Luckily I have never been asked to work on a personal brand in my professional career.
The whole idea of personal branding caused Google to reconfigure the search engine dynamics of my branding category about four years ago.
Too many of the so called brand companies that specialized in personal branding were practicing what the industry calls black hat SEO.
This means they were using less than respectable practices to score higher in Google searches.
Like the snake-oil salesman of years ago, these personal branding charlatans took peoples hard earned cash for little or no return.
However, the idea of personal branding is not completely stupid
I try to help companies understand their brand equities by using VERY personal examples. I have been known to ask CEOs of fortune 100 companies to “pretend for just a moment that your brand was a person and not a corporation. How would you describe that person?”
When you bring a person to mind, it is not just a list of attributes that define that image in your mind’s eye. It is mostly a rag-tag conglomeration of feelings that color and form that memory.
Go ahead for just a moment and visualize your grandmother. When her image comes to mind do you FEEL more or THINK more? Proves my point.
Brand is an emotional connection that defies dissection in a rational manner. Personal branding, as it turns out, is the foundation of all branding. It is how we feel about everything in our lives.
The picture of personal branding is an intricate oil painting
The painting is created by a renaissance master. You.
So many corporate and product brands fail to see this that my work docket is always full. Sure, we talk to our clients about stealing market share and how their brand is the permission-switch that persuades the target audience that their brand is important (and therefore takes and grows market share).
Corporations are so sold on the rational benefits of their product or service that they can’t get out of their own way. When asked to talk about their own mother Chief Marketing Officers will freely admit that their moms are angels of love.
They describe them as beautiful (even if they were as ugly as a barn door). They attribute to her emotional ideas like caring, loving, considerate, gentle, self-sacrificing and tender. Even if they jokingly speak about her shortcomings they are emotional attributes like angry or formidable.
They NEVER list rational attributes like height, weight, eye color or dress size.
Words like effective, better, new, revolutionary and the new term of the day— disruptive technology is about all they can think of.
So I remind them that the people, music, ideas, books, thoughts, beliefs and even loves in their life are ALL emotional connections. They are NEVER rational.
You might be willing to switch soap powders (read about packaged goods here), even if you are convinced that your first choice cleans better, for another cheaper brand.
But you would NEVER be willing to switch families no matter how dysfunctional yours might be. Emotional bonds are forever.
Emotional brand bonds last forever and can be stretched and contorted beyond belief but they seem never to break. They are self-healing and eternal because we don’t EVER need to think about them. We just KNOW them.
Personal Experiences Recalls Personal Branding
Personal experiences often give us glimpses into personal branding. When I heard that Leonard Cohen had died at age 82 on November 10th 2016 I was sad. Like all of his fans. Was I sad because I knew I would never have the pleasure of hearing his songs again for the first time?
Nope. I was sad for me because someone and something I loved had passed away (you can read my blog on Leonard Cohen’s death here). He was not a songwriter and singer to me. He was a part of me. He was a part of my personal brand. His death was personal to me.
When we think about personal branding we envision a world not unlike our solar system (read an interesting article on Ptolemy here— and alternative theory on the universe).
We are the SUN and everything we hold as important revolves around us. It is the gravity of our nuclear furnace that provides the energy to keep the solar system alive and functioning.
But the SUN as metaphor is greater than the description provided to us through physics.
It is, when described in this way, nothing more than a nuclear power plant like the one at Three Mile Island or Chernobyl. Very inspiring don’t you agree?
But, when you think about the Sun (yourself in my metaphor) How it works is not as important as what it represents. It is the source of life, warmth, and light. It is the promise of a new day and awakening. It IS life.
Rebranding as science
When branding or rebranding a company or product we distill its essence down to those emotional values that are in fact the only immutable values you can ever own.
They form for us the basis of our attachment to things, ideas and people. They defy rational understanding and never ask us to consider the basis for that affection because it is in so many ways unknowable.
We just feel it to be so. That’s plenty enough by the way.
When rebranding is needed. We will remind you that all branding, at the end of the day, is personal branding.