Brand Research Fundamentals: Part 6 – Brand Analysis

Brand Research Fundamentals: Part 6 – Brand Analysis
Posted by Susan Gunelius
Companies invest money in creating logos, ads, marketing materials, packaging, and so on and then wonder why they’re not getting the results they expected — or they might assume that they can’t get better results. However, had they invested in brand research along the way, their stories could have been quite different.
It’s safe to assume that you don’t make other types of business decisions without data to justify those decisions, so why would your brand decisions be any different? They shouldn’t be. That’s why it’s so critical that you track your brand’s growth and performance by following the steps provided in Part 1, Part 2, Part 3,Part 4, and Part 5 of the Brand Research Fundamentals series.
With that hard data in hand, you can closely analyze target audiences, growth trends, marketing tactics, brand awareness levels, sales history, and so on, and apply those learnings to your future brand strategy decisions. However, it’s easy to get caught in what I call information paralysis where you have so much data at your fingertips you’re incapable of making a decision. That’s a dangerous place to find yourself in, particularly as it applies to branding because so much of branding is based on consumer emotions and requires subjective analysis in addition to traditional objective research data analysis.
Researching Brand Emotions
You can easily measure and analyze sales data, but how do you measure subjective brand sentiment accurately? How do you measure consumers’ emotional involvement in your brand? Both of these factors are essential to brand and business growth and success, but few companies actually understand how to gather data to guide in the strategic brand decision-making process.

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It is a fundamental truth that when consumers are highly emotionally attached to a brand, their loyalty and advocacy of that brand knows no bounds. Harley Davidson brand loyalists provide the perfect example, and as such, the Harley Davidson brand is one of the most powerful relationship brands in the world.
You can’t buy that level of brand emotion through clever marketing messages, but you can create it through brand consistency, persistence, and surrounding consumers with branded experiences where they can choose how they want to interact with the brand. Harley Davidson offers online forums, clubs, events, and much more for enthusiasts to enjoy the brand together. The brand stands for something in consumers’ minds, and that something is very important to them such as freedom, camaraderie, rebellion, and self-expression.
Subjective Brand Research
All of the objective brand research data you collect is incomplete if you cannot tie subjective analysis to it. That’s because consumers don’t always act the way they say the will. Qualitative and quantitative research results about buying propensity and brand preferences can be misleading if they are viewed without subjective context.

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In fact, many consumers simply don’t know what motivates them to make buying decisions, particularly when a brand elicits little emotional involvement. Is there a reason why you buy a specific dish washing detergent, or is it just the one you’ve always bought?
Furthermore, research respondents often provide researchers with the answers they think the researchers want to hear or the answers that don’t embarrass them or reveal personal information, thoughts, and feelings. That’s where you need to get creative with your brand research techniques to draw out underlying motivations and feelings from consumers.
Following are several tricks to gather subjective data in a more reliable way than objective research questions might provide:
Use word association and sentence completion questions to encourage respondents to provide their own words to describe your brand.
Ranking, sorting, and grouping questions can be used in a multitude of ways to gain insight into consumer brand preferences.
• Analogies offer an excellent way to learn how consumers feel by asking them to compare the brand to unrelated things. For example, ask respondents, “if the brand were a celebrity, who would it be and why?”
Storytelling works well to draw out underlying emotions and thoughts about the brand. Ask respondents to tell a story about the brand (it could be based on a real experience or fictitious).
Role-playing can be used to have consumers act like the brand or try to convince a friend to purchase the brand.
The important thing to remember when you’re gathering subjective brand research data is to always ask consumers why they respond to questions and prompts in the way that they do. Look for conscious and subconscious reasons, but don’t lead respondents. You need to let them talk without your influence, which could inadvertently affect their responses.
Brand Research Decision-Making
Your brand research is never done, but it can help you make intelligent decisions rather than assuming you always know what your customers want and need and what the market will bear. If everyone had that kind of knowledge, we’d all be successful billionaires with globally recognized and powerful brands. Until then, there is still brand research to be done, data to gather, emotions to analyze, and decisions to make.

Brand Research Fundamentals: Part 1 – Brand Development and Strategic Planning

Brand Research Fundamentals: Part 2 – Brand Creation

Brand Research Fundamentals: Part 3 – Brand Promotion

Brand Research Fundamentals: Part 4 – Brand Perception and Equity

Brand Research Fundamentals: Part 5 – Brand Growth and Change

Brand Research Fundamentals: Part 6 – Brand Analysis

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Gunelius
Susan Gunelius brings over 20-year of marketing and branding experience as Contributing Editor for the AYTM.com blog. She is the author of numerous books about marketing, branding and social media, and her marketing-related articles appear on top media websites such as Entrepreneur.com and Forbes.com.

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Brand Research Fundamentals: Part 5 – Brand Growth and Change

Brand Research Fundamentals: Part 5 – Brand Growth and Change
Posted by Susan Gunelius
As you learned in Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 of the Brand Research Fundamentals series, brands, consumers, and markets are continually evolving. What works for your brand today, might not work tomorrow. Therefore, it’s essential that you monitor those changes (as well as new opportunities that develop as a result of those changes) through brand research so you can adapt accordingly and stay successful over the long-term.
Do you feel the same way today about the brands that you buy (and those that you don’t buy) as you felt 5 years ago? For example, do you feel the same way about your cable provider that you did in 2006? How about the Twitter brand? Do you feel the same way about MySpace today as you felt 5 years ago?
I’m going to take a wild guess and assume that you don’t feel the same way. In 2006, cable companies were heros with digital channels and DVRs. Today, cable companies are getting negative publicity for high prices and consumers are spending more time watching streaming video content online and less time watching cable programming.
Similarly, when Twitter debuted publicly in 2007, many people were wary and thought it was a fad. Today, it’s one of the most popular websites in the world and has played a key role in multiple global events. MySpace still had a lot of loyal advocates in 2006, but today, the brand is just a shell of its former self.
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Your brand is neither insulated nor immune from the changing world around it. More importantly, if your brand isn’t flexible enough to evolve with the changing world, it’s going to have a very limited and short lifespan. Whether your brand research identifies opportunities for brand extensions and expanding into new regions or it shows you that it’s time to rebrand in order to stay relevant, your brand needs to be able to navigate through those changes and come out on the other side even stronger.
Brand Growth and Change Research
Brand research related to brand growth and change requires detailed knowledge about the following brand-related elements:
• Awareness
• Recognition
• Relevance
• Unique value
• Benefits
• Strengths
• Weaknesses
• Consumer perception
• Competitor offerings
• Market opportunities
• Brand equity
• Consumer preference
• Consumer needs
• Consumer emotions
• Customer segments
• Brand identity elements (logo, tagline, messages)
• Brand promise believability
• Consumer buying behavior
• Brand trust

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When changes to your brand are required based on your brand research data, implement them with an understanding that people inherently dislike change. Read about Rebranding Essentials to learn how to rebrand successfully.
Furthermore, when your research supports entry into a new category or market with a brand extension or expansion, your brand research is not done yet. In other words, identifying the market size, audience, growth rate, and profitability of a new market is just the beginning. Successfully launching a product into that new market requires the same kind of ongoing brand research that you’ve learned so far in the Brand Research Fundamentals series.
The final part of the Brand Research Fundamentals series is coming to the blog soon and will teach you about objective and subjective analyses of your brand through brand research including analyzing consumer emotions

Brand Research Fundamentals: Part 1 – Brand Development and Strategic Planning

Brand Research Fundamentals: Part 2 – Brand Creation

Brand Research Fundamentals: Part 3 – Brand Promotion

Brand Research Fundamentals: Part 4 – Brand Perception and Equity

Brand Research Fundamentals: Part 5 – Brand Growth and Change

Brand Research Fundamentals: Part 6 – Brand Analysis

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Gunelius
Susan Gunelius brings over 20-year of marketing and branding experience as Contributing Editor for the AYTM.com blog. She is the author of numerous books about marketing, branding and social media, and her marketing-related articles appear on top media websites such as Entrepreneur.com and Forbes.com.

Brand Research Fundamentals: Part 4 – Brand Perception and Equity

Brand Research Fundamentals: Part 4 – Brand Perception and Equity
Written by Susan Gunelius

What do people think of your brand? Is your brand equity growing? These are just two of the questions that you need to be able to answer about your brand, and to get those answers, you need to conduct brand research. You can’t measure your brand’s performance without understanding what people think about it. Researching brand perception and equity are the focus of Part 4 of the Brand Research Fundamentals series. Be sure to read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, so everything included in Part 4 makes sense and is instantly actionable for you.
First, you need to understand a core truth of branding and business. A powerful brand is one of your most important business assets even if that power and importance cannot be precisely measured. A strong brand can overcome any macro-environmental problem, and in time, grow to be stronger than ever.
For example, Toyota owns the word reliable within the automobile market. That brand promise and position came under fire when a series of recalls that started in 2009 brought big questions about the actual reliability of Toyota vehicles. However, the Toyota brand is so powerful that the recalls ultimately registered as nothing more than a short-term blip in consumers’ minds. Today, the brand is as strong as ever.
Brand Equity Research
There are many examples like Toyota in history where companies made a mistake and brought much unwanted, negative publicity to their brands. A weak brand has little chance to survive such an attack. Similarly, weak brands lack awareness, loyalty, and word-of-mouth marketing. However, in time, any brand can raise awareness, loyalty, and word-of-mouth marketing that lead to sales — i.e., brand equity.
Don’t believe me? Consider the brand equity in David Hasselhoff. How is this guy still getting work? The answer (whether we like it or not) is brand equity.
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However, there is no way of actually knowing if your brand is making progress in meeting your brand equity goals unless you conduct research to gather real consumer opinions — both your own customers and the larger population of people in your target market who aren’t your customers yet.
Following are some brand research questions that can help you track your brand equity over time among existing customers:
• How important is this brand to you? (offer a scale of importance for respondents to choose from, ranging from not important at all to very important)
• If this brand isn’t available, what would you do? (e.g., answers can include: look for it in another store, buy another brand, or buy nothing)
• Rank this brand in order of preference from a list of competitor brands. (use responses to this question to learn if your brand is gaining or passing others)
• How often do you purchase this brand? (offer response choices that enable you to determine a respondents’ degree of use and loyalty)
• Have you ever recommended this brand to another person? When and where? (offer time frame and location choices as well as an “other” option)
Brand Perception Research
A preferred brand means something to consumers who buy it, and you need to continually research existing and prospective customers to understand how they perceive your brand. What if consumer perceptions of your brand are completely different than how you’re positioning it in your advertising and marketing communications?
If you don’t understand consumer perceptions of your brand, you can’t effectively market your brand and grow your business. Instead, you’ll hit a brick wall when consumers feel like your messages don’t match your brand’s perception in their minds. Confused consumers are a recipe for failure when it comes to branding. Therefore, make sure you always know how consumers perceive your brand by monitoring it through brand research.
Would your customers tattoo your logo on their wrists like the image below? You’ll never know if you don’t understand how they perceive it.
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Start your brand research with some of the following questions and learn how consumers perceive your brand:
• What word comes to mind when you hear the brand name?
• Why do you choose the brand over others?
• What does the brand offer that competitors don’t offer?
• If this brand were a person, who would it be?
• What is this brand missing?
• Why would you recommend this brand to other people?
• Who would you recommend this brand to?

Notice that most of the questions in the Brand Equity Research section above focus on how, when, and where while the questions in the Brand Perception Research section address what, who, and why. As you monitor both brand equity and perception, you’ll get answers to these questions that can help you develop your brand for future success. Remember, brands, markets, and consumers are continually evolving, and that’s the topic for Part 5 of the Brand Research Fundamentals series.

Brand Research Fundamentals: Part 1 – Brand Development and Strategic Planning

Brand Research Fundamentals: Part 2 – Brand Creation

Brand Research Fundamentals: Part 3 – Brand Promotion

Brand Research Fundamentals: Part 4 – Brand Perception and Equity

Brand Research Fundamentals: Part 5 – Brand Growth and Change

Brand Research Fundamentals: Part 6 – Brand Analysis

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Gunelius
Susan Gunelius brings over 20-year of marketing and branding experience as Contributing Editor for the AYTM.com blog. She is the author of numerous books about marketing, branding and social media, and her marketing-related articles appear on top media websites such as Entrepreneur.com and Forbes.com.

 

Brand Research Fundamentals: Part 3 – Brand Promotion

Brand Research Fundamentals: Part 3 – Brand Promotion
Posted by Susan Gunelius
So far in the Brand Research Fundamentals series, you’ve learned how to use research for brand development and brand creation. Now, it’s time to learn how to conduct research that will help you develop effective promotions. You can create the most amazing marketing promotions in the world but if those promotions aren’t right for your brand and audience, they won’t drive results. That’s why brand research is so important for brand promotion success.
Don’t execute marketing initiatives like you throw darts at a dart board. That’s like throwing money away! Instead, use research to ensure your promotion will drive the results you want and need.
Before I go any further, let’s take a moment to define what goes into brand promotion. It’s more than just advertising. In fact, it’s a fundamental part of your business.
Brand Research and the 4Ps
Because brand promotion is so important, it’s included in what marketers refer to as the 4Ps. These are the four core elements that make up any business’ marketing mix:
Product: Your product is what you’re offering to consumers for a specific price.
• Price: Your price is the dollar amount (and the perceived emotional currency) that consumers must pay to get your product.
• Place: The place of your marketing mix refers to the distribution process from manufacturing to transportation, retail, resellers, shelf space, and so on.
• Promotion: The promotion part of your marketing mix refers to the marketing tactics that you execute in order to increase awareness, recognition, sales, and loyalty.
Your brand touches all parts of the 4Ps and all elements of your marketing mix.
Promotions Include More Than Ads
What are promotions? It’s a confusing word because promotion is used to reference short-term marketing tactics such as sales and discounts as well as the overall promotion aspect of your marketing mix. Following is a list of common marketing tactics that are part of your brand promotion:
• Advertising
• Direct mail and email marketing
• Social media participation and content publishing
• Trade shows and events
• Publicity
• Packaging
Of course, a full list of tactical marketing promotions would be very long. The point to understand is that all the ways you promote your product affect your audience and your business, including the way you design your package which ties closely to your brand identity creation discussed in Part 2 of the Brand Research Fundamentals series. You need to be certain that the promotional activities you pursue, which almost always cost money, will deliver an acceptable return on your investment.
Brand Research and the 3Ms
Brand promotion research occurs in three phases: before you create a promotion, during the promotion period, and after the promotion ends. By conducting ongoing research, you can learn the best promotions to create, when they need tweaking before it’s too late, and how to improve them in the future.
Marketers use the 3Ms to develop promotions which include the media (for example, the website where an ad will be placed), the message (what the ad will say), and the mode (how that ad will work — e.g., pop-up, expanding window, animated, static banner, etc.). With the 3Ms in mind, your brand promotion research should address points like the following:

Media: What media does your audience consume and how does that media differ by audience? When and where do they access that media? For example, it wouldn’t be as effective for a liberal political candidate to pay for ad space on Fox News, which has an audience that is primarily highly conservative. In fact, many liberals dislike Fox News intensely and would likely react negatively to a liberal political candidate who advertised on that channel, as the image below suggests.
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Message: What will your ad say? How will your message address different segments of your audience? Does your message appeal to your target audience based on the media where your promotion will live? What messages does your audience want and need to hear from you through this media? Are your messages believable and do they move consumers to a desired action?
Mode: How will your ad deliver your message? Does your audience respond negatively to an online pop-up ad? Is there a specific way that your target audiences like to have marketing messages delivered through the media they consume? Would a 30-second television commercial be more effective or a half-hour infomercial? Which would be more effective in driving your target audience to action? How does your audience prefer to receive your message?
Spending time to learn where, when, what, and how to promote your brand through research is essential to your marketing success. Otherwise, you’re simply throwing darts at a dart board hoping you hit the bulls eye but with no guarantee that you’ll come even close to it. That’s not an intelligent way to operate a business.
Part 4 of the Brand Research Fundamentals series is coming soon and will discuss researching brand perception and equity on an ongoing basis.

Brand Research Fundamentals: Part 1 – Brand Development and Strategic Planning

Brand Research Fundamentals: Part 2 – Brand Creation

Brand Research Fundamentals: Part 3 – Brand Promotion

Brand Research Fundamentals: Part 4 – Brand Perception and Equity

Brand Research Fundamentals: Part 5 – Brand Growth and Change

Brand Research Fundamentals: Part 6 – Brand Analysis

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Gunelius
Susan Gunelius brings over 20-year of marketing and branding experience as Contributing Editor for the AYTM.com blog. She is the author of numerous books about marketing, branding and social media, and her marketing-related articles appear on top media websites such as Entrepreneur.com and Forbes.com.

 

Brand Research Fundamentals: Part 2 – Brand Creation

Brand Research Fundamentals: Part 2 – Brand Creation
Posted by Susan Gunelius

In Part 1 of the Brand Research Fundamentals series, you learned about brand development and strategic planning research. Now, it’s time to learn about the brand research you should be doing during the brand creation process when you define your brand’s position and develop tangible brand identity elements to represent your brand.
Brand Positioning
Once you understand the market where your brand will compete and the segments of consumers who shop in that market, it’s time to define how your brand will be positioned against competitor brands to meet consumer needs and increase sales and to determine what your brand’s strengths, weaknesses, and specific benefits are. Keep in mind, benefits can be emotional, too, which will be discussed in Part 6 of the Brand Research Fundamentals series.
Go back to that unique value proposition and the brand differentiators that you defined during the brand development stage of your brand research (discussed in Part 1 of this series). Use that information to determine what your brand promise to consumers is, and test that brand promise through research to ensure it elicits the response you need from consumers. Your brand promise needs to appeal to them, solve their problems or address their hot buttons, and differentiate your brand from others that consumers can easily choose from. In other words, what does your brand promise that is better than or different from other brands?
Use your segmentation research data to ensure your brand is positioned correctly to meet the expectations and needs of diverse consumers. Through ongoing research take note of when it does not, so you can tweak your brand messaging and create brand promotions as effectively as possible in the future.
Think of it this way: people of all ages own iPods, but they’re marketed very differently to 40-year olds than they are to 14-year olds. The brand name is the same but through advertising messaging and placement, Apple promises different things to different audiences because segments of its audience use the iPod differently as the image below shows.
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The product’s ultimate use stays the same — listening to music or audio content — but the reasons why those audiences listen to music and audio content on their iPods are not exactly the same and how they listen to audio content is different, too (e.g., listening to podcasts with an iPod in the car during the daily commute or listening to music on an iPod in a back pocket while waiting for the school bus). Chances are your brand’s audience will be made up of segments that want to hear different things from your brand, too.
Your goal at this point is to define your brand’s persona, to determine which brand owns which attribute in the market, and to define what one word your brand will own in consumers’ minds.
Brand Identity
After you’ve defined your brand’s promise and position, you can create the tangible elements of your brand identity such as your brand name, logo, color palette, messaging, and other imagery. Your brand elements are the visual, auditory, and olfactory representations of your brand promise and persona. They need to match your brand promise and persona as well as consumers’ expectations for your brand.
That’s where brand research becomes a critical component of your brand’s success. Not only do you need to understand what consumers want, need, and expect from brands in your market, but you also need to understand what imagery, colors, and messages are appropriate and compelling for your brand based on its promise to consumers and their existing perceptions of the market. Read my recent article and research results about theMarathon Oil Corporation logo for a good example of why brand identity research is so important.
Ask probing questions to understand what types of words and phrases are well-received and which are not. Learn what the audiences’ preconceptions are and determine what they are willing to believe about your brand. You need to test brand names, logo designs, and messaging during the brand research stage, too. The financial investment to launch a brand correctly is a big one, and it’s not something you want to have to redo because you didn’t perform research beforehand to ensure that your brand would be accepted by consumers.
Finally, don’t forget to analyze your brand identity research by audience segment (segmentation research is discussed in Part 1 of the Brand Research Fundamentals series). While it’s usually necessary to create a single logo and brand name, there are times when distinct messaging or color palettes are necessary and worth the added expense in order to better connect with valuable niche audiences. This is often the case with brands that extend into new global markets where translation and trademark issues arise.
The more information you can gather in the early stage of brand development and creation the better chance you have to position your brand for success. Don’t cut corners now or you’ll feel the negative effects of your limited thinking and approach later.
If you missed Part 1 of the Brand Research Fundamentals series, follow the link to learn about brand development and strategic planning research, and be sure to watch for Part 3 – Promoting the Brand, which will be published soon.

Brand Research Fundamentals: Part 1 – Brand Development and Strategic Planning

Brand Research Fundamentals: Part 2 – Brand Creation

Brand Research Fundamentals: Part 3 – Brand Promotion

Brand Research Fundamentals: Part 4 – Brand Perception and Equity

Brand Research Fundamentals: Part 5 – Brand Growth and Change

Brand Research Fundamentals: Part 6 – Brand Analysis

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Gunelius
Susan Gunelius brings over 20-year of marketing and branding experience as Contributing Editor for the AYTM.com blog. She is the author of numerous books about marketing, branding and social media, and her marketing-related articles appear on top media websites such as Entrepreneur.com and Forbes.com.

10 Things You Should Never Tell Your Boss

Keep Personal Info Personal

Discrimination in the workplace is illegal. It’s also despicable and certainly not anything we condone. In an ideal world, the details of our personal lives wouldn’t matter nearly as much as our performance and productivity on the job. But the cold, hard truth is employers may still make decisions based upon details of an employee’s life.

From judging workers based on Facebook photos to thinking twice about promoting someone with kids or a chronic illness when another employee is free of those obligations or difficulties, there are kinds of potential pitfalls. By revealing some private information to your boss, you could set yourself back when it comes to a raise or promotion.

Obviously every workplace is different and bosses will vary. If you have an understanding manager who sees the value in knowing employees on a personal level, this article probably won’t apply to you. But if you’re not that lucky, you may wish to keep the following details about your life private if you want to maximize your success.

10. Night Life

Whether you’re reading bedtime stories to your kids or hitting the bars every night, your boss shouldn’t know anything about your night life unless it includes taking classes in your field or doing extra work from home or your favorite cafe.

If you can’t complete an after-hours work task due to a hot date or helping kids with homework, it’s best to simply indicate that you have other obligations at home. Keep the personal drama at home.

9. Religious Beliefs

It’s against the law to discriminate against religious beliefs, but talking about religion too often at work is inappropriate (unless you work for a religious organization).

If your job duties entail something that violates a religious belief, you should speak up. You do not necessarily need to be specific with your boss; you can simply indicate that the task at hand violates one of your beliefs. If possible, present an alternative or workaround.

We’re all entitled to our personal religious beliefs, but remember not everyone is religious and a workplace is not a church. It’s all about common sense. A Bible quote on your cubicle is no big deal, but proselytizing and trying to convert your coworkers is going to ruffle a few feathers and could potentially put your job security on shaky ground.

8. Political Affiliation

The quickest way to alienate people in a mixed crowd is to talk about politics.

Your political affiliation should remain private information. For a myriad of reasons. First of all, you risk offending coworkers and your boss while creating an uncomfortable work environment. But more important, once a boss knows about your affiliation, you could be judged as too open or closed-minded for a particular job. Even if your boss treats you equally, political prejudices still exist and could easily work against you.

7. Spouse’s Income

You might be wondering why this is on the list, but trust us — your boss shouldn’t know about your spouse’s income.

If your spouse is CEO of a successful company and a coworker vying for a job has an unemployed spouse your boss is aware of, you could lose out on a promotion even though you’re equally qualified because it may seem as though you don’t “need” the promotion. Even if your boss isn’t conscious of that information playing a part in his/her decision, you don’t want to take any chances where your career is concerned.

6. You’re Working Another Job

Many people work second jobs, including freelance positions. But your other business should stay your business.

Companies often develop and expand non-competition agreements and policies instructing employees to retain only one job. As your company could implement such a policy at any time, you should avoid telling your boss about other work obligations so you can continue to fly under the radar and make ends meet.

Not to mention, if you have an annual review with your boss and he/she cites a decrease in your performance, your boss could easily point the finger at the time and energy you’re spending working at the second job. Don’t give anyone any excuses to question your work ethic.

5. Sexual Orientation

Unless your sexual orientation is directly related to your job, there’s no reason to disclose your sexual orientation to your boss.

Don’t mistake this as advice to not be yourself or be ashamed of who you are. Far from it. But the harsh truth is that although discrimination is illegal, it still occurs. And in certain industries, stereotypes still work against individuals based on sexual orientation. Who you date or decide to marry is your business, and it would be a shame if a prejudiced boss used that personal information against you when considering a raise or promotion.

4. Your Living Situation

No one at work needs to know about your living situation, whether you’re at home with your parents or struggling to make your mortgage payment.

This is another aspect of your life that could cause others to judge you or create or a problem for you where your boss is concerned. It can also reveal other details of your life, opening the possibility of sexual orientation discrimination and ageism.

3. Mental Health Issues

Going through a divorce or breakup, suffering from depression, or having thoughts of suicide? These are events that can occur in the course of an individual’s life that can be very traumatizing. Add in the stress caused by your day job, and it can feel a bit overwhelming. While it might be permissible for some employees to call in for a “mental health day,” keep your specific issues under wraps.

Got a meeting with a therapist and have to leave work early? Make sure to vaguely identify that as an appointment with the doctor. If you’re having trouble coping during the workday, it’s better to step out and deal with your issue than it is to have a breakdown in front of your boss. Don’t allow your boss the opportunity to interpret a mental illness as your inability to perform your job duties. And if you are unable to work because of a potential mental illness, please get the proper help immediately.

2. (Some) Physical Health Problems

If you require ergonomic desk enhancements, your employer is legally required to provide them. Big events like surgeries and childbirth are obvious and unavoidable when it comes to revealing information to your employer.

Long-term issues like chronic illnesses can interfere with the opinion your boss holds of you. Unless your safety is at risk or you need to take a medical leave, health issues should remain a private concern.

1. Anything Your Boss Hasn’t Told You

Information is valuable and can also indicate a level of informality or comfortability. If you know it about your boss, it might be a bit safer to reveal the same thing. For instance, if your boss has a family photo on his or her desk including kids, it might be a bit safer for you to take off for that PTA conference without being judged.

Your boss only knows information you choose to share. If you don’t want your boss to know certain information, make sure to mark it as private on all social networking profiles and limit what your coworkers know about you as well.