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Success is All About Branding

One of the hottest buzzwords on New York's Madison Avenue, and in other advertising circles, is "branding." Big corporations spend billions of dollars to establish, market, and then protect the value of their brand names. They know it's not always the best jeans or soft drink or toothpaste that gets the most sales. It's the brand of jeans or soft drink or toothpaste people THINK is best, and therefore trust and buy over and over again.

None of this is revolutionary. But what's come of it is a new type of professional -- the "brand strategist," who polishes the identities of not just of companies and consumer goods, but also of people!

Catherine Kaputa, who works independently in New York, is such a strategist. She has written a book on the secrets of thinking and acting like a brand. In U R a Brand (Davies-Black Publishing), Ms. Kaputa tells her own story -- how she turned herself from a bookish expert on Japanese art into a highly paid advertising executive and then a branding consultant.

Ms. Kaputa says there's a lot more to branding oneself than dressing well and thinking positive. She says branding involves improving what she calls one's "soft power" by sharpening verbal skills, building positive relationships throughout the workplace, walking confidently into new situations, and even developing a memorable "look." Small things like a distinctive hairstyle or pair of glasses -- so long as they're attractive and not garish or weird -- can help you get noticed.

Catherine Kaputa spends up to two months helping clients develop their brands. "If people think you're a 'B' player, you will be," she says. "To be an 'A' player, you need to change perceptions." In short, just like best-selling products, people need to be properly packaged.