Get Your Professional Branding Ducks in a Row

The executive offices for Universal Studios are directly connected to the park.

Every employee entering these offices must go through a screening much like at the airport: IDs are shown, phones comes out of pockets—the whole nine yards.

I was at Universal Studios to speak to the Global Marketing and Advertising team, and my friend Dan Donovan, the Senior Director of Universal Orlando, introduced me to the security guard stationed at the office entrance. Of all of the attractions at Universal, Dan seemed most excited to introduce me to this guy. I was intrigued.

“If you’re really good, Ben will give you a duck,” Dan told me. I had no idea what this meant, but I started talking to the guard and did a magic trick for him.  

Then, he pulled a giant bag of rubber ducks out from under a table and presented me a small rubber duck wearing a crown.

Dan told me that the security guard is there every day, and that if you give him a doughnut or a smile, he may award you with one of his ducks.

Because Universal’s top executives pass through this doorway multiple times a day, many of them proudly display their ducks in their offices.

Of all the brilliant minds on the advertising team for Universal Studios, this security guard is the real marketing genius. He is irreplaceable (who could ever top his ducks?), and he has totally nailed down his personal and professional branding.

Later that evening, I went to dinner with executives at The Chocolate Emporium, which is Willy Wonka’s factory come to life. (It was as incredible as it sounds.) Guess what Universal’s Global Marketing and Advertising team talked about over our meal? No, not Disney’s newest ad campaign. They talked about Ben and his ducks.

Another marketing executive at Universal overheard that I had gotten a duck, and she couldn’t believe her ears. She’d worked there for a year and hadn’t gotten her duck yet! I asked if she wanted to have mine.

“No, I’m going to earn it!” she said emphatically.

Here’s what gets me about this story: Ben appears to be just another security guard, and yet the people in charge of Universal’s global marketing strategy are dying to get a rubber duck from him.

Here’s some lessons that Ben can teach us all:

1. Engage with everyone. So many of the security guards I walk up to are looking at their phones. Ben knows everyone’s names and asks them how their kids are doing. He would notice if a stranger tried to pass through. (By the way, that’s why he’s hired.) If you want to be excel in your job and be remembered, keep your phone in your pocket and learn the names of the people you pass by every day.

2. Make people’s day. After you learn their names, you have the amazing ability to make the people you encounter feel loved. Ben has done at least 500 random acts of kindness through his ducks. Because he gives out his ducks when he has a compliment for someone, he is always on the lookout for the best in people—and people have more motivation to be kind to him! Let’s be less caught up in ourselves and instead give generously like Ben does.

3. Be a brand. Professional branding isn’t about a sharp suit, a college degree, or a big vocabulary. It’s about being relatable and memorable. He’s “the duck guy” to Universal employees—because who can forget rubber ducks? He has also created some serious demand for these ducks because only he chooses who gets rewarded with one.

4. Find your rubber duck. Hint: it doesn’t have to be ducks. A woman at our church used to come to Saturday evening mass with a bag of lollipops and pass them out to every child as they left. What could you be doing to show more people you appreciate them? Is it kind words? Is it bringing doughnuts to the office on Monday mornings? Imagine if everyone was that person a little bit more.

5. Start today. Too often, we have a “maybe one day” mentality for our dream job. Ben reminded me that you don’t have to wait for the job of your dreams to make your mark. You can be an awesome security guard at a random gate somewhere today—just by having all of your ducks in a row.


Here’s my duck, proudly displayed with tokens from my past speaking engagements.

Are you ready to make your mark? Do you need direction as you nail down your personal brand or strategize your next career move? Let’s get together for a VIP Strategy Session. Email me to schedule our time together!

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