He worked the room—shaking hands, recalling the names and professions of many of those who came to hear him speak—and by the time the presentation started, Emmy Award-winning author had a good sense of his audience, and his audience of him.
More than 150 professionals, students, staff members and fans filled Alumni Theater on Tuesday, Sept. 14, to listen to Adubato and hear about his new book, You are the Brand. Focusing on personal branding, reputation and how to make a positive mark on customers and clients, Adubato entertained the crowd with his wit and wisdom on the art of branding.
Opening the discussion with a story about his young son Chris and Chris’ entrepreneurial spirit, Adubato immediately set the tone for the evening.
“We have a bookstore in our house,” said Adubato. “Not the big store kind, but a room where I store and sign my books. My son Chris saw me signing the books one day, and noticed how I put them back into the boxes. He decided I needed help.”
Adubato recounted the story of his son’s beginning the store and developing a book process that still works today, how Chris fired his brother, and how now three years later, Adubato and his son are partners in the bookstore.
“Today, we have a 60-40 partnership. I’m happy with my 40.”
Adubato has enjoyed a distinguished career as a broadcaster, author and motivational speaker. A university lecturer, Emmy Award-winning television anchor, and Star-Ledger columnist, he also served as New Jersey's youngest state legislator in the mid-1980s at age 26.
Adubato currently anchors three WNET (PBS) broadcasts, Caucus: New Jersey, an Emmy Award-winning public affairs television series, also broadcast on NJN-Public Television; and NJ Capitol Report, a news program covering N.J. political issues.
“When I started writing this book, I wanted to be clear what it wasn’t going to be,” said Adubato. “I am not a marketing executive, and not a graphic artist, so I thought about branding.”
Adubato defines branding as “what people say about you behind your back. Branding is your public reputation.”
“One of the first chapters that I wrote was about Tiger Woods. Tiger Woods was the best brand ever,” said Adubato. “Needless to say, I had to rewrite the entire chapter.”
Each chapter within the book focuses on a well-known individual or organization, and provides an associated lesson learned from each. To illustrate the power of branding described in the book, Adubato selected a few names, asking audience members to offer the first word that they thought of for each.
“Donald Trump,” offered Adubato.
Audience members responded. “Hair.” “Real estate.” “Arrogant.”
“In my book, Trump’s brand is a tarnished brand because your brand is your reputation. He was bankrupt three times and doesn’t pay his bills; therefore, his reputation is tarnished.”
A look at Tony Hayward, former CEO of BP, conveys a different lesson.
“Greed.” “Irresponsible.” “Oil spill.”
“Accidents happen,” said Adubato. “But, you find out whom and what people are when they do. As soon as the accident happened, BP found someone to point a finger at.”
Adubato believes that reputation is tied to how people own up to and fix problems when they happen. In the case of Hayward, he will be known by his quote, “I want my life back.” Adubato believes that Hayward destroyed his brand in that moment. Said Adubato, “You want your life back? What about the fishermen? Lives were destroyed. Great leaders step up and own it.”
However, not all of the discussion was about brands ruined. Adubato also talked about organizations that have created and maintained their positive brands, using the Yankees, Notre Dame and local celebrity, the , as examples.
“You may not know the name Buddy Valastro, but you know the Cake Boss,” said Adubato. “He has built a brand that has come out of cooking and the chef world.”
According to Adubato’s book, the Cake Boss is unique because of his family and town, but also because he listens to his customers, and then gives them exactly what they want. “You want to build a brand?” asks Adubato. “Obsess over what other people want.”
Adubato stresses that to build a successful, positive brand, a person or company needs to become obsessed with the wants, the needs, the lives of customers.
“To appeal to customers, confidence is great, but humility is better, humility attached to compassion,” said Adubato. “Arrogance has no place.”
The best way to reach your customers and solidify your brand? The human touch. Pick up the phone, go to see them, have a direct connection and communicate with them.
So, the real reason and focus of Adubato’s book and appearance at Caldwell College? “Shameless self-promotion and begging you to buy my book,” laughed Adubato. “Really, there is something for everyone in the book. Whether you are working or looking for a job, the book is about how to connect to people in a more positive way.”