Our culture celebrates independence and individualism yet it’s becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate yourself or your business from any other.
To truly stand out today, whether you’re a business or an individual, requires one of two things.
The first being that you have a product or message that is completely new and original.
Very few people and companies throughout history can claim to be either. Instead, they’re usually an iteration of someone or something that came before them.
The second way to stand out in today’s world is, you go against the cultural grain and take an opposing view of established norms.
This requires courage as a move of this kind will result in criticism and anger. It comes with risk and can be detrimental to your career and/or social standing.
Look at the backlash Kanye West has received from the entertainment industry for providing an alternative perspective and reality.
In today’s world, we all have access to the same technology, software and information. Often the only point of difference is the brand.
When everyone and everything is the same, the brand can make all the difference.
What is a brand, exactly?
It’s not the logo or design, but rather, like a charismatic person, it’s how it makes other people feel and it’s what they say about you when you’re not there.
A brand is about the promise it delivers, the values it stands for and the stories it tells. All the best books on branding agree.
These are intrinsic qualities that we look for in other people. A brand stands for admirable human qualities.
Then why is there a collective eye-roll among some when the term personal brand is used?
Firstly, the people rolling their eyes usually have a secure job working for someone else’s brand.
They have no skin in the game and don’t know what’s it like to be living the day-to-day as an entrepreneur.
Secondly, some people who are into personal branding take it too far.
They try to position themselves as if they’re either a perfect squeaky-clean superhuman or some sort of corporation.
They give themselves cheesy nicknames like ‘The Analytics Guru’ or ‘The Contrarian Communicator’.
If you want to be ‘known’ for something at least make it memorable like The Sausage King of Chicago.
Everyone is a brand in the social media age.
If you use social media you’re in the selling game.
If your Twitter bio lists your likes, dislikes and company you work for, you’re selling. Or your LinkedIn profile lists your experience, skills and professional recommendations, you’re selling.
Even if you use social media for personal reasons you’re still selling.
On Facebook and Instagram, we tend to sell the best parts of our lives. Singles sell themselves as a great catch. Others sell how wonderful their life is.
None of this is new as Daniel Pink points out in his book, To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth about Persuading, Convincing, and Influencing others.
You may not see yourself as in branding or sales, but whatever line of work you’re in, your survival and success depend on how well you sell yourself.
A brand is something we sell therefore in the era that we’re all selling, everyone has a personal brand.
Personal branding and reputation are one and the same.
Personal branding is about the values you have, the promises you make and the stories you tell, and it intertwines with your reputation.
If you sell yourself as one thing but do another it can impact your reputation.
While the term personal brand is tainted and abused, what it stands for is not.
In an era where technology is levelling the playing field or removing the playing field altogether, your personal brand might be all you have.