Personal Branding – Individual obliteration or recognition

If cattle are branded by farmers, or corporate groups seek to identify their brand values, surely branding is an impersonal activity that obliterates the individual, and “personal branding” is a contradiction in terms? Personal branding suggests that we take the subjective, the unique traits of an individual, and create an objective brand.  And to a certain extent that’s exactly what it is, but why does this seem incongruous?

A world that promotes global companies such as Amazon, Apple and Coca Cola may tempt us to abhor branding, offering our individuality to customers or employers as an antidote to the big brands.  However, personal branding can be a perfect combination of the benefits of individuality with the immediate recognition that branding allows.  It can be an intelligent and thoughtful process that enables your best personal traits and skills to be instantly recognised.

By recognising that nothing is original, that everything has been said or done before, then the way it’s said or done is vital, it’s all in the execution.  How we deliver our skills or our business is paramount to our success.  The difference between branding on a global scale and personal branding is all in the semantics, it’s got to be personal, unique to us.  Whereas a corporate group will be told what their brand is and attend an annual conference to be reminded of the company brand essence, the converse is true of personal branding.  Personal branding can never be dictated to an individual.  Personal branding must originate within the individual.  Personal branding is you.

Several years ago Victoria Beckham recognised the benefits of creating a brand based on the personal traits of her husband and herself.  The brand they created is in complete alignment with their personal values.  The couple can be described as sexy, polished and contemporary and their brand of clothes and scents echo these values.  The global recognition of brand Beckham indicates that successful personal branding should be authentic.   An honest exploration of who you are will, therefore, be essential.  You may wish that you were more compassionate and approachable, even developing these aspects of you character, but personal branding is all to do with you who you are now.  Although you chastise yourself for being too brusque and demanding, your employer or your customers may employ you for those very traits, your efficiency and focus on achieving business targets.

By recognising your strengths and making them obvious to others your personal branding will be an honest reflection of who you are.  Your clients or employer will not be disappointed and you will not feel pressured to be someone you’re not. 

Personal branding is an honest reflection of all that’s good about you. It’s conveyed through your appearance, language and mannerisms.  Therefore, it’s important that the clothes, language and mannerisms that detract from your strengths are removed and replaced with indicators that naturally point to your strengths.  A style coach will not only enable you to identify the clothes and accessories that work with your body shape and colour palette but also the styles of clothes that will reflect your personal brand.

Grace Coddington, the creative director of American Vogue, has always maintained that, “Fashion isn’t just frocks. It’s how we do our houses, our gardens, it’s what we eat and drink.”  Coddington advocates an authentic style that can be easily recognised in everything we that do. Likewise our personal brand isn’t just how we do business it’s the way we conduct ourselves and the clothes that we wear which will reflect our authentic brand essence.

Karen Finlayson

2 Comments on Personal Branding – Individual obliteration or recognition

  1. Great piece Karen, particularly your reference to authenticity – a subject very close to my heart and work. I also found that your comment on your brand representing “who you are now” very poignant; too often it is possible to hold back from “branding” ourself because we are not the perfectly developed and complete “brand” that we wish (think we need!?) to be – “an honest reflection of all that’s good about you” – great advice.

    • Thanks Phil,it’s great to hear your comments. One phrase that’s been on my mind recently is, “It’s worth doing something poorly,
      until you can do it well.” (ZIG ZIGLAR) I think that, as you mention, many of us are waiting for to be perfectly developed before we consider our brand but it’s more important that we begin the brand recognition, changing it as we develop, rather than wait for perfection.

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