Don’t build a personal brand. Brands are things. You are people. MASSIVE difference — to be different.
For the last 10-ish years I’ve started studying and deep diving into what brands are, how they work and how to “build” them. In this journey I also fell for the ‘personal branding’ trap. Believed it was about how to “persuade” and “influence” others (pure manipulation when taken to extremes — and so easy to do). Personal branding was the thing that will make you to be “known” and authority. A celebrity.
But fame is not what you’re after.
Things took an unexpected change when I listened to THE brand guy, Marty Neumeier, defining brands as the gut-feeling a person has towards a product, service or organization. It took me down the rabbit hole and it made lots of sense. Brands are things.
We’re human — with mistakes, virtues and fuck ups. We can be contradictory, yet consistent at the same time. We adapt constantly. We can change our minds overnight and still be the same person. We don’t need a manual to “behave”. We learn, adapt and move forward. Taking that out to “become brands” would make us a product, a thing. When stripped off the visuals and branding would be a thing without meaning. People are just not that.
A brand is an artificial construction made to give meaning to things through consensus and consistency (Debbie Millman “The Personal Brand Trap”). She goes further:
“Brands let the consensus of others dictate their values and meaning, while you must discover both for yourself. Brands chase consistency by reorienting to match the expectations of “consumers,” while you must have reserve room to grow and develop without a sense of self-fraudulence.”
What you’re really after
This personal branding concept — I want to believe — might have started with good intentions on how to stand out from the crowd and be different. But it turned out into an industry where it’s all shallow and fake.
During the last 6 years, though, I’ve found that there are better terms for what “personal branding” might mean — when we mean it: to be able to let the ones we serve know how we can help them, in a meaningful, relevant way.
It’s not only about the words. It’s about if we’re the right match for them. If they (our customers, buyers, clients) identify with who we are, what we stand for, what we won’t compromise and how we can lead and better serve them.
Some people call this to be established as an authority, others, expertise. Some others, to own your category, or specialize aka niche down.
The thing here is that, no matter what, it’s about a promise you make and if you can deliver.
BTW, this is way more than semantics. The words we use shape our actions and behaviors.
Read this post and more on my Typeshare Social Blog