Everyone has a personal brand.
The only question is, “Are you building your personal brand intentionally or unintentionally?” Think about your regular habits—things you do on a daily basis.
If you blog, you will be branded as a ‘blogger.’ If you put your family first in everything, you’re a ‘family man.’ If you work hard and stay late at the office, you’re an ‘overachiever.’
Let’s be clear: None of these things are who you really are.
In business, a brand is a recognizable set of markings, which consumers use to define an categorize the countless products all around them.
A checkmark-like swoosh—Nike. Red, white, and blue with a swirl—Pepsi, Red background with white script—Coca-cola. Easy, right?
Now, realize that you are judged in the same way by people every single day.
Whether you like it or not, people take a look at you and size you up. How you dress, the cologne you use, the car you drive, your hairstyle, all make up your personal brand.
If we go back a little further, we know that brands were first used to identify livestock. The markings weren’t accidental, they were burned into the hides of the animals by a protective rancher.
In today’s world, you are both the rancher and the livestock.
“What you see is what you get” is not always true. But it is always true that what a person sees (or, more generally, perceives) is what they expect to get it. You would probably be horrified if you popped open a plastic bottle with a red label and found Mountain Dew inside.
The same is true of you and your personal brand. Society gives very few effs these days. We are surrounded by so much information, we need to parse through it all quickly. That means, if you look like one thing on the outside but turn out to be something else, we are going to shun the crap out of you, bro.
Honesty in branding is a gigantic issue unto itself, but suffice it to say that your brand must be in alignment with your personal values.
Why Should I Brand Myself?
If all of this is true, then why not simply live your life and let your genuine brand shine through naturally? Isn’t personal branding fake and… kind of skeezy?
Well, here’s the problem, my friend…
People do not perceive things perfectly. We misjudge distance, size, and color as much as we misjudge people. If you can’t think of a time you misjudged something, you’re not being honest with yourself, right?
We see things that aren’t real all the time, like faces in clouds (or, on Mars), a phenomenon known as pareidolia.
So, while it sounds nice to simply let your brand build itself, you lose a lot of control with such an approach.
Remember: Everyone has a personal brand. The question is, “Are you building it intentionally.”
You will be known for something. Will it be something you admire? When people think of you, they think of a specific kind of person. Is that person who you want them thinking about?
Building your personal brand is about controlling the narrative—the story—of your life.
I can tell you from my own struggles writing fiction, a great story does not write itself. Great stories take considerable planning and careful execution. I believe a person’s brand follows the same rules—for best results, plan and choose everything carefully.
And, yes, I know there are several popular authors (Stephen King, anyone?) who are ‘pantsers.’ This means they sit down to write without a plan and awesomeness just flows out of them like light from a lightbulb.
However, these individuals seem to be exceptions and not the rule.
I suppose some could have a knack or developed skill for building their brand on the fly, but I certainly don’t, nor do I know of anyone who seems to possess this gift.
Intentional branding is a much safer approach.
How to Brand Yourself
The next question is, “How do I brand myself?” This is a huge topic and so I’ll be covering it in a future blog post. (I’ll add the link here when it is ready.)
For now, I’d love to hear your thoughts on intentional personal branding. Do you do it? Is it necessary?
Drop a comment below and let me know.