I Am Brand


I’m starting to think that branding is developing a brand. Suddenly it’s everywhere. I yearn for the good old days when a brand meant what kind of cola you drank and comparisons between “big brands” and “supermarket brands” warranted half page spreads in women’s magazines.

Employer branding I get. We need a consistent message to tell people what we’re about and attract them to work for us. But the rise of the “personal brand” is a mystery to me. Sorry but where I’m from we call that personality.

I guess it fits with the fakery and gimmickry of the digital age. Online we can be a traffic cone or a unicorn if we want to (yes both of these really followed me on twitter). The pressure to present ourselves as a witty super human in just 140 characters is immense. If only so when our former boyfriend/boss/partner stalks us online they’re gutted they let us go.

Advice about developing a personal brand is readily available on the Internet, and is all contradictory nonsense. “Be consistent” yet also “be authentic”. “Let people know your personality”, “let people see you” and “be good at something”. Really? And my personal favourite “it’s not just enough to know that you know what you know – others have to know you know it”.

Sounds to me like describing to a complete outsider what it means to be human. Except not quite. It’s too formulaic. Too stale. A poor reflection of itself. If I know anything about branding, it’s this. If that’s what it’s become, then it’s time to change.

6 thoughts on “I Am Brand

  1. For me it’s just about recognising those things about you as an individual that are different and mean that you are valued by your clients – if it starts to be something that you try to create then it’s all a bit pointless and fake.

    I work with Independent HR Consultants to get them to stand out online and so often they are creating business brands that are really faceless and corporate and all exactly the same. Having a personal brand is just another way of stepping out from behind that logo and recognising that you put the value into your company so it helps if people can see you.

  2. I read a very good article by you, on ‘bad bosses’. Agreed 100% with everything – nodding furiously! Sorry, gently and affirmatively. 😉

    However, maybe because I come from the marketing + management stable, I don’t agree with this post. The reason ‘personal’, ’employer’ or any other ‘internal’ branding is absolutely essential is that it not only determines the internal culture of the organisation when set by the leader, but it also sets ‘how’ the company, or component parts will deal with its customers and stakeholders.

    We used this ‘internal branding’ 30 years ago to set standards and agree how we would deal with customers and clients. I have used it ever since because I found it to be a vital part of building teams that work.

    The brand is not created, it is identified via agreeing common values. Huggy Rao (Stanford) and Michael Port (BYS) both put the exercise of agreeing common values (brand) at the very beginning of their courses on building successful businesses.

    ‘Brand’ is not gimmicky. It is absolutely the opposite. A company’s brand is its soul. Unfortunately, people spend a fortune on re-brands with new colours, new messages, new logos in order to improve their images. They could save themselves a fortune by agreeing internally what their brand is. Until they change anything toxic that might be going on within the company, they are wasting their time re-painting the outside! We leak the truth – and it shows through the paintwork!

    Personal brands (people’s souls), need to be aligned, or very similar to their employer’s brand, or they won’t fit in. They need to share ‘sacred’ and ‘taboo’ behaviours or there will be tension and mistrust.

    All the stuff that you are writing off as gimmickry (and I do understand why! I have the same reaction with ‘leadership’) is in fact a very HR, not external promotion subject.

    Sorry for essay, but just wanted to explain where it’s all coming from!

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment Gill and for sharing your thoughts. I totally agree with all your points about shared values, culture and employer branding. I just have a problem with using the term personal branding and the wishy washy advice that pops up when you do a google search on that.

      1. I’m glad you’re still speaking to me!

        The problem is that there are too many people pushing ‘brand’ who have no idea what ‘brand’ really is. It’s probably why you find only wishy washy stuff.

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