Like many of today’s companies, Sears has been through good times and bad. Unlike the Google, Groupon and Facebook’s of the world, Sears has weathered the storm for over 150 years. Integrating brand history, today’s consumers and the hottest technology gives the CMO a unique perspective that I wanted to understand better. Meet Bill Kiss. He’s the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and Online General Manager of Sears Tools & Hardware leading a cornerstone business at the Fortune 100 company with an 8-figure marketing budget. With over 300 brands, including America’s #1 tool brand, Craftsman, this executive knows more than a thing or two about personal branding, product branding and hiring. Bill and I sat down to chat – after a few reschedules – his calendar seemed as tight as Santa Claus’ during December.
Foray Into Fortune 500
Kiss’ personal brand evolved from advertising and consulting to the corporate side when a former boss from Leo Burnett called him with the opportunity to join Sears. He agreed and has been delivering results ever since. How can you do the same? “Demonstrate your ability to make things happen. For example, in this ever-evolving digital world, everyone can say I’ve created something on Facebook or I’ve done something with Twitter, but If you can say I did X with results attached, whether that’s engage, sell or serve customers, then you’ve got a good chance.” says Kiss. To get in the door at Sears, Kiss recommends using their job board and then leverage your other resources (e.g. LinkedIn) to connect directly to the hiring manager “Use two sentences on why I can help your team or perhaps share an idea” Kiss notes and “those will be the ones that move through the noise.”
Personal and Digital Branding
When asked how essential personal branding is in today’s job search environment, Kiss responded simply, “It’s critical to the extent I make it a standard practice in all the interviews I conduct.” He elaborated that you need to know “what I stand for and what you get” and be able to convey that clearly. You can’t rely on your paper anymore either, when it comes to personal branding, digital media is heavily involved and folks need to proactively manage their digital brand. Kiss Googles over 80% of the candidates he interviews and says he’s surprised by the results, or lack thereof, at least 50% of the time. Today’s candidates, and executives, are missing the mark when it comes to managing their digital brand.
Big Book of Kiss’isms
Whew. Thank goodness I Googled him! Kiss sees this as a lighthearted extension of his personal brand and a tool that speaks to his style. Furnished as a gift originally, it has been added to over the years and he’s found ways to incorporate it into his leadership to inspire, coach and give people focus. He shared this Kiss’ism “Be Open Kimono” with your people and partners – establish clear understanding with people and with goals. What’s his brand stand for? The Bill Kiss brand stands for making good things happen, for the company and their brands. Results move from the bottom to the top success tier and he can extend companies into new categories. Said another way, Bill Kiss “brings good things to life”.
3 Actionable Steps for Your Personal Brand
Kiss offered this insight to build your personal brand, focus on R&D, be relevant and differentiated. If you don’t have that to say about yourself, how are you going to help a given business to the same. He gives three steps to ignite a personal branding plan: 1. Plot a course and stick to it 2. Rigorously plan and paint the end picture of what you want to have people see about you 3. Make it happen (read: make time) Given the time of year, I’ll toss one closing thought on Kiss’ great tips, avoid making this a New Year’s resolution. Studies show the majority of them are abandoned by the end of February and this goal is worth too much to abandon. Commit to yourself that you will deliver on it in 2012.