A brand's equity can be defined as its value, sometimes quantifiable, based on positive and negative perceptions of attributes such as quality, relevance and influence.

Some of most the valuable brands are recognized globally. Coca-Cola's 2004 brand value was placed at $67.4 billion and McDonald's at $25.0 billion, according to the August 2, 2004 issue of Business Week. And, companies that own such brands spend billions of dollars managing their image. Legions of marketers shepherd PR efforts such as sponsored events and advertising programs, using celebrity spokespeople and sales information to enhance a brand's image in customers' minds.

While employees usually understand that it takes investment to build or even just maintain a brand's equity, those same people may not apply brand management principles to their own professional image.

For one example, a May 24, 2005 Wall Street Journal article entitled “Bosses Who Pigeonhole Workers Waste Talent, Contribute to Turnover” notes how quickly employees are stereotyped. Employees are advised to resist being pigeonholed by taking actions such as accepting lateral or even lower-ranked positions to break out of a mold. “It takes perseverance to avoid being typecast and the ability to persuade bosses to provide an opportunity to do something new,” states the article.

While accepting a demotion in order to obtain a new position that enhances the perception of your capabilities and, thus, your brand image is one form of career investment, happily, there are others as well. Awareness of your appearance, speech, written communications, visible participation in extracurricular activities and perceived people skills are a few.

A primary consideration, however, is that a brand image will eventually and perhaps quickly be damaged if not based on reality. Foods must consistently deliver expected taste sensations and other quality characteristics; people must consistently deliver expected competencies in fields for which they want a valuable reputation.

Education, in a multiple of forms, can be key. For myself, I'm pleased…make that ecstatic…to say I just finished an MBA emphasizing marketing from Northern Illinois University. My intention is to meld business acumen with my food science background. And, to help food and beverage R&D folks build competencies in the formulation arena, we are encouraging participation at Prepared Foods' R&D Conference this September in Chicago.

Bottom line: it is hard to beat competency in conjunction with careful attention to image management. Both are needed to build a more valuable brand You[tm].