Do You Have a Personal Brand?

Whatever you do about your personal branding, just don’t be a “Paris Hilton”. She might be in the news all the time but none of them are in a very favorable light. Most of us savor snickering at gossips now and then, and we enjoy seeing people put on the spot and laughing at them, without any ill intentions, of course. It’s all harmless because the “target” has Paris Hilton - Trash for Salenothing to do with us. It’s just a source of amusement. Paris Hilton, unfortunately, is a poor little rich girl who provides lots of entertainment. What is the image that people conjure when her name is mentioned? The key words could well be “heiress”, “pretty’, “beautiful”, “glamorous”, “party girl”, “socialite”, “celebrities”. But what about “poor little rich girl”, “spoiled brat”, “celebrity trash”, “bimbo”, “air-head”? Her personal brand is a hotchpotch of good and bad. Just look at the banner above, do you want to be seen like that? Do you want to send such a mixed signal to your clients, business partners and associates? Isn’t corporate personality and identity quite enough? Everyone has a personal brand. Oprah Winfrey, Tom Cruise, Hilary Duff; just think of any popular persona and you will see clear evidence of the markets they speak to and the images that the promote.

Datuk MaznahWhen I attended the 8-day Excellerated Business School for Entrepreneurs (BSE) in April 2006, Datuk Maznah Hamid left a very deep impression in me. As she walked onto the stage, she started gesturing with one hand and addressing us at the same time, “I’m known as ‘The Iron Lady of Malaysia’. Do you have a personal branding?” The Malaysia media sees her as a successful entrepreneur and a business icon who towers over a male dominated industry. She bought over an unknown security company and turned it into a multi-million dollar empire. Her nickname is her personal branding, and it goes hand-in-hand with her personality and her trade. Her talk gave me a new perspective to branding.

We always talk about corporate identity, corporate personality, corporate persona, corporate branding and yet, somehow we forget about personal branding. This is especially important if you are the founder of your corporation or the one of the key persons running the show. The public will not know much about any corporation but they will co-relate what they read about the CEO to that corporation.

There is much controversy on the practices of The Body Shop. According to Wikipedia, critics called the organisation hypocritical in its pursuit of profit while espousing “social equality”. In 1994, Jon Entine reported that the records of Britain’s Charity Commission records show no charitable contributions from the company in its first 11 years of operation. But does the public remember all of these? Even though the company has been taken over by L’Oreal, people still remember Anita Roddick and her values, especially her stand against community trade and against animal testing. In fact, these are the brand values that the general public relate to and not about dollars and cents, profit and loss, stock and shares of The Body Shop. So Anita Roddick left a legacy for The Body Shop – her personal branding.

As a business owner or key personnel, what kind of values, beliefs, perception, image you want to show the world? Don’t think that you are just a small town provision shop owner, you will still need a personal brand. Randa Clay shared this story:

There was a small town in which there were two candy stores: Smith Candy and Jones Candy. A mother asked her son which he would like to visit for a treat. Her son replied immediately that he wanted to go to Mr. Jones’ Candy Store. Why? He believed he got more candy for his money from Mr. Jones. The truth was that Mr. Smith’s and Mr. Jones’ prices were exactly the same, but Mr. Smith’s practice was to put a large pile of candy on the scale and then remove it piece by piece until he reached the correct weight, while Mr. Jones put a few pieces on the scale and kept adding and adding until the correct weight was reached. The little boy’s perception was that he was getting more, even though the end result was the same.

What you say, what you didn’t say; what you do, what you didn’t do – will evolve into your personal brand. Your personal brand will inevitably be linked to your corporate identity. So if wearing all black is you, make that a distinction. If you love saying “No problem, it will be done in 3 days”, make sure your staff understand that, practice it and make it a corporate policy. What is written on reports isn’t half as powerful as when your people deliver the message with their actions.

So what is your personal branding? You have one already, you just need to think a little deeper and dig it out. Maximize it when you know what forms your personal brand.

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18 Responses to Do You Have a Personal Brand?

  1. J-P Theissen says:

    While I appreciate the general statement of the article, we all must be carefull not to judge others by our own values.
    Paris Hilton makes about $3,0 Millions per year with her personal brand, getting $50.000 to $75.000 just to show up at a night club (while most of us pay $20 to get in). Mr. Bean sells, Schwarzenegger sells. The important question is: What image / branding can be successful in your industry and are you comfortable putting it on?
    The problem most of us have is that we are more comfortable being greyish caterpillars rather than turning into glamourous butterfly – no matter what color.

  2. Hi JP,

    Agreed with you totally. Paris Hilton is definitely not a dumb blond. She has maximized on her fame and brand to accomplish lots of things other rich kids aren’t doing. She has her own TV programs and album, many other rich kids still leech on parents.

    We have to find our own brand identities, whether we are going to be a greyish caterpillar or glamorous butterfly. There are lots of greys and there are lots of brilliant colours.

    Really appreciate you for sharing your thoughts.

  3. Laura says:

    Very interesting and creative comparison to explain a concept. Good piece!

  4. Very interesting points to ponder here.

    In the ultra competitive world of voice overs, branding YOURSELF as the talent is virtually as important as the brand you are selling in an advertising campaign.

    Thank you,

    ~Sarah

  5. Hi Laura,
    This post was a result of realizing many companies put lots of efforts in developing a corporate branding, yet their top guns and frontline staff are eroding the brand unknowingly.

    Hi Sarah
    We are selling every day. It’s just that many people didn’t know that they are their own salesman. They still said “I don’t like selling, and I don’t want to sell.”

  6. Matla says:

    Very good concept indeed.In whatever we do, we build or destroy our brands.We should just do the right thing and build those personal brands.

  7. Vikram Rajan says:

    Our personal brand is a Combination of our Competency + Character + Charisma, focused by our Community.

    Our brand is dependent on our Persona, the face/image we choose to display to that Community. Its our roles… we are different with our friends vs. parents vs. children vs. co-workers vs. clients, etc. Thus, we should have personal brand Role Models (both personal & professional, with achievements both qualitative & quantitative).

    Our personal brand marketing is the way we can attract more qualified prospects for our practice. It should be as strategic as political campaigning… without the mud-slinging ;) Unless that’s part of your persona! (think of Rush Limbaugh or Howard Stern)

  8. tredinertok says:

    Hi

    Very interesting information! Thanks!

    Bye

  9. wansai says:

    I think people may go through several different changes of their personal brand identityduring their lifetime. As people grow personally, so do their individual brand ident. I’d like to think that these differences coalesce into one single branding the further along we get in our public/professional lives. I know that for myself, my own identity has grown from rebel to problem solver, which has irritatingly stuck on me for the longest time (ensuring I get the hardest,most politically damaging projects). But more & more the words I hear people describing me would be “Diplomat-able to get people and situations to work my way without offending ppl in the process”.

    I’d like to very much think that personal branding is not static and unchanging. Otherwise it would be very hard for individuals to grow out of an image they are otherwise uncomfortable with.

    Great article!!

  10. govokinolij says:

    Hi

    Very useful, good stuff. Good resources here. Thanks very much!

    Bye

  11. Vikram Rajan says:

    Thanks for reading my blog post and referencing it!

    ~ Vikram
    PersonalBrandMarketing.com

  12. likopinko says:

    Hello

    I love the colors you use, and the images are vivid and energetic. Great work, good site too. I’ll be in touch!

    Bye

  13. Steve says:

    Hi Vivienne,

    Good article. Well researched and thought-through.

    THere is a good article related to personal branding from “Focus on the Family” in today’s (10 July 2008)TODAY, page 30.

    It talks about becoming the real ‘you’. The one who is the same when the lights goes out, and when no one is watching. Do people see the real ‘you’ when you greet them or are they merely seeing one of the many masks that ‘you’ wear?

    In the process of personal branding, it is also important to project the real ‘you’ or the ‘you’ that you hope to become. Otherwise, people will soon know that it is all a hypocritical marketing ceffort.

    Just my comments :)

    Cheers :)
    Steve Chia

  14. Hi Steve
    In the name of personal branding, many would choose to showcase their very best and not necessarily their very real. Many knows about hard-sell and soft-sell, but many didn’t think about heart-sell.

  15. Roger says:

    That’s easy for celebs, they have people to do it for them and mould them into a popular persona. :-)

  16. emule-board says:

    Hi m8,

    thanks for your blog. I searched another things but found your blog. So thanks for your work!!!

    Best wishes from a still reader from belgium :-]

  17. I think that the personal branding concept should also be applied to small businesses. Sure, there might be 100 carpet cleaners in your town, but you might be more likely to hire the one wit the reputation for being funny and friendly. Too often business owners focus too much on looking corporate, and not personable.

  18. Personality is definitely. It is exactly why we were sometimes charmed by the Pop and Mom in the little shop than the gigantic mall downtown.

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