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Jul 2nd 2021
The Blend
Australia

Work out who you are, what you stand for.

What is a personal brand? You might be better off asking yourself: who am I as a bartender?

Although the term sounds like its ripped from a marketing 101 textbook, your personal brand deserves some thought from bartenders. Whether you like the term or not, your personal brand — and how the world feels about it — will affect your career options, opportunities and ultimately, what you get paid.

Taking care and crafting your personal brand isn’t about showing everyone how damn good your life is, nor is it about inspiring envy and jealousy in your peers. It’s not about creating a false narrative about who you are. In fact, if you work it right, crafting your personal brand might just make you a better human.

What is a personal brand?

Humans love to put their name on things — their stamp, if you will. And that, at its core, is what a personal brand is: that thing that people see and recognise as you.

“A brand is the sum of all expressions by which an entity (person, organisation, company, business unit, city, nation, etc.) intends to be recognised,” writes consultants Calin Hertioga and Johannes Christensen for Interbrand.

Put simply, in terms of a bartender? It’s how you want to be perceived professionally.

A little history, first. Humans have been branding things forever it seems. The term, brand, has similar origins to brandy; they both originate in very old German. For brandy, it was brandweijn — burnt (or in its case, distilled) wine; in Old English, to brand something was to burn it, and by the 1600s to brand something was to put a mark of ownership upon it.

Over time, and with the plethora of industrially made goods that the 20th century begat, a brand came to be the mark by which consumers could recognise a product.

In the world that bartenders inhabit today, careers are made not just behind the three foot slab of bar but in collaborations with liquor brands, careers as writers, ambassadors, makers, speakers, presenters — these days the career options for bartenders are many.

And in that marketplace, the bartenders with the best personal brands will get the lion’s share of the opportunities.

What makes a good brand?

The term brand is rather all encompassing, so it might help to understand what a brand is not — or, at the least, was are the hallmarks of meaningless brand. You don’t want to be meaningless, do you?

The so-called father of advertising, David Ogilvy, described a brand as the intangible sum of a product’s attributes. In 1955 he spoke to other advertisers and said: 

“I find that most manufacturers are reluctant to accept any such limitation on the image and personality of their brands. They want to be all things to all people… An upper-crust brand and a plebian brand. And in their greed, they almost always end up with a brand which has not any personality of a kind.,” he said.

“They are being created ad hoc. Hence the oscillation. Hence the tacking. Hence the lack of any coherent personality from one season to another.”

The lesson here? When it comes to your personal brand as a bartender, therefore, it helps to be coherent about who you are and what you stand for — and that’s something that Joe Schofield has a few things to say about.

The bartender as brand

Who is Joe Schofield? Well, let’s first begin with one of his key points from his seminar series for The Blends Of The Virtual World, about crafting your personal brand. 

Schofield talks about the importance of developing a personal logo and website, as a shop window of sorts, which he says will “help to build the element of trust with consumers.”

Take joe-schofield.com. Should you visit his shop window, you’ll find out that not only has Schofield worked at The American Bar at The Savoy and at Tippling Club in Singapore, he’s also (along with his brother) the author of Schofield’s Fine and Classic Cocktails, and has been awarded the titles of Bartender’s Bartender at The World’s 50 Best Bars and International Bartender of the Year at Tales of the Cocktail’s Spirited Awards.

Clearly, a web presence, smartly curated, is a good way to get your brand — that is, the story you’re telling about yourself — out into the world.

But let’s get back to basics for a minute.

What are you trying to achieve? Schofield says that “once you start to create a strong brand identity, that brand becomes bigger than you.”

That suggests you’ll need some self-awareness first and foremost. “Work out who you are, what you stand for, how you want to be perceived and recognised by the wider world,” says Schofield.

Now, there’s a whole line of Buddhist thought on getting to self-actualisation, so this working out of who you are may be easier for some than others. It’s time for soul searching.

Schofield didn’t just arrive at a complete, wholly realised idea of who he is and what he stands for. No one does. Instead, Schofield’s ideas about who he is were formed in his experiences and the things he has achieved over years as a bartender. 

When he worked at a tiki bar, he wore tiki shirts, read up on tiki drinks, and generally absorbed as much information as he could that would help him represent the bar and the bar’s brand as best he could.

And when he joined The American Bar at The Savoy, he began to  dress a little smarter, wearing suits to industry events, “doing these things made sense to represent the brand” of The Savoy.

The point here is that crafting your personal brand isn’t a set and forget exercise. It takes time, and many interactions over the course of years.

It also applies to the opportunities that come your way from other brands. 

“I only ever work with brands that I feel proud to be aligned with,” says Schofield.

In that 1955 talk Ogilvy gave, he also spoke about two types of advertising: the type that was based on action now, with little thought of the long-term consequences, and with advertising that was just a small piece along a very long road of a brand’s journey. 

That’s the approach that Schofield has taken over the course of his career, making decisions that, over the course of his career, have reinforced his own personal brand.

Schofield hasn’t been afraid to ask for things that will benefit his personal brand, either. 

“If you don’t ask, you don’t get,” he says. In his seminar for The Blends Of The Virtual World, he lays out how this has led him to develop products, write a book, and work with brands.

But he also lays out some tactics, if you want to call them that, which have helped to create his personal brand over the years.

One, he makes sure to be punctual. He also ensures that if he RSVPs to an event, he turns up — at the least, he gives the event organiser 48 hours notice that he won’t be able to make it. He only works with people he enjoys working with. He also shares how what he puts on his Instagram page reinforces the way he wants to be seen. And when he attends industry events, he doesn’t get carried away — he behaves in a manner consistent with his personal brand.

How does your personal brand make you a better human?

So how is it that, by paying attention to and working on one’s personal brand, you can become a better bartender and, more importantly, a better human?

Look at what Schofield is really talking about when talks about how he built his personal brand: it’s all about the way he wants to be perceived professionally.

This is his personal brand: It’s authentic, it’s not contrived. He is always on time. He is polite, he works the room at events. He lives up to the values he holds dear, and that makes him a known quantity — someone people can trust. He’s dependable, which means you know what you’re going to get.

Because at its heart, what Schofield is practising is what bartending is all about. The late Sasha Petraske, who shaped generations of bartenders to come, said that bartending ”is a simple thing, not a question of skill; it is a question of character.”

The high-flying bartenders with successful careers — and the respect of their peers — share this in common: they have a set of values, and a set of rules to which they hold themselves. 

And Scofield isn’t done yet. “It’s an ongoing process,” he says, “you’re always trying to find ways to improve.”

So yes, a personal brand is created over many years and through experience. But it starts today. Are you going to be the type of bartender who RSVPs to an event and doesn’t show? Or will you be the bartender who honours their word? Will you be the bartender early to their shift, or the bartender who lets their team down by turning up late? Will you be the bartender putting down your peers on social media, or the one lending a hand and leading a respectful debate?

The question really is: How do you want the world to see you?