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10 marketing and branding tips I learned from Tom Haverford

Having a marketing mentor is great. Having one on TV can be more fun, especially when that person is Tom Haverford. While I might be the Leslie of the group, Tom brings marketing and branding to life for the Parks and Recreation Department of Pawnee.

While watching Parks and Rec, Tom Haverford lives the ups and downs of an entrepreneur trying to make it. His ideas include a clothing rental service Rent-A-Swag, media conglomerate Entertainment 720, and a Bistro to name a few. His strength of character defines his brand and his ability to market himself helps him reach success despite many failures.

Tom’s personality and gusto became a living brand, outside of the ones he creates for his businesses. What you can learn from Tom is:

1. Go for it

They say you gotta spend money to make money, I don’t know what went wrong. We spent all our money.

Tom doesn’t hold back when he has an idea. He jumps in with all he’s got to try and build it up. While at this point that meant no business plan and failed marketing tactics, Tom didn’t hold back when trying to make his dreams come true.

He goes big or goes home, a bold move for any entrepreneur. He consistently keeps making the jump into businesses shows his pursuit of success is a powerful motivator.

2. Think big and go big

Make-A-Baby Tuxedo clothing line. A department store with a guest list. White fur earmuffs for men. Contact lenses that display text messages. Invent a phone that smells good. Own a nightclub, call it Eclipse, that’s only open for one hour two times a year. Cover charge? Five thousand dollars.

Not one to just have a single idea, Tom had plenty of them. He thinks big, which didn’t always bring him support in the Parks Department. Sometimes he thought too big, outside the scope of an assignment. Sometimes his dreams crumbled, like Entertainment 720.

But Tom persists, keeps thinking and going big until he achieves success as a writer. While it was not what he predicts or expects, it still allows him to think big and go big.

3. You are your brand

I’m more of a Steve Harvey. I dream big. I shake things up and I ALWAYS wear dope suits.

Tom knows exactly who he is. He wears dope suits. He listens to 90s R&B. He has taken the time to cultivate a Jay-Z vibe. He is protective of the image he’s created and uses it to his advantage when he pursues different business opportunities.

He dreams big and has a big personality that will take him places. He believes in his own value and brand, that they will take him to the next level.

4. Develop your creative crew

Jean-Ralphio is Tom’s business partner. He’s not the most positive influence and he leaves Tom when he needs him. Tom recognizes Jean-Ralphio for who he is and knows he can’t be his partner for business ventures moving forward.

It was hard to Tom to say no to his business partner and friend, but it left him open to developing more positive business relationships. By developing his business crew from the start, and learning what to do and what not to do, Tom eventually creates a successful business team.

5. Know your worth

Ron said there’s nothing more valuable than my name, but he’s not a businessman. I am. And now, I have seed money for my next venture. I sold out, baby!

Tom sells his business Rent-A-Swag for a profit because he realized what the competition wanted – his name. By knowing his own value, even while his business was failing from competitive pressure, Tom was able to turn the situation to his advantage.

6. Curate your image

In one brush stroke, Jerry has destroyed the Jay-Z vibe I have taken years to build up and replaced it with a brown baby vibe, which is not as good a vibe.

Tom is very conscious of the image he presents. He mentions it’s because he was bullied as a young kid in South Carolina. Over time, he chooses what he wanted to be known for and how to present himself so he isn’t perceived the same way as when he was a kid.

Curating an image takes time, Tom didn’t develop his persona overnight. By devoting himself to his “cool” factor and making his image a priority, Tom invests in himself to create his image of a successful business owner. While it took many tweaks and changes, he still got there with strong ideas, personality, and gumption.

7. Failure is not permanent

Most of Tom’s business ventures are not lasting successes. Entertainment 720 goes bankrupt. Rent-A-Swag was bought out because of competitive pressure. Tom’s Bistro went under. However, Tom learned that failure is part of the process.

And then he wrote a book about failure that became a best-seller. In the finale, he talks about writing the sequel “Failure 2.0: Failing to Fail.” He turns all of his failures into his ultimate success, showing that no failure is permanent.

8. You are your biggest asset

Treat yo self.

Tom takes care of himself. “Treat yo self” day was the ultimate representation of this priority. Tom and his coworker Donna would go to the mall for a spa day and buy things they wanted but didn’t need. It’s time to relax and have fun.

By taking care of himself, Tom treats himself as his own most valuable asset. Entrepreneurs starting a new venture or business need to rely on themselves to hustle. Self-care shows how important he is to his business and success in life.

9. It’s not just what you say, but how you say it

Most people would say ‘the deets’, but I say ‘the tails’. Just another example of innovation.

Tom thought through how he presented himself to others, down to what words he used. While this particular use of language was not always to his benefit, it helped him create the “mogul” image he wanted.

He was great at developing an image and putting pizzazz into his presentations. From the light show that blinded someone to an interactive presentation with lasers, Tom grew into his ability to add his personal flair to make the Parks Department flourish.

10. When you need help, ask for it

Tom was there for other co-workers when they needed it. In return for stalwart friendship, he turned to them when he needed help with his business ventures. Andy invests $1000 to help Tom achieve his dreams. Ron helps him build his store and chairs for his bistro. Leslie talks his business up.

They might not have been his business besties, but they were there for him when he did well and when ventures went south. By having true friends by his side, Tom has a net to catch him if things go wrong. His investment in his friendships paid off more than some of his ideas, letting him reach success after many tries.

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