Is Personal Branding Dead?

The End of an Era?

Is the era of personal branding coming to a close? As defined by Wikipedia, “personal branding is, for some people, a description of the process whereby people and their careers are marked as brands. […] The personal branding concept suggests […] that success comes from self-packaging.”

While this may sound like a reasonable idea, consumers often prefer to see the person behind the business, not the face they put on for the benefit of their company or the part they play to impress their targeted audience. People prefer transparency and authenticity — less layers, less guessing, more truth.

People Are People

People are people. They aren’t brands. When people become “brands,” they stop being people and become one of three things: vessels for cultural archetypes, characters in a narrative, or products. (Most of the time, becoming a brand means they become all three.) Unlike people, brands have attributes and trade dress, slogans and tag lines which can all be trademarked, because unlike people, brands exist to ultimately sell something.
-Olivier Blanchard, “R.I.P. Personal Branding,” The BrandBuilder Blog

Stay personal and stay “real” — the exception to personal branding is if you’re Donald Trump, Michael Jordan, Chuck Norris, Lady Gaga, or some other icon. In this case, personal branding comes with the icon status. If you are not an icon, you’d better to turn your focus and resources to what truly matters… promoting your business.


Tips for Staying Authentic


Here are four tips to consider in doing this:

1. Focus on your reputation. Many people go wrong by focusing on their image, not reputation. Image is just marketing. Your reputation is what counts, and what ultimately attracts your customers — or drives them away.

2. Stay relevant. Relevancy is much more important that popularity. Popularity is fickle and can turn in no time, but relevancy is always, well, relevant.

3. Back up your purpose. Whatever your work may be, it should speak for itself. You should still keep up the supporting acts like blogging and whatever else may apply in your industry, but these should be secondary and supporting roles rather than the lead roles. The lead roles are what you do, not what you say.

4. Be yourself. Let go of the idea of personal branding, and refocus on you. People want to see who you are, and how they can relate to you. It’s okay to take of that mask, it allows people to relate and connect. To quote Blanchard, “Fakes need not apply. Trust is far too important a thing to gamble away on personal branding schemes. The more honest you are around people, the more they will respond to you. It’s that simple.”


Keep It Real


The notions behind personal branding could do just the opposite of what people  presume — they could hurt your business, impede your success, and diminish your worth and value.

Create. Invent. Help. Rescue. Solve. Improve. […] Jules Verne is known for his stories. Steven Spielberg is known for his films. Richard Branson is known for his success in business. Author. Filmmaker. Entrepreneur. Compare that to ‘online personality’ or ‘social media expert.’” -Olivier Blanchard

If you focus on your business and on staying genuine and authentic, you will earn your success and respect over time. Just be yourself, do what you do best, and forget about “personal branding.”


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