Personal branding, the brand called you

So who are you?
No, but who are you really? And do the people around you know who you are, who you want to be? How others view you ultimately shapes your career – and your life.

Personal branding as a concept is a logical extension of branding — assuming, of course, you understand what branding is — and I think many of us do, but just for the record, let’s go over it again:

A brand is that peculiar combination of attributes that delivers a set of benefits (through a product or service) that meets the needs of a consumer.

The brand includes not just the name, logo or packaging that establishes the brand identity – it encompasses the entire brand experience, which results in a relationship with the brand.

Some of the elements of the brand include the product, packaging, look and feel, personality, history, values, perceived benefits etc etc.

The brand is the total package; and that package is unique.

The key worth of a brand — the reason we bother to brand products — is to differentiate them from similar products with which it competes.

So how does this apply to an individual?

In 1997 Tom Peters, wrote an article in Fast Company magazine challenging readers to become CEOs of their own company — Me Inc.

To be successful in business, he said, your most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called “You”.

Two years later, he published a book called The Brand You 50: Fifty Ways to Transform Yourself from an Employee into a Brand that Shouts Distinction.

He made the case for everyone having their own signs of distinction, which need to be managed by that individual for maximum benefit.

We all have an identity, a uniqueness that defines us as individuals.

Each living creature has its own signature — your fingerprint, bone structure, blood type, facial features, race, culture and more. Each of us has a specific DNA and we use it to identify ourselves.

In the process of personal branding, the important thing is how you communicate that self to your consumers.

Yes, you have consumers just as a commercial product has consumers.

And you need to find ways to get your consumers to choose you over other, similar products on the market which might fulfil the same functions.

That’s the process of personal branding.

You don’t just want to be a good brand — you want to be a brand that is attractive, distinctive, compelling.

This won’t be achieved simply by having an exciting business card, or a trendy hairstyle.

This begins with knowing what you want to achieve.

What do you want to be known for ? Your legacy — what will it be? What will make you feel fulfilled, satisfied and confident that your life has impact and meaning? These are the foundations of a purpose-powered brand.

To drive that purpose, you will need a set of values. What’s really important to you in life?

Often we have to give up the things we want for the things that we want more.

Decide what you are prepared to sacrifice to achieve your purpose, and what you will never compromise.

Establishing a value-driven brand will help you to maintain consistency because your values seldom change.

Consistency is the bedrock of brand building, and ultimately, this is nothing more than habit. Where did I read these lines:

l “Guard your thoughts for they will become words.
l Guard your words, for they will become actions
l Guard your actions, for they will become habits
l Guard your habits for they will become character.”

On this accelerating scale the end product of character is in fact the foundation of the brand.
Once you have established your brand values you will then need to foster relationship and reputation.

Other people’s perception of your personal brand (the brand experience) becomes the reality for the simple reason that they will share and spread what they understand you to be, whether positive or negative.

How we present ourselves and how we package ourselves will determine to a large extent how others see and perceive our personal brand.

Visual identity is concerned with how the brand message is communicated to the consumer.

For a personal brand this means personal grooming, conduct, interaction with others, attitude, quality of work and whole host of other “moments of truth” for clients, superiors, employees and other consumers.

Relationship building is an important part of personal branding because relationships determine what values you will be associated with — even if those are not your own.

In high school they used to liken us to apples in a box. No matter how good an apple is, if it’s sitting next to a rotten apple, it will certainly rot! The Bible puts it more succinctly in the proverb: “Bad company corrupts good morals!”

A compelling brand is one that is trusted. Consumer brands bank on repeat purchase for their success and this is heavily influenced by how much a product is trusted.

The same goes for the brand called YOU. In the business world, trust represents a competitive advantage, infinitely exploitable and virtually impossible to replicate.

Without the requisite accountability, however, it’s easy to lose and far more difficult to regain.
Finally, your consumers are going to be testing the brand promise.

Whatever you have communicated about your brand, whether explicitly or implicitly will need to be translated to a deliverable.

You pass the promise test by meeting the expectations that you have set in the minds of your consumers. If you exceed their expectation, this is likely to result in excellence.

And the brand called YOU will see an increase in its equity.

Acknowledgements to The Encyclopaedia of Brands and Branding in South Africa 2008

Thembe Sachikonye writes in her personal capacity. Readers’ comments can be sent to

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