I read a blog post last week via twitter on the growing subject of the 'personal brand', discussing yet another recent 'survey' that puts at 70% the number of employers using social media profiles to check up on, or screen out, candidates in the recruitment process. Simon Lewis, the author, was 'astounded' at how many job seekers were not taking their 'personal brand' seriously enough in the light of this research.

Having reflected on it somewhat I have come to the conclusion that the whole notion of a personal brand is a bit of a nonsense and serves only to create another bit of jargon around which some 'instant guru' (numbers of which are increasing at an alarming rate, especially on Twitter!) can build a consulting proposition that preys on the insecurities of others.

You see we are not really comparing apples with apples here. Brands are largely static. Brands don't rationalise their actions. Brands don't change their behaviour or opinion after life changing events or after reflecting on some new piece of evidence. Brands don't offer humility in the face of arrogance. Brands don't eat humble pie when they got it wrong and then share that experience over social media.

I am not a Twix, or a packet of Walkers smokey bacon crisps or a pint of Guinness. I like them all very much and may have consumed large quantities of each at certain times but, ultimately, none of the above am I.

And then there is the question of authenticity. Brands are strong, stand for something and carve out their definitive position in their relevant consumer space. They don't try and water down their personality or message on the basis someone might not buy them if they don't.

How much have you read lately about the importance of authenticity in the employer brand message? Employers have come in for a lot of stick lately for hiding behind an employer 'brand', attempting to claim they are something they are not, to potential new hires, through promotion of a set of values or principles that, at best, are purely aspirational. Just as we criticise employers for doing this is it not then a bit hypocritical to encourage individuals to do the same?

I am the sum of a number of profiles, opinions and conversation online, nothing more. These do not constitute a brand. Yes, I should definitely keep out any potentially offensive content. But water down my online and offline personality or manipulate it to present myself as something other than who I really am? Most definitely not.

A Twix tomorrow will be the same as the one I had today. So will the pint of Guinness hopefully! It's what I expect from a brand. I, however, am a human being and I fully expect to be different tomorrow, having learnt from my experiences today.

I am not a brand. I am a human being.

I am me.

Views: 226

Comment by Saleem Qureshi on February 9, 2010 at 4:42am
Gareth, I would like to elaborate that we all human beings are brands!! Our all day conversations, likes, dislikes, post sharing, all reflect our unique personality, behavior and create an image, just like any product or service, that have a persona.. Your criticism is true that we human beings change, but if you look the personality of Pepsi, the company has molded the logo and every time come up with something new to enhance its values. Due to the cut-throat competition, each individual must adopt personal branding to win the race, and this will also ease up the work of recruiters...
Comment by Alasdair Murray on February 9, 2010 at 11:53am
I used a chocolate bar and a ferrari in a blog a while back. I agree, all this brand nonsense is just that. They'll be asking me to 'take a swim in Lake You' next.

Comment by Mat von Kroeker on February 9, 2010 at 1:23pm
People like Saleem scare the living ba-jeezuz out of me!!! They'd sell thier soul for a chocolate bar---
Comment by Kelley Smith on February 9, 2010 at 2:10pm
Thank you! I am not a brand either!
Comment by Pedro S. Silva II on February 9, 2010 at 4:20pm
Did you know that Listerine was once marketed as a floor cleaner and a cure for gonorrhea? It wasn't until it was used in its current form that it gained popularity. The thing is, the formula didn't change, the message did. As humans, we are in a constant process of maturation.

With every experience we are not so much changing into someone fundamentally different than who we were before, as much as we are becoming more clear on what our purpose is. It's the difference between ideas and ideals. When we are less mature and we are in a discovery phase, we have a lot of ideas of who we are or who we're meant to be--what our purpose is. Through trial and error and some degree of consciousness we come to discover our purpose. We begin to live our ideal. Ideas not in line with that ideal are no longer afforded the energy we gave it in our less mature state. People can depend on us. But more importantly, we can depend on ourselves and we can declare to the world "I AM ME and you can count on that." Without trying you have become a brand of sorts--a symbol of dependability, endurance, and for some people safety.

When Listerine didn't know what it was, it tried to be something it was not meant to be. When it found its purpose and declared it to the world, it thrived and continues to do so. Being branded is not limiting or selling out when you are seen the way you want to be seen. If you know who you are and what you have to offer and others see it the same way, those are signs of maturity and harmony. Of course there will be those who will try to exploit every trend and buzzword for the illusion of temporary gain. To that I offer a Johnny Cochran style rhyme: If it can't sustain, it isn't gain!

Despite that tendency, a mature brand is nothing less than a declaration that says: It is what it is or I AM WHO I AM. If you can speak these words in confidence, you will be sought out by those looking for who you are. Marketing just makes it easier for them to find you. ONE.
Comment by Patricia on February 9, 2010 at 5:49pm
I am not a brand either!
Comment by Simon Lewis on February 10, 2010 at 4:01am
Gareth, thanks for the spotlight.

Pedro, excellent riposte to what I consider to be a rather shallow stance by certain fractions of an industry that appears particularly slow to 'get it'.

We are all brands. To consider yourself anything as anything else serves only to devalue what should be your unique proposition to the world.

Whether you consider 'Brand Beckham' to be a contrived example of personal branding or not, there have been many personal brands before this: Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, Muhammad Ali...

Am I putting myself in the same league as these illustrious people? Of course not, but in my circles I like to consider myself 'up there.' And the fact that people follow what I do means I'm being bought into. And what do we all buy into? - Yep, you got it, brands. Personal or otherwise.

Wise up, guys.

Simon Lewis | Editor | Only Marketing Jobs | Follow me on Twitter
Comment by Gareth Jones on February 12, 2010 at 9:19am
Thanks for the great comments folks. Great points, but I'm still not a brand! Simon, can we look forward to 'Lewis pour Homme' hitting the shops soon??! Put me down for a bottle. As Pedro says, if it doesn't quite work as a fragrance, you could always reposition it as a mouthwash! ;) See you at #Tru...
Comment by Simon Lewis on February 12, 2010 at 9:25am
Very good.
Gareth, see you at TRU, after which you will realise that we are each our own personal brand. If we aren't, why bother blogging, updating LinkedIn profiles, buying expensive suits etc...?
Comment by Alasdair Murray on February 12, 2010 at 9:32am
We may have differing opinions. That doesn't mean we are brands though. It's a silly term to apply to an individual.


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