If I told you my car was actually a bike with an engine and more room to carry stuff, you’d say Get bent. It’s a car.
If a company told you their shoes were just like feet only without all the moving parts and no ability to connect directly to your brain, you’d call them out on the social web as fraudulent ninnies.
There’s similarity in the movement creating backlash against personal branding that asks, “Why are we told that we can (and should) bundle all the complexities, unpredictability and beautiful self-expression that is Me into a nice little package to sell to employers or clients?”
“I am not a brand!” spiel the brand agnostics. Don’t commoditize me.
The trouble with taking a side on this issue is, of course, that no one can agree on what the hell branding really is anyway. (This coming from someone who considers himself a branding consultant with processes, models and ways to approach the subject that are constructed with all kinds of stuff inspired from across the branding milieu.)
I’m dead serious. Think you can define branding? Give it shot in the comments and I can find some really smart people who will disagree with you.
By all appearances, the discussion of personal branding – and the hoards of people who claim to help us do it – is fueled by the social web. Before everyone had a voice, branding was largely the domain of ad people in turtlenecks desperately grasping to their relevance as the value of traditional advertising went the way of the Slip-n-Slide.
Now, we all have a role. Or at least we can. And because we saw the opportunity to promote ourselves, reputations and work – and started to realize that it isn’t that easy – we started asking questions about the process to make it all more effective. We started discussions, upturned a few rocks and out scurried the Branding People.
They told us all our activities on the social web need to be consistent. Integrated. That everything – actions, words, Twitter home pages – should look, feel and sound the same. (Sometimes they’d tell us that actions and promises need to integrate as well, but not very often ‘cause they can’t make any money from that ‘cause in the end, that ain’t up to them it’s up to the client so my hands are clean.) They’ve called similar stuff branding for years and demonstrated its value by way of racked-up billable hours doing it for everything from beer cans to investment schemes. So why wouldn’t it apply to this new world? If it works for a beer can, why not you?
You see arguments for the power of personal branding in the expected places – usually from those who charge people to brand them – and the not-so typical places. But what better place than the Redhead’s domain to poke some holes in this notion? After all, the Redhead has been heralded as one of the most “kick ass” personal brands around.
But does the Redhead actually brand herself? Or is she simply demonstrating the value she provides through her work, while at the same time recognizing that today’s world demands that she break down the Business Walls of Bullshit to expose an actual person with whom to build trust?
If it’s the later, then branding hardly describes it. Or if you think it does, then we really need a new word for it.
I’ve put it this way before: people aren’t “experiences.” We experience. People aren’t work. We work. And people aren’t results. People aren’t products. People aren’t services. We make, deliver, and yes, brand those things.
So, Redhead legions. What do you think?