Over the last few months I’ve noticed a swell of noise regarding personal branding: That somehow a personal brand is the secret to a long and happy business life.
But for me the idea of aspiring to be a personal brand for anyone but a select few CEOs or Founders is akin to wanting to belong to the tribe of ‘Internet famous’, insta-celebrity and snap-famous shallow ‘influencers’?
But I’m not mad at the wannabe brands. It’s the these ‘personal brand consultants’, appearing from public relations firms, ‘style consultants’, and even photographers that are debasing the idea of brands and completely misunderstand marketing.
I used to get frustrated at some graphic designers, looking to swell their coffers, claiming to be ‘branding experts’, because brand development is more than logo design. It’s more than advertising. But that’s another rant.
Personal branding consultancy is 100 times worse still.
I’m of the opinion that personal branding is a crock of shit.
The idea that you can manufacture a ‘personal brand’ by stage managing how you dress, what you say, what you write, where you appear, what you support, or who your PR firm, photographer or LinkedIn expert is and what you are seen to do is so very 20th Century.
The truth is ’21st Century branding’ has moved on.
There’s a stoicism, ‘it’s not a good thing, or a bad thing, it’s an it is what it is thing’. This holds true for brands: You are a brand, good or not.
Authenticity is at the heart of sustainable modern brands. An old adage of marketing, ‘the truth well told’ is exposed under the spotlight of the Internet reviews, whistle-blowers and consumer investigation.
Reputation, actions and values (above all) are at the heart of successful brands. If you have few or no values and design actions in order to build a reputation to achieve a profit objective then you are the epitome of inauthentic and therefore not a good brand.
Even more fundamentally, branding is a function of marketing. And marketing is the process of designing products to meet a market. Not developing and pushing a product to create a market that doesn’t want or need it.
So, ‘personal branding’ is product centric, not consumer centric and therefore unsustainable and poor marketing.
If you want to be more influential, do what Dale Carnegie said, in his most famous book (How to win friends and influence people, 1936), “be genuinely interested in people”.
But I prefer Gary Vaynerchuck (Crush It, 2009), who summed up modern marketing strategy in one word: Care.
That’s how you become a personal brand. You don’t need a ‘personal branding consultant’ to tell you that.