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We knew that Christmas was coming when the John Lewis Christmas advert has arrived in November. The £6million commercial followed the epic journey of a snowman as he goes in search of the perfect gift for his loved one. Thanks to mega-budgets, cunning marketing and the power of social media (it was trending on Twitter within minutes) it contributed significantly to the record sales achieved by the store this Christmas. The success of the store this Christmas is testament to the strength of the John Lewis brand.

So what about the slogans “Because I’m worth it” and “Just do it”

Just Do It Nike

They belong to some of the world’s biggest organisations. Fuelled by globalisation, companies invest millions of pounds building global brands.

Walk into any of McDonalds’ 33,000 restaurants in one of 119 different countries and you’ll see the same logo, the same tag line, the same colours and the same slightly creepy waving clown. They spend millions each year building an instantly recognisable brand and before you walk through the doors you already know what to expect. McDonalds now even have the arrogance not to write their full name in their logo – see the ‘Golden Arches’ and you know it’s time for an extra-large quarter pounder with cheese meal wherever you are in the world.

Companies spend many years building the reputation and value of their brand. Take Apple, for example, founded in 1976 by Steve Jobs. Their first product was a rather shoddy looking personal computer but over the past 35 years they have built a reputation for premium products based on innovation, quality and style.

But how do companies build a brand reputation?

Well, of course they’ve got to have a product that does what it says on the tin. But, one way they are increasingly doing this is through the use of celebrity endorsements. Since the late 1930s when Red Rock Cola hired baseball great, Babe Ruth to endorse its soft drink brand, companies around the world have used appropriate athletes and celebrities to promote their products. They use celebrity endorsements as part of an entire branding process.

So who would you associate with Apple? If you were in charge of their global marketing strategy who would you pick? Who could personify quality, innovation and style to reinforce their reputation?

Can you picture model and ‘author’ Katie Price plastered on billboards selling the latest iphone?  How about Wayne Rooney? Could you imagine Delia Smith fronting the next ipad campaign?

In fact, Apple have been so protective of their brand they have rarely used celebrities. They have tended to allow their products to sell themselves, fuelled by devoted customers. In 2004, however they decided to break from this trend to launch a new version of the ipod. Who did they select? The band – U2.

Was the move a success? In a word yes – for both U2 and Apple. Apple’s shares reached a 52-week high within 72 hours of the endorsement and U2 made millions from the release of their single “Vertigo” exclusively on iTunes.

So let’s leave Katie Price to advertise OK! And Hello magazines. Wayne Rooney to advertise Nike football gear. And my beloved Delia Smith to promote Waitrose. After all, I can’t imagine Delia slapping her behind and saying, “That’s Asda price!”

But what happens when advertising endorsements do go wrong? Can brands suffer?

Let’s use professional golfer `Tiger’ Woods as our example. Up until 2009 earned roughly $100 million a year through global endorsements. In November, 2009, Woods was exposed has having had a string of affairs. The scandals damaged his squeaky clean public reputation, and the reputation of the brands he endorsed. As a result, several sponsors either stopped featuring him or dropped him outright. Recent research estimated that in the 10-15 days after the onset of the scandal the brands Tiger had endorsed lost more than 2% of their market value. 2% for companies such as EA Sport, Nike and PepsiCo is many millions lost through the actions of 1 man.

But why is this relevant?

In today’s world, the word ‘brand’ is not just limited to companies. It also applies to individuals.

In the same way you might associate quality, innovation and style with Apple, I wonder what 3 words would you want others to use when describing you?

Hard-working? Generous? Intelligent? Kind? Reliable? Honest? Courageous?

In an ultra-competitive job market, companies are becoming increasingly selective and shrewd in their recruitment. With the surge of social media, you have not only the ability, but the responsibility to manage your own reputation. Employers will probably Google you before they even invite you to an interview. And when you interact with people, both online and offline, they’ll build up an image of who you are.

How you dress. How you speak to teachers. How you engage with each other. The thought that goes into your work. Whether you hand work in on time. Whether you try your hardest in life. Whether you persevere through challenges. These will all determine your brand.

When it comes to choosing school prefects, picking a sports team captain, writing an end of term report or your university reference – teachers do not look at how you have behaved over the past few weeks or days, they look at your brand and reputation built over time. That’s not to say you can’t improve a tarnished brand – we all love a sinner to saint story but we need to take our brands seriously. Take time to build them and protect them.

Your brand, your reputation, your future is yours to manage. Choose wisely and in the words of ‘Orange mobile’ – ‘the future’s bright’.

Chapel Talk by Nicola Mann, Housemistress and Head of German.