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A CASE STUDY OF FOUR ENTREPRENEURS ON THEIR QUEST TO ACHIEVE PROFESSIONAL SUCCESS IN THE AGE OF THE PERSONAL BRAND. Kory Michelle Saunders

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A CASE STUDY OF FOUR ENTREPRENEURS ON THEIR QUEST TO ACHIEVE PROFESSIONAL SUCCESS IN THE AGE OF THE PERSONAL BRAND Kory Michelle Saunders A Thesis Submitted to the University of North Carolina Wilmington
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A CASE STUDY OF FOUR ENTREPRENEURS ON THEIR QUEST TO ACHIEVE PROFESSIONAL SUCCESS IN THE AGE OF THE PERSONAL BRAND Kory Michelle Saunders A Thesis Submitted to the University of North Carolina Wilmington in Partial Fullfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Business Administration Cameron School of Business University of North Carolina at Wilmington 2011 Approved by Advisory Committee Martina Gonzalez-Gallarza Isabel Sanchez Garcia Luisa Andreu Simó Vince Howe Chair Accepted by Dean, Graduate School TABLE OF CONTENTS ABSTRACT... iv ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS... vi LIST OF TABLES... vii LIST OF FIGURES... viii INTRODUCTION... 1 LITERATURE REVIEW... 5 Branding... 5 The Role of Brands... 5 The Scope of Branding... 7 Brand Identity... 8 Brand Image-Reputation... 9 Brand Equity Brand Positioning PERSONAL BRANDS PERSONAL BRANDING The Origins of Personal Branding The Definition of Personal Branding Personal Branding Across Cultures: From an Individualistic and Collectivistic Perspective The RESOURCE-BASED VIEW The VRIO Framework Application of Resource-Based View of Branding SOCIAL NETWORKING AND SOCIAL MEDIA Social Networking Social Media and Personal Branding Online ii PROPOSAL OBJECTIVES AND AIM OF RESEARCH METHODOLOGY DISCUSSION OF FINDINGS Objective 1: Identify if There is an Intrinsic Link Between One s Personal Brand and his or her Entreprenurial Endeavors Objective 2: Analysis of the Factors that Contribute to the Personal Brand Positioning Objective 3: Analysis of the Personal Brand Equity CONCLUSION MANAGERIAL IMPLICATIONS LIMITATIONS AND IMPLICATIONS OF FUTURE RESEARCH REFERENCES APPENDIX Appendix A. Participant Letter Appendix B. In-depth Interview Questionnaire Appendix C. In-depth Interview Transcripts Appendix D. Entrepreneurs Biographies and Websites iii ABSTRACT Personal branding was chosen as the focus of this study to further the understanding of its relevance in the marketing discipline and to gain a better understanding of its practical use. We analyzed the importance of personal branding in business with a concentration on entrepreneurs and their entrepreneurial endeavors. We first examine its origins in branding and the definitions that are used in the current academic literature to define and describe the personal branding concept. To gain a deeper understanding of personal branding from an academic perspective, literature was reviewed in the topics of branding, the resource-based view of strategy, as well as social networking and social media. A personal branding framework was proposed based on the literature discussed to examine the significance of these topics and to investigate if there is a significant correlation between them. The empirical analysis was performed using the case study method in which four entrepreneurs, Jessica Styles, Tyshawna Spell, Shaunice Hawkins, and Ashani Mfuko participated separate in-depth interviews. An in-depth interview questionnaire was created to evaluate how entrepreneurs use personal branding to market their entrepreneurial endeavors and assess the personal brand image, identity, positioning and equity created and maintained through the use of a personal brand. The study was conducted in the United States within the industries of design, social branding, dance as well as professional development in fashion, arts, beauty and education. The findings demonstrate that personal branding is a useful marketing tool and has proven to be an essential part of the marketing efforts used by the participating entrepreneurs. It is imperative to first understand whom he or she is and what he or she wants to represent when creating a personal brand. The VRIO framework can be used to help entrepreneurs to describe who they are, how their services are relevant, and determine what differentiates themselves and their brands from others in their industry. Entrepreneurs use personal branding to build and maintain relationships with clients, customers, iv partnerships, and expand their opportunity to share their expertise with a national and international audience. Although traditional media can be used in personal branding social networking and social media have proven to be imperative factors to capitalize on one s personal brand. Personal branding efforts also have a definitive impact on one s personal brand equity and have a definite correlation to one s personal brand equity. This study is of an exploratory nature due to the limited research on personal branding especially in its practical sense, thus one of the aims of this study was to further the practical research. Since the research in personal branding is in its infancy stages recommendations for further research are presented to give direction on what can be done to extend this study and gain more understanding on how personal branding can be used in other countries, in other industries, and in other forms of by people looking to enter, maintain, and or further their career. v ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would first like to thank God and Jesus Christ for the many blessings that have been bestowed upon my life. The time that I was in Spain and the writing of this thesis has been an amazing learning experience that I will be forever grateful for. I would like to thank my father Alonzo Saunders, my mother Jane Saunders, and my amazing family for their undying support throughout my life, my graduate school studies and especially my thesis writing process. Thank you Tervarne Carrington for telling me about the IMBA program, for being such a great cousin and for all of the encouragement you have given me over the years. I would also like to thank Kya Saunders, Kyra Miller, Ashley Jackson, Brandon Jackson, Willie Davis, and Patrice Allen for reading my drafts, for their encouragement and for the brainstorming sessions that we had. Thank you Andrew Hamilton for the chats during that difficult week when I was deciding to go with the topic that I really wanted to study and understand rather than a topic that I was told and thought may have been easier for others to accept. A huge thank you to my advisor Dra. Marta Frasquet Deltoro for your guidance, suggestions, and explanations to help me make this study a success. It was a pleasure working with you on this important project. I would also like to give a big thank you to Jessica Styles of The FAB Network, Tyshawna Spell of TSpell Designs, Shaunice Hawkins of Evolutions Consulting, and Ashani Mfuko of Kiner Enterprises for their willingness to participate in this study. Their knowledge and use of personal branding was truly insightful. This thesis would not have been possible without their participation and support. I have learned a great deal from each one of you and I look forward to being a witness to the continued success of all of your entrepreneurial endeavors. As Oprah Winfrey said at the end of the last show of the last season of the Oprah Winfrey show, To God Be the Glory. vi LIST OF TABLES Table Pages 1. Differences Between Brand Identity and Brand Image Attributes Defining Individualism and Collectivism and their Antecedents Characteristics of Case Study Analysis and In-depth Interviews Introduction of the Entrepremeurs vii LIST OF FIGURES Figure Pages 1. Personal Brand Model Conceptual Model of the People Brand The VRIO Framework Proposal of a Personal Branding Framework viii INTRODUCTION Brands have evolved from the mark that was placed on cattle to identify which farm they belonged to, to a mark, name, sign or symbol used to identify a product and/ or a service in the mind of the consumer, the competitor and the world in general. Brands have grown from being used to differentiate fast moving consumer goods to various other types of goods and services and make a direct, clear and consistent connection between the symbols used for the product or service (Lair, Sullivan & Cheney, 2005). It is often thought that without a brand a product really does not exist. Places such as cities, countries, and universities, etc. have begun to establish themselves as brands (Kavaratzis, 2005). The use of brands for people has thus evolved into a growing branding construct as well although it has very little acknowledgement in academic literature (Hughes, 2007). Personal branding is a growing phenomenon that has been used for decades in different facets, for entertainers, sports professionals, authors, chief executive officers, business owners, and politicians, and has expanded to many other people in various positions. From students who are or have just graduated from an undergraduate or graduate program now looking to start their career, to entrepreneurs who are trying to establish themselves first and foremost as a credible and trusted resource in their chosen industry and there by promote and or sell their products and services as an extension of that credibility or trustworthiness now use personal branding. Personal branding has been brought to the forefront by the personal branding article, A Brand Called You in the magazine Fast Company in 1997 written by Tom Peters and has often been thought of until recent years as an American phenomenon in which an individualistic culture prevails. With the recent global economic downturn that has affected many developed countries, personal branding has grown to include various professionals who are on a quest to gain and/ or keep their current positions by demonstrating through branding concepts how much of a resource they are to their prospective or current companies in terms of the value, resources, skills, attributes and knowledge they are able to share with a company that another prospective candidate would have a hard time imitating. Thus personal branding is 1 used to promote what a person has to offer a business, clients, customers, or any other aspect of their life depending on their goals and objectives. Scott Karp, for example is a publishing and media strategy expert and now the cofounder and chief executive officer of the media company Publishing 2Inc. and the editor of the blog Publishing 2.0. He was named one of the most influential people in publishing by Folio magazine in 2007 because of his personal blog, not for his success as a media director or digital strategist (Zarzycka, & Waite, 2010). Celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Martha Stewart, Tiger Woods, and David Beckham have been using personal branding for years to extend their core competencies in various business endeavors that have made them not only extremely wealthy in terms of their finances but in their power, prestige and the influence they have globally. Its increased popularity among practitioners and marketing professionals as well as academic scholars have prompted a need for a better, more in-depth understanding of personal branding and the use from both practical and academic perspectives. There have been and still are some questions among marketing and branding academic scholars, such as Lair, Sullivan, and Cheney (2005); Shepherd (2005); and Labrecque, Markos, and Milne (2010) in terms of its validity of personal branding due to its origins and the lack of academic research that has been done however there has been an increase in the academic literature in recent years. The initial academic literature has attempted to define personal branding and explore the validity of personal branding from a personal development and theoretical academic perspective including the marketing and psychological point of view of the self and question if personal branding can be considered a true marketing discipline (Shepherd, 2005). In addition to questioning the validity of this topic academic scholars have begun to examine and write about personal branding and its correlation to traditional branding practices in business that are applied to products, services and corporations. For example, Lair, Sullivan and Cheney (2005) describe the use of personal branding as a strategy to promote one s self in the business world as nothing new, however the scope of personal 2 branding has grown from a simple business tactic into an philosophical recognition of the influence that the business world has over one s idea and logic of self. Although personal branding has been examined in terms of how it is defined and described by the various practitioners and the growing importance of using these techniques to potentially advance one s self both in academic and non academic writing there is still a gap in the academic literature as to how it is used in a business setting beyond the confines of trying to gain employment or advance in one s current company. Thus the justification of this study is to fill the research gap around the issue of personal branding by people such as entrepreneurs that are increasingly using branding techniques. Research that empirically assesses what are the adequate theoretical frameworks to understand this issue is limited. Contributing to this research line would benefit the academic community and would provide conclusions for its practical use by entrepreneurs. There are two main objectives of this study to better understand personal branding as a process of identifying and using resources strategically to further one s entrepreneurial endeavors. The first objective is to understand how traditional branding concepts and the resource-based view of strategy perspectives can be applied to personal branding. The second objective is to understand the benefits that may be achieved by an entrepreneur using personal branding to promote themselves in tandem with their entrepreneurial business goals. As the foundation for this study, secondary sources with a particular focus on academic and managerial journals, industry articles, and books were used to establish and develop the aspects of personal branding. Although the proposed personal branding frameworks in the literature have been discussed they have yet to be fully explored and tested, they were used as a starting point for the personal branding framework proposed in this study. 3 The structure of this thesis is comprised of nine main sections including this introduction. The second section consists of the literature review to examine the concepts of branding, personal brands, personal branding, the resource-based view, and social networking, which includes a discussion of social media. The origins and definitions of personal branding are discussed in detail to give a greater understanding of the concept and its actual uses. Within the topic of personal branding the context of both individualistic and collectivistic societies were discussed to understand that personal branding is used and accepted globally although it seems to have origins from the United States and Western individualistic philosophies. The resource-based view is used as a theoretical framework along with traditional branding framework to better understand and evaluate how personal branding is used as a strategic resource to succeed as an entrepreneur in the marketplace. Social networks including social media were also researched to understand the significance they have on personal branding and how social networks and social media are used and perceived in the personal branding context. A personal branding framework is proposed, illustrated, and discussed in the proposal section, which follows the literature review. Based on the literature review and the proposal, a set of objectives has been developed and is described in the objectives and aims section. This study consists of the in-depth personal interviews and analysis of four entrepreneurs who use personal branding as a key strategic resource for their entrepreneurial endeavors. The explanation of the chosen methodology will be discussed in the methodology section and will directly follow the objectives and the aims of this study. The finding section includes an analysis of the results of the in-depth interviews. The conclusion section will consist of the limitations of the study and suggestions for further research on personal branding. 4 LITERATURE REVIEW Branding The Roles of Branding Brands have continued to evolve as a concept defined as a name, term, sign, symbol, design, or specific combination thereof used to identify a good, service, or idea in the minds of its target audience and used to differentiate it from its competition (American Marketing Association, 2011). Brands are often defined in terms of the consumer perspective, the firm s perspective, the purpose and/ or the characteristics of the brand (Wood, 2000). Brands identify the creator or the source of the product or service and allow the customers to give accountability for the brands performance to the company and/ or the distributors responsible for the brand (Kotler & Keller, 2012). A brand also adds an element of distinction used to distinguish it from other products or services that serve the same or similar needs of the consumer (Kotler & Keller, 2012). The elements of distinction can be functional, rational, or tangible, which has a literal association to the product or service s performance. The elements of distinction could also be emotional, symbolic or intangible, which has a more abstract sense associated to what the brand symbolizes (Kotler & Keller, 2012). Brands provide valuable utility for the company s business functions. In the supply chain, brands are helpful and utilized in inventory management to control and organize inventory for products. A brand can also provide a basis for legal protection through the trademarks, copyrights, and patents. Intellectual property right laws are used to govern the legal use of brands to ensure the firm can obtain the benefits from the value that the brand has created for the product or service (Kotler & Keller, 2012). Beside the functional attributes a brand performs, brands also represent the values and a promise that a company, its employees, stakeholders, etc. embody and communicate over a great length of time using a variety of tools and resources to then portray that promise to the target audience. It is this promise 5 that consumers believe they will receive when they exchange money or another form of payment, including time, when purchasing the product, or service (Shimp, 2010). This promise is often linked to the credibility and level of quality that a brand signifies that a customer or client will receive from purchasing, using, and or experiencing the product or service (Kotler & Keller, 2012). For example, universities, which represents a high quality and standard of educational services given to its students. They are now competing for students, highly skilled professors, endowments, and grants as well as various marketing messages and consumer information from a variety of sources such as the internet, television, and magazines just to name a few of the many examples. The target audiences knowledge about the plethora of university brands continues to increase compared to previous generations. As a consequence universities have learned the importance of consistently valuing the satisfaction the students, their paying customers, the professors who give value to the students through their shared knowledge, and the support that keeps the university running on multiple levels from endowments, alumni, grants, and corporate donations (Whisman, 2009). Brands thus have become strategic resources for many organizations that supersede the products or services they identify and promote in hopes to simplify the decision making process for its target potential and loyal customers (Kotler & Keller, 2012). Those resources are used to attract customers by promoting the brand identity through its value, image, prestige, and/ or lifestyle hence fortifying a positive brand image in the minds of the target consumers (Rooney, 1995). Concurrently brands are now used as strategic platforms to interact with existing and future customers to fulfill their needs and wants to ultimately c
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