If you’re going to champion something, you have to be all in. You have to be willing to put “your face” on the line for it. At the end of the day, all you have is your character, your integrity, and what you believe in. If you give that all up to make a buck or please an organization that you don’t share values with, then you’re essentially giving up control of the trajectory of your own life. When I was asked to join Calvin Klein, I knew it was an organization that aligned perfectly with my values. They valued excellence, design, and had the utmost integrity. So I felt deeply that I needed to protect their brand and image as if it were my own.
You’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with. I truly believe you’re only as valued as the people you’re connected to. I was just as careful with the Calvin Klein brand as I was with my own. Just as I wouldn’t associate with just anybody, I wouldn’t let the Calvin Klein brand either. I screened every single licensee who carried the Calvin Klein brand and made sure they were in absolute alignment with our own values, vision, and standards of excellence. The Irish have an old saying: “By your friends, you will be known.” In other words, you are who you associate with. In your life and business, if you choose to become successful, you’re going to meet a lot of people who will want to align themselves with you. They’ll want to get a piece of your “brand.” Protect it with your life. Make sure before you enter any partnerships or agreements, ask:
- Does this person/organization align with our values?
- Do they understand the importance of what we do and stand for?
- Would I personally associate with them?
- Would I be willing—as an individual—to associate with this person or organization?
If the answer is no to any of the above questions, and you still proceed, then you aren’t protecting your organization’s brand. To be your brand’s ultimate champion you must:
1. Know the value of your brand and be uncompromising in protecting its worth. Every person I have come to admire knows his or her own worth. Calvin Klein himself knew from the outset what he was worth. He also knew what his clothes were worth. He demanded excellence and quality from everyone who worked for him, and they delivered, because they respected him and knew he held himself to the same high standards. You can’t expect much from your employees, clients, and partners if you don’t hold yourself in high regard. It’s that simple.
2. Realize that your personal brand precedes you everywhere you go. How you look, what you say, what you do, where you work, who you are friends with, and what you believe in speaks volumes—about you and the company you represent. It tells everyone what they need to know before you open your mouth. I embodied the Calvin Klein brand everywhere I went. I didn’t stop representing Calvin Klein when I left the office.
3. Love the brand you’re championing. You have to love and be passionate about the brand you represent. This seems obvious but I am often amazed when I talk to other business colleagues how little affection they have for their brand or organization. I believe in being the world’s biggest fan of the brand you’re representing. It is one of the most vital things you can do to be a brand champion. Talk up your brand everywhere you go. Tell people why you love it. And then just don’t talk the talk, walk the walk. Wear or use the brands you champion. To this day, I wear Calvin Klein and trust that whatever I buy with the Calvin Klein label is going to be made with the utmost quality and care.
Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Tom Murry, the retired CEO of Calvin Klein, who ran the company for 17 years and facilitated the brand’s growth from 2.8 billion to $8 billion.
The Blake Project Can Help You Grow: The Brand Growth Strategy Workshop
Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Growth and Brand Education
FREE Publications And Resources For Marketers