This notion of ‘Personal Branding’ is not entirely new, but has garnered increased attention and proclamation over the last year or two. Driven by the need for individuals to identify more succinctly with a distinct set of beliefs that allow them to stand out from their peers, personal branding has been served up as the solution to getting that job, growing that business or scoring that deal. While all the above are valid motivations, my core disparity with the wave of ‘Personal Branding’ is the premise being peddled that one person’s brand is entirely within his/her control. Let me explain.

Branding in and of itself is a pixel in a much larger picture called Marketing.  In the most technical terms marketing, as defined by industry expert Julie Barile, is ‘the process by which an organization communicates to, connects with and engages its target audience to convey the value of and ultimately sell its products and services’. The ‘communication’ aspect is what is commonly stressed during the personal branding seminars I have attended. We are often told ‘dress to impress’, ‘get business cards’, ‘develop your website’ or ‘manage your social media accordingly’ all of which are mechanisms through which we can demonstrate and offer value to our intended target. While true, this is not ‘branding oneself’ but rather ‘marketing oneself’. The major flaw of the above pattern displayed among many is the dangerous assumption that branding is one-dimensional, i.e. its objectives, implementation and results are all dependent on the individual marketing him/herself. At the core of this flaw is a misinterpretation of what a brand is.

In the simplest of terms, I would define ‘branding’ or ‘brand building’ as the point at which marketing (at the behest of the individual) and perception (at the behest of the target audience) converge, and it is the latter part of this dynamic that is often disregarded.

market-brand-perception

Developing a brand is not as simple as looking sharp, having striking business cards or a brilliant social media strategy. All the above means very little if there is a disconnect between what your putting out and what is getting received, which brings to focus three key elements;

Target Audience

Just like any given product or service, you must have a very definitive profile of who you are targeting. Regardless of whether your end goal is employment, business growth or building your profile, every individual must identify their target audience, as this will set the stage for the path taken to gain their attention and thereafter deliver your VP (value proposition). Marketing yourself without identifying your target audience is akin to sailing without navigation; the boat will rock left and right giving the illusion of progress, only to discover you are circling yourself.

Value Proposition

This is made easier upon a deliberate analysis of your target audience and an in-depth interrogation into what value you can offer in meeting their needs/wants. While some believe a value proposition is only a matter of packaging oneself exceptionally well, those who succeed not only package their VP well, they also deliver at or beyond the expectations of their target audience. The superficiality sought in ‘looking good’ and ‘saying all the right things’ is laid bare once your target audience demands results on what you offer. This now brings me to my last point; consistency.

Consistency

Whenever you market yourself, it is of vital importance that the person your target audience knows today is the same person tomorrow, the day after and for the foreseeable future. Why? Relationships aren’t built in a single day, sale or exchange of value. True relationships are built on trust and reliability. You can only be reliable if your target audience knows they can expect the same level of quality and value every single time. Who you are on Snapchat and who you are on LinkedIn or even who you are on Facebook and who you are in person should carry a recognizable synergy. This is the key to sustained benefit often undervalued by many ‘personal brands’. While it may demand increased resources, time and effort, the ultimate rewards make for a great investment.

Yes, the above may not guarantee a 100% perception-match, but they go a long way in driving the perception to your marketing. To drive the point home, target audience, value proposition and consistency are all pillars of marketing. A brand is not an action, but a result of effective marketing strategy and equally successful market reception. One can market themselves to the fullest extent of their capabilities as it depends entirely on factors they can control. Brand building, on the other hand, is not entirely up to us. Though it does not sound as striking as the current terminology, we should be advocating for ‘Personal Marketing’ and maybe then, given a better understanding of the two, we may see more successful brands being built rather than facades borne out of grandiose delusions of ‘Personal Branding’.