We’ve just returned from a brief family vacation in New Jersey. Our relatives/hosts included a Harvard-graduate urologist. Of course my perceptions here are from the family/personal rather than professional practice level, but I overheard conversations as people sought recommendations/advice on competent doctors for other specialties. This is word-of-mouth at the highest velocity (and perhaps life-saving importance) tempered by the realities of the U.S. medical system — is the doctor “in network” or out, who accepts medical insurance, and who doesn’t, and so on.
The words “Harvard-graduate” of course implies some branding/excellence. You generally don’t get into (or graduate from) Harvard without plenty of smarts and ability. The highest-ranking graduate degree programs carry intrinsic personal branding power through their exclusivity. Of course, only a tiny number of people can carry these designations, though some fake it. (I know one consultant who took a couple of extension courses, and then set things up to look like he had special status with Oxford University. That relationship for me ended up in the courts where, fortunately, the judge ruled in my favour (though — even with costs awarded, I needed to fork out $20,000 in legal bills.)
I’ve sure you’ve seen other credential efforts — things like the various abbreviations and initials some people insist must always appear behind their names, even though many can be obtained simply by completing a really dumb examination or perhaps some work experience. Yet they serve a marketing purpose, nevertheless, in conveying authority — that is, that they are somehow more qualified and capable because of these designations.
Personally, I think if you need to dress up your credentials to fake some level of expertise, you are traveling in that grey or black-hat area reflected by the less-than-ethical individual I once needed to face off in court.
As for my credentials: I’ve got a Bachelor of Arts degree in History, and have taken the test from the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) to be a Certified Professional Services Marketer (CPSM). But I think I earned my most meaningful credentials through life experience. No bragging rights, but plenty of adventure.
What are your credentials? Have they been effective or useful in your own marketing initiatives? You can share your thoughts in a comment or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.