Editor’s Notes: The Brand Called Brian Kurtz
At least a decade ago, I saw a cover line for an article in Fast Company magazine that literally stopped me in my tracks. It read, “The Brand Called You.” Written by top management consultant and business visionary Tom Peters, the article introduced a new concept in the world of business: You are a brand, and as such, do you know what you stand for and how others perceive you?
Only four years into my career when I read the Peters article, I was still focused on learning the ins and outs of the products I worked on as well as those of the company that employed me. My personal brand development was, you could say, more of an organic process. I had some work to do.
And I still do, because brand development is continual work, says Andrea Syverson. As she emphasizes this month in her new column for Target Marketing, Brand Matters, “Victorious brands have two basic things in common: They know themselves. They know their customers.”
Brian Kurtz, executive vice president of publishing firm Boardroom Inc. and Target Marketing’s 2007 Direct Marketer of the Year, handily meets both criteria. When I interviewed him for the cover story, he told me about a personal breakthrough he experienced during a self-improvement workshop he attended many years ago:
The advance course is a four-day event, and on the first day they say, “Tell everybody who you are.” So, that first day it was, “I’m Brian Kurtz, and it’s ‘know everyone and do the right thing.’” That’s who I was, and it’s an OK way to be. But at the end of this weekend, it was much bigger. I became this possibility of contribution, which is so much bigger than “know everyone and do the right thing.” Maybe it sounds the same to someone on the outside, but to me it was a revelation. I added “connection” to [contribution], because that’s about making sure you can connect people to people and connect yourself to people. So the idea of being the possibility of contribution and connection is what my whole life is about …
In addition to making a personal commitment to being the best he can, Kurtz has applied this same focus to his employer. By spending enough time on lists, as consultant Dick Benson commanded, he knows exactly who is a Boardroom customer and who is not. Thus, he also knows what Boardroom is and what it’s not.
The brand called Brian Kurtz—not a bad way to go through life at all.