Denise Kaigler - Founder of MDK Brand Management

I’ve learned a lot of lessons during the course of my 25 year career. As a result of those lessons, I would advise my younger self to take those mentoring relationships more seriously. I’ve had mentors for years, but it took a long time before I realized how much they truly wanted to help me grow and develop my career.

Denise Kaigler is the Founder and Principal of MDK Brand Management, LLC, a company committed to helping companies and individuals define, enhance, and market their desired corporate identity, employer brand, or personal brand. Prior to founding her company in July of 2015, Kaigler held senior leadership roles at Reebok International, adidas Group, Nintendo of America, and Boston Scientific Corporation, where she was responsible for corporate branding and brand management. Kaigler began her career in television news as a reporter, anchor, writer, and producer.

Kaigler has received numerous awards and honors, including twice being named among the “Top Influential Women in Corporate America” by Savoy magazine. She is also a recipient of the Magic 106.7 “Exceptional Women” Award, the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts “Leading Women” Award, and the Dimock Center’s Mary Eliza Mahoney Community Service Award.

Kaigler holds a B.A. in Journalism from Emerson College in Boston, where she served on the Board of Overseers for two terms. She currently serves as a director on several boards, including the Women’s Leadership Council of United Way of Massachusetts Bay, Sail Boston, Inc., and the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, where she chaired the Women’s Network Advisory Board for two years. Kaigler is also a founding member of the Advisory Board for the Sports Leadership and Management undergraduate degree program at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

An avid writer, Kaigler authors blogs focused on personal and corporate branding. She also enjoys traveling. During her 25-year career, Kaigler has visited numerous countries around the world. She and her family reside in Massachusetts.

Where did the idea for MDK Brand Management come from?

While I was an SVP at Boston Scientific, one of my responsibilities was brand management and corporate branding. My team and I led the global rebranding of the entire corporation. We spearheaded the creation of a new mission, set of core values, corporate color palette, core messages and tagline/brand declaration: Advancing science for life. Shortly thereafter, I decided that I wanted to help up and coming Boston Scientific employees develop themselves both personally and professionally so I began facilitating internal brand management workshops. I also volunteered my time leading branding sessions for a couple of non-profit organizations. Even though I’d spent most of my career in corporate communications and public relations, I realized how much I love brand management. So I began crafting a plan around a business that focused on helping organizations and individuals define, develop and market their desired brand. In July, 2015, I fulfilled my dream of entrepreneurship and founded MDK Brand Management, LLC. In October of 2015, I launched MDK with three clients, including Boston Scientific!

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Most days, I’m up by 6:00am and winding down between midnight and 1:00am. I have two offices, one in my home and one in downtown Boston. When I work out of my home office, I am on my computer by 7:00am. There is really no typical work day. I could be facilitating a brand management workshop, creating and/or executing a strategic brand management plan, planning a client’s event, working on a client’s website, networking over breakfast, lunch or dinner, managing my financial books, speaking on a panel or at a conference, writing and posting content on my social media platforms and my company’s website, writing blogs and reading and researching the latest trends or information on branding and marketing. It might seem simple but writing to-do lists helps keep me organized and productive. The ‘notes’ app on my phone is my savior!

How do you bring ideas to life?

The internet! I may not know exactly what I’m looking for but I’ll know it when I see it. I also love browsing book stores. Barnes and Noble is my favorite. I love being creative and delivering unique and fun experiences to my clients. Sorry, but I don’t want to get too detailed in this public forum.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

The continued social media trend is exciting to me because it continues to elevate the importance of personal brand management. We must all be cognizant of the ways in which friends and strangers alike can damage our personal brands in ways that perhaps were not intended and certainly never expected. If we define and effectively market our personal brand, it can help serve as a protective shield against such damage. I’m also excited by the continued use of digital marketing. There are so many ways – endless platforms – to market an organization’s brand. That makes finding creative ways to be disruptive and unique a lot of fun. I enjoy being creative and sometimes that involves both new and traditional media.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I’m a habitual multi-tasker. I have two laptops and an iPad. This is especially helpful when I’m the phone with a client and need to write and research information at the same time. I also have two cell phones which has proven helpful many times.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I’ve learned a lot of lessons during the course of my 25 year career. As a result of those lessons, I would advise my younger self to take those mentoring relationships more seriously. I’ve had mentors for years, but it took a long time before I realized how much they truly wanted to help me grow and develop my career.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?

Right after the secret life of Tiger Woods was exposed, I predicted that he would never recapture the success he enjoyed for so many years. I stand by that prediction today. I believe that part of what made Tiger successful was that his brand mentally intimidated his opponents. But given the crisis that engulfed his brand, that intimidation is no longer there (in my opinion). While Tiger still draws huge crowds and ratings, opponents no longer fear him. And that, in my opinion, has created a mental/concentration issue for him. But no one agrees with me!!

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I strongly recommend that before you post anything on social media, you read it over and over again. And if you have any concerns that a post will create any issues or controversy, listen to that voice. If you can, sleep on it. And if you can’t do that, have someone else read the post. I read my content over and over again before I post it.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Although much of my career was focused on public relations, corporate communications, events and brand management and marketing, I chose to focus my business on just one of those areas: brand management and marketing. It was the right decision and I believe it’s the reason I closed out my first full year as an entrepreneur with nearly a dozen clients. My clients know that I will be 100% focused on helping them develop and market their brand or the brands of their staff, board, or members. And since I’m a solo-preneur, I also want to manage my bandwidth.Spreading myself too thin will hurt the client and my brand.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Initially, I thought that I would be able to secure a workshop space, market my personal branding classes and have people sign up and fill each class. My first website was designed around this business concept. Well, I secured the space but that was all that happened. After about two weeks of sitting in my workshop space and having no one show up, I set out to find out what I did wrong. I soon learned that people wanted something customized, not a general workshop that addressed a variety of scenarios. I reworked my business plan, blew up and redesigned my website and began marketing my company as providing customized workshops and initiatives. I overcame a failure by listening to the needs of my target audience. It was a great learning experience and one that has definitely paid off!

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I recently bought a $100 ticket to an event that was focused on diversity in Boston. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh was the featured speaker. The issue of diversity is very important to me, both personally and professionally. During the event, I networked quite a bit and made numerous connections.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

I can’t begin to imagine managing my company’s finances without QuickBooks. I’m still learning how to use all the tools, but I love it! I use it to process my invoices, manage my accounts receivables, P&L statements, customer database, etc.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I have two books I strongly recommend. The first is “Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne. It’s about creating a market for your goods or services. It’s not necessarily about going where everyone else has already found success. But going where no one else is and educating the market on why your product or service is addressing a need that you don’t know you have. We don’t know that we need something we’ve never had until it’s created and offered to us. So how do we do that? When I was at Boston Scientific, our team mantra was “Creating our Blue Ocean.” I gave everyone on my team a copy of the book. I am also a huge fan of the “First 90 Days by Michael Watkins. Whether you’re starting a new job within a new company, a different job within your current company or, in my case, starting your own company, this book should be your best friend. It literally lays out a blue print to follow during your first 90 days in your new role. Even though the book isn’t described as a personal branding book, how you adapt to your new environment and engage your new colleagues, clients or vendors has a direct impact on your brand. So, make sure you do it right!

What is your favorite quote?

I love quotes and use them in each of my workshops. Among my favorites is a quote from Maya Angelou:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

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