"Narrative" vs "Brand" - Which is best?

Many admissions consultants focus on "brand" while we at Ivy Admissions Group focus on "narrative." Every future leader who works with us on a Complete School Package has their personal narrative developed through our proprietary Narrative Bootcamp.

What is the difference? Which should you maximize in your application? 



A brand statement is a pithy phrase used to describe an admissions candidate. In 25 words or fewer these statements seek to capture the essence of who you are, what you have done, and where you are headed. These statements are relatively easy for people to write themselves. For example, 

Battle-tested female veteran accomplished in leading analytical teams in high pressure environments seeking a job as an investment banker in Chicago.

Athletic and analytical male ex-consultant with start-up experience seeking to build competencies as a general manager at a large manufacturing conglomerate.

The problem with these statements is that they just sort candidates into buckets. All they do is tell the admissions committee who they are supposed to compare the candidate against, not why this candidate is the best one. In this way, brand statements for people are just like brand statements for cereal -- they tell us that Lucky Charms is different than Shredded Wheat, but don't offer a compelling reason why it is the best.



In contrast to the who, what, and where of a brand statement, a personal narrative focuses on the why. Whereas the brand statement distills the facts on your resume, the personal narrative is a story arc that connects your personal inspirations and motivations to your career aspirations. In the case of an MBA application, a personal narrative will inform the admissions committee how you ended up on your current life story arc, show where this arc will take you by projecting it into future, and then argue why business school is the logical next step in your career because it is the perfect bridge to connect the two. Consider a narrative we can tell for the military officer in the first brand statement above:

I joined the military as an intelligence briefer because I wanted to personally advise senior leaders, work with top-talent peers, and thrive in a team-first culture. As I complete my service, I'm applying for an MBA because I want to transition to investment banking where I can still experience all the best qualities of my former job, while also helping reinvigorate businesses back home in the Midwest. 

This narrative is much more compelling than the brand statement above because it explains to the admissions committee why the applicant did what she did, what she values, where she is going, and how an MBA will help. It makes total sense why she is going to business school and the admissions committee should give her a spot in the class. She is a person, not a product.