Personal Brands and my 120 degree turn

In the past, I have railed against the idea of having a personal brand. If you’re just a person and not a business, then you have no brand. You’re not selling anything, you’re not marketing anything, you are not a business, you don’t have a brand. You have friends and a public perception exists about you, but you’re not a brand, nor do you have one.

This week, Chris Brogan released an ebook called Personal Branding for the Business Professional. I suggest you go read it. It’s only 15 pages and a few of those pages are lists. After reading the book, I’ll concede a little bit about personal brands. Personal brands aren’t complete malarkey, but I still believe that people are taking them too far.

Personal brands exist for people who are marketing themselves, provided they are selling or giving away a product or service. That service could be information in the form of a blog or a white paper. The possibilities are wide open in terms of that. Even if I’m working full time as a podcaster, I still have a brand that’s associated with my work. It’s the brand of a business, but it’s a brand that I share as a person.

WankerGirl has a brand. It’s a brand that offers entertainment and information. You can’t have the WankerGirl brand without Dana. Her show is hosted on Mevio and I imagine that if you wanted to, you could advertise on the show. By that account, she’s selling something to advertisers and her audience. She’s selling a product to advertisers and a service to her listeners. That’s a brand.

It’s difficult to have this conversation inside the new and social media Echoplex because everyone is involved and everyone is selling something to everyone, but if you think about the people who live on your street it becomes a bit different. Yes, everyone has a job, but not everyone is selling themselves or their information. My neighbors don’t have a brand because they are retired ladies who enjoy gossiping about other people on the street. One of them even brings our trash cans back to the house if I don’t do it before 9:30am. They don’t have a brand, they have public perception. The perception is they gossip and should stop touching my trash cans because it’s creepy.

I won’t say that I have turned 180 degrees because I still am unconvinced that personal brands exist for people who are not businesses or run themselves like a business. Amber and I have brands, but we both accept freelance and consulting work. I have to sell myself to clients or else I go hungry and can’t feed my dogs. But my neighbor Joanne doesn’t have a brand. She has a brownstone and a teenager.

Where is the line drawn though? If I stand on a soapbox screaming all day long about religion, do I have a brand? I’m trying to sell you on the idea of my church where everyone uses Apple computers, eats mac and cheese and listens to Matthew Ebel all day long, but does that make me a brand or an extension of the brand of the Church of AppleMacEbel?

5 thoughts on “Personal Brands and my 120 degree turn”

  1. i have to say, rob, that my “personal brand” of theambershow has nothing at all to do with my freelancing, and everything to do with not being loved enough as a child.

    i was even thinking of an ironic tee shirt, and maybe a funky pair of neon blue glasses, to use in my “theambershow photo” that i will then use all over the internet. i think that’s too far though. but i DO plan on taking a photo and using it everywhere i’m on the internet, and i plan on taking that photo really, really seriously.

    i thought about the concept of “personal brand” a long time ago and realized it’s what i wanted for myself, but didn’t realize it was a THING other people were thinking about and doing, too (kind of like when i was twelve and thought i invented masturbation and OHMYGOD i thought i was the most brilliant human on the planet… and then it turns out i was woefully average).

    now there are people, like you and like some old guy i talked to at podcamp, who say, “now, do we REALLY want to make ourselves a brand? REALLY?” and then there are all these thoughts on “soul” and “selling out” that make convincing-sounding arguments against it.

    my answer to that question is FUCK YEAH! I want you to know who i am, and if i’m going to put it out there (which i obviously don’t have a problem with, having been a blogger for 4+ years), i want to be as “out there” as I can be. Kind of like how they say on competitive reality shows, “Go big or go home”.

  2. Chel – Here’s where I want to open the discussion.

    At what point is it a brand and at what point do you just know something about someone?

    Amber – I would then say you’re managing two different brands in that case. Both are personal to you.

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