Make sure you have a product before jumping on the ‘Personal Brand’ band wagon

“You now have to decide what ‘image’ you want for your brand. Image means personality. Products, like people, have personalities, and they can make or break them in the market place.” – David Ogilvy

A lot has been said in the past few years about personal branding. A term introduced in the early 80´s by Al Ries and Jack Trout in their book: "Positioning: The Battle for your Mind". In chapter 23 Ries and Trout point that you can benefit by using positioning strategy to advance your own career. Key principle: "Don’t try to do everything yourself. Find a horse to ride". And so the personal branding band wagon began to roll.

It’s a great concept and it’s a very valid concept: Build your career with focus. Define yourself. But somewhere along the way, as the bandwagon kept rolling, personal branding began to be defined as personal marketing and brand identity. Somewhere along the way the focus was taken off building a career with focus and put on self promotion.
A great tool if you’ve planned your career, or even if you have hit a few bumps along the road but understand how you want to position yourself.

A very bad idea if you have not done the homework to define your personal offering. Social media has made this a very dangerous proposition for those with a bad or undefined ‘product’ and just following the trend of self promotion on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIN.

Some of the personal branding efforts I’ve seen remind me of not following one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten in my career. It came on my first sales call shadowing my boss. Before stepping into a meeting he leaned over and told me “Just remember: It’s better to stay quiet and let them think that you are clueless, than opening your mouth and confirming it”. Not that I’ve always followed it. But I’m sure you get the point.

Your brand identity is about what you want to communicate about yourself. It’s tricky because the bulk of it is not explicit.
Personal branding is about how everything you do: every job, every social and personal endeavor will define who you are and what you can offer in the next step of your career. You can’t go wrong if you focus on that.

Jose Ruiz is a Principal in Heidrick & Struggles’ Monterrey office. As an executive recruiter he has worked on executive search projects for multinational clients in industrial sectors and consumer markets. About Heidrick & Struggles International, Inc. The world’s premier provider of senior-level executive search and leadership consulting services. The firm’s executive recruiters and leadership experts operate from principal business centers in North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific. In Mexico, Heidrick & Struggles operates offices in Mexico City and Monterrey. For more information about Heidrick & Struggles please visit

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