You’ve probably heard the term “personal brand.” It’s fashionable these days for the experts to talk about how everyone needs one.
If you work for a large company, the experts say, having a clear personal brand will help the right people understand what you are all about (your skills, work style, strengths, and so on) so that the right opportunities for advancement come your way.
If you are an entrepreneur, the experts will say that you need to determine/craft/hone your personal brand. Otherwise, jeez, how would you know what your logo or website should look like? How would you know the style in which to market your products or services? That all has to be consistent with your brand, right?
Today, I would like to personally declare all the”create a personal brand” stuff bullshit.
I think the experts have some amnesia about the history of branding.
The concept of a “brand” came about to make products feel more like people. Branding is, in essence, about imbuing inanimate products with a sense of animate personality. Like, “Oh, that soap is elegant and feminine – I know that because of the lavender packaging and the music in the commercial and the kind of store it’s carried in.” Or, “Oh, that soft drink is all about fun, adventure, and youthfulness.”
People don’t need brands. We already have brands. Your brand is your personality.
We lead ourselves into a weird, objectifying split from self when we try to create or deliberately present a brand. Instead, approach it from the inside out. Work at being the most expressed, consistent, unapologetic version of your authentic self. Work at letting the real you come through. Work at having the courage to say what you actually have to say. Then you’ll have a strong, coherent “brand” naturally, which is to say, people will know who you are because you will be living it.
And, because you’ll be acting from the natural, complex you, and aren’t thinking about a checklist of brand attributes you are trying to consistently present, your “brand” will have dimensionality, nuance, surprises and depth, instead of becoming a straightjacket or 1-D version of you.
So the questions to ask yourself are: What style feels most like mine and how can I let it come through more? How can I put my strengths at the center of my work more and make sure those strengths impact others? How can I more fully bring forth my quirks, my hidden sides, or my authentic personality? How can I get braver about being me?