shows in the U.S.

Looking back, Anne Bancroft was only thirty-six when she played the “older” woman, Mrs. Robinson in “The Graduate.” And Duston Hoffman was just six years younger and played someone her daughter’s age.

Feeling depressed yet?

There’s a lot to be said for ageing gracefully but it can be harder for women. Men with silver hair or no hair are often viewed as hunks but it’s less likely to happen to women. I’m all for trying to dial time back a bit by camouflaging gray hair and ditching the matronly clothes.

But nothing ages a woman more than desperately trying to look young.

There’s a way to do it. Look at the fashion attention that Iris Apfel has received. She’s hit 101 and has become a “geriatric starlet” with her bold clothes and oversize eyeglasses. She’s been transformed from a private person who did her own thing with clothes to a fashion icon who others consider a style authority and who’s being asked to judge fashion competitions and represent brands.

Martha Stewart: Sports Illustrated’s 81-Year Old Cover Girl

Posted May 17, 2023 by Catherine Kaputa in Uncategorized / 0 Comments

Say what you will about Martha Stewart, but she’s always on top of a trend.

In the 1980’s and 90’s Martha became famous for her cookbooks and lifestyle tips. She made hand-crafting everything in your home look so beautiful, effortless and fulfilling that it helped launch the DIY trend. And Martha was our guru.

Today, she’s rebranded her as beautiful and relevant even in her 70’s and 80’s. – naysaying he fear we all have of ageism, of being seen as a caricature – as irrelevant and frumpy.

The reality is that looking good is important. It’s the price of admission in many arenas and careers, and Martha knows that. And Martha swears that her sex appeal is all natural, the result of healthy living, and she’s challenging women to belive that each era can be beautiful if we have a healthy lifestyle.

I’ve always admired Martha’s ability to take control of her brand narrative. Even when she served five months in prison for a securities violation in 2004, she taught inmates how to crochet and do the downward dog yoga pose.

Remember the gray poncho that Martha wore when she was released from prison? A handmade gift from a fellow inmate, Martha’s prison poncho became the symbol of her release from jail.

The poncho carried a powerful message. In spite of doing time, the poncho communicated that she can make lemonade out of lemons, that she is stronger because of her experience, and that she had bonded with her fellow prisoners.

Wearing her swim suits today, Martha communicates that she’s still relevant, in control of her life and destiny, and she’s not handing her personal brand power over to anyone. The shock of her magazine cover turned into a runaway PR success for Martha and Sports Illustrated.

The Trial and What She Wore

Posted May 15, 2023 by Catherine Kaputa in Uncategorized / 0 Comments

Brand builders use a range of visual tools to create an emotional bond with customers: shape, color, design, imagery, logos and the like.

It’s the same with people. That’s why my advice to people is: Let your clothes talk. As I point out in my new book, “The New Brand You,” strong visual identities are a quick read telegraphing to us what a person is like (or so we think).

And clothes are one of the easiest ways to communicate a message about who you are. Clothes can offer more insight than what you say. Look at E Jean Carroll at her trial accusing former president Donald Trump of sexual assault and defamation.

In a trial, you win or lose on how a jury sees you and whether they believe you. The perceptions of others are the perceptions that count.

79-year old E Jean Carroll looked elegant, attractive and professional during her days in court On day one, she stepped out in a black shirtdress with a cream coat and pearl earrings. And she continued with her subtle style that was somehow both soft and strong. No flashy jewely or colors. A trial is a serious matter and her clothes communicated that.

She won her case on key charges and awarded $5 million.

Rarely has there been as educational an example of the transformative power of clothses and visual identity as the radical before-and-after makeover of Elizabeth Holmes during her fraud trial in 2021.

The CEO of Theranos, with its miracle medical product, Holmes went from the appropriation of Steve Jobs’ black turtle neck, beautifully accented with kabuki red lipstick and sleek blond hair.

Yet her trial wardrobe was the opposite. She went from glam to nondescript business casual shirts and skirts and soft curls.

In short, she went from Superwoman to the Girl Next Door. In Holmes case, visual identity can only take you so far. Jurors must have a reason for the transformation, and in Holmes’ case, they may have felt played.

Your visual identity has to sync with your actions or there is a brand disconnect. As we all know, she lost her case and found guilty of fraud.

The Rebranding of Camilla

Posted May 10, 2023 by Catherine Kaputa in Uncategorized / 0 Comments

Camilla’s rise from villain to queen is a master class in image transformation that we can all learn from.

For decades, Camilla was vilified by the British media as the villain who broke up Charles’s marriage to Diana, the Princess of Wales. Her transformation would have been unthinkable in the years after Diana’s death. Many of the scandalous details may have faded over the last twenty-five years though they have been reintroduced in our collective memory by the popular Netflix series,  “The Crown.”

Camilla’s rebrand wasn’t happenstance. It was achieved through calculated effort with the help of advisors, PR experts and image consultants. Rebranding involves positioning , image development, packaging, storyline, marketing messages, and PR, all aimed toward building and extending a person’s shelf life, just as in brand development.

So how did Camilla do it?

Camilla went dark for a while to clean the slate. Then she emerged with a spotlight on public service. Camilla’s focus was not on herself and parties or glamour but discretion and service. Camilla has a strong record of charitable causes, particularly in the medical and health care arenas, like her work supporting victims of osteoporosis, the illness that plagued her mother.

And Camilla’s rebranding campaign has paid off.

Now even if people may not like aspects of her role in the breakup of Charles and Diana, they are accepting of it, according Professor Purcell, a professor of modern British history at Saint Michael’s College in Vermont. She’s just done a great job at hanging in there and trying not to make missteps.”

She’s more popular than Prince Harry and Meghan Markle among the British public.

And her rebrand was assisted by the endorsement of Queen Elizabeth who made known her wish that Camilla become queen consort when Charles ascended the throne.

Branding is all about perceptions and taking control of the narrative, as I outline in my new book, “The New Brand You.” Whatever the state your personal brand, realize that you too can transform perceptions and the narrative others have about you.

Beware of Tough Love Talk on Zoom!

Posted April 24, 2023 by Catherine Kaputa in Uncategorized / 0 Comments

While tough talk can work to motivate everyone into the rah-rah spirit when it’s done in person, tough news – like no bonuses this year, can backfire on Zoom.

What you think of as inspiration, can sound harsh, even mean, when done on the air waves. And disgruntled employees can record a zoom call and push it out for all the world to see.
According to Media Richness Theory, “rich media” like in-person communication is more powerful way of communicating and connecting with people. There’s no barrier or distance between you and your audience.

You have a complete arsenal of tools to communicate your message and get in tune with your audience. In “leaner” like email, text and even Zoom, you’re more likely to find yourself misunderstood and branded but not in a way that you want to be branded as MillerKnoll CEO Andi Owen learned last week.
An unhappy employee made a video that went viral on social media and traditional media. (I read about it in the Wall Street Journal in a long feature story, and again when it was one of the questions in its weekly news quiz.)

Owen broke the news about bonuses not being paid this year and said that some employees were asking “not so nice” questions about it. Her advice to her team: “You can visit Pity City, but you can’t live there. So, people, leave Pity City.” The resulting firestorm over her words led her to apologize to her staff in an email.

Transform Your Personal Brand for Just $1.99

Posted April 21, 2023 by Catherine Kaputa in Branding, Personal Branding, Uncategorized / 0 Comments

In the new world of work, you’ll need to carefully consider your positioning – your differentiator – the unique power you bring to a business situation and why it matters.

And now, for a limited time through April 30, you’ll be able to get the e-book, The New Brand You: How to Wow in the New World of Work, for just $1.99.

Here’s what you’ll get out of the book:

You’ll learn the top ten positioning strategies used by big brands and how to apply them to the most important brand you’ll ever market, Brand You.

You can access the book’s online Personal Brand Finder assessment test.

You’ll learn the importance of visibility in the new world of work and how to be top of mind when you work remotely.

You’ll be able to draft your differentiator and a game plan for success.

“In short, “The New Brand You” will show you how to take on the world with your power brand.

The Fall of Sam Bookman Fried

Posted December 14, 2022 by Catherine Kaputa in Branding, Famous People / 0 Comments

I can’t stop reading the unfolding story of Sam Bankman Fried (or SBF as he goes by). The former CEO of FTX’s meteoric rise and crash takes the breath away.

SBF casts himself as the boy genius in his cargo shorts, stretched out t-shirts and wild hair, a getup that, according to the New York Times “telegraphs to the world somebody who doesn’t have the time to worry about what they are wearing because they are thinking big, world-changing thoughts.”  

Rarely has there been as educational example of the power of visual identity, a concept that I discuss in my new book, “The New Brand You: How to Wow in the New World of Work.”

His personal branding screams crypto nerd. How many of us could figure out that underlying value in crypto anyway? It was a new arena that few understood. But he did (we thought).
Sandman Fried aligned himself with “effective altruism,” a new concept in philanthropy in which you aim to make a lot of money with the intent of giving it all to charity.

What a storyline! What a visual identity! 

Kyrsten Sinema Has Gone Rogue Not Surprising: She’s a Maverick

Posted December 9, 2022 by Catherine Kaputa in Leadership, Personal Branding / 0 Comments

I’ll tell you why I like mavericks, they are hard to predict, and a continuous source of surprise and breaking news. Today, Kyrsten Sinema didn’t disappoint. She got everyone’s attention when she announced that she is leaving the Democratic party and becoming an independent.

Here’s what she said in her written announcement:

“We [Arizonans] make our own decisions, using our own judgment, and lived experiences to form our beliefs. We don’t line up to do what we’re told, automatically subscribe to whatever opinions the national political parties dictate or view every issue through labels that divide us.”

As much as business titans, political leaders, and celebrities are part of the mythology of this country, so are mavericks. (Think Tom Cruise as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in Top Gun: Maverick.)

We have a soft spot for the rebel—the lone defiers of convention, the irreverent ones who don’t follow the rules but accomplish remarkable things, the outliers who cut their own path and succeed.

If you’ve got the chutzpay to go against the crowd, positioning yourself as a maverick can be a powerful positioning strategy for you too.

Maverick positioning is one of the top ten personal brand positioning strategies I discuss in my new book, The New Brand You: How to Wow in the New World of Work.

Executing this personal brand positioning is simplicity itself: Everything the traditional leader stands for in your industry, you are the opposite (within reason).

It’s easy to follow what everyone else is doing. Like Sinema, you don’t believe that
success comes from doing the expected.

Look at the culture on Capitol Hill where Sinema “works.” It is a place known for its traditions, rules and protocols. The women usually dress for subtlety. It was not a place for mavericks in eyebrow-raising clothes, until Sinema, came along.

She likes to stand out. At her Senate searing in, she was reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe with her platinum curls and stilettos.

She’s a free thinker and not a fan of convention, either in clothes, hairstyles or following along party lines on Democratic initiatives. Now she won’t have to do that.

It will be interesting to see how her maverick antics play out when she’s up for re-election in 2024. But as a maverick, she is hardwired for challenge, the more ambitious the better.

How Can More Women Brand Themselves for the Corner Office?

Posted December 8, 2022 by Catherine Kaputa in Branding, Leadership, Women / 0 Comments


Women, who hold about 25 percent of leadership roles in Fortune 100 companies, still rarely break into the top three jobs: CEO, president or chief operating officer. Only about six percent of women hold these top three titles, a number that has been flat for two decades.

Women in top jobs tend to congregate in support roles like legal, finance, marketing and human resources.

How can more women break into the top echelon? Here are five moves ambitious women should make to break into the top three jobs from my new book, “The New Brand You: How to Wow in the New World of Work.”

1. Make personal branding a priority: Realize that personal branding is not optional in the new world of work with hybrid, remote and in-office working. It wasn’t easy to be recognized when everyone came to the office in person every day. It’s even more challenging now.

2. Actively seek a role with P&L responsibilities: General managers and positions in operations have profit-and-loss responsibility. It’s the yellow brick road to the corner office and you must take that path if you want one of the top three jobs in the company.

3. Seek out projects in the sight line of the CEO: You must get your work and talents recognized by the right people beginning with the top honcho. Don’t wait to be tapped. Volunteer.

4. Speak up in meetings: It’s not easy when you are in meetings with Alpha. males, but figuring out ways to break through the noise with your point of view is critical.

5. Dress like a CEO in waiting: It may seem superficial, but looking the part is important. Clothes are silent ambassadors who convey power messages about you. Women are scrutinized more than men in terms of visual identity, clothes and hair styles, so let it work in your favor.

Taking these five steps can help women break through the strongest glass ceiling of all?—?the one protecting the top three executive jobs in corporations.