A great deal is being said these days about personal brand and as is usually the case, with a new term, there is debate on how new or important it is. There are those who feel personal brand is just a new term for good old-fashioned reputation and others who feel there is an opportunity for old advertisers to try a new spin on their creative attempts to insert position messages into human minds.
I see some truth in all of this, and the whole truth in none of it. To me personal brand is very closely connected to human reputation. There are two aspects that I think make it at least slightly different:
- Social media is allowing a tremendous amplification of personal brand and in so doing personal brands can emerge into just another form of contrived marketing noise, and we need to be aware and concerned about that.
- Personal brand is changing corporate and product brand in an increasing number of cases. This changes who shapes brand and why and how it is done. It changes how markets perceive brands and this is an area where little thought and conversation has emerged so far.
Corporate brands themselves are defined indifferent ways, but it generally has to do with how someone in your market feels about your company, its products and services. It's primary tools involve advertising and graphic design. Traditionally branding was used to create the illusion that an organization consisting of tens of thousand of employees spoke with a single voice, marched in unison and never, ever made a mistake--or at least one that the company would admit to.
Over time, this form of branding has lost effectiveness and the cost of maintaining this sort of brand strategy has simultaneously become more expensive. Those high costs in these down times have much to do with the current acceleration of large companies into social media.
While there are quite a few exceptions, generally speaking traditional type brand messaging has fallen flat in social media venues while personal brand has thrived.
How does this impact the marketplace? In several ways. But at the essence of them all is the current realization that companies are not branded monoliths but are comprised if many people, diverse people, whose views sometimes differ and even collide; talented people wh sometimes screw up, but are human enough to admit their mistakes and to promise to do better next time.
A fundamental problem with corporate branding is that its strategies are designed to be one directional--to send messages out. This collided with the most common complain people have against large organizations: "they don't listen to me. They don't want to hear my complaints. The support people want to get me off the phone."
But social media lets markets talk back at companies. We can shout, ask or suggest. And we often get answers. Instead of being disdained we are getting respect.
Personal branding has much to do with this. Personal brands are far more human than corporate brands. I think personal brands are reshaping corporate brands and it has far more to do with social media than traditional marketing. We hated Dell when they had the audacity to call us Dude in ads while giving us support people who did not speak our language. But now there are dozens of people there; people we have come to know in social media; people who sometimes don't have good answers, but at least they tried.
Many of us feel better about Dell than we used to and that translates into corporate brand equity.
Much has been said about personal brand and what it does for the individual. If we blog, tweet, podcast or engage in all these new tools it allows us to create a new for of web-based ever-changing resume and that seemed great in a world where we took jobs while simultaneously planning to move on to a new employer a couple of years hence. But the economy's great swan dive into the toilet may have changed that.
We and our personal brands are more likely, I think, to stay put for longer times. The thought of being a lifer just may start inching back into workforce thinking. And this too will apply personal brand to the reshaping of corporate brand.
Time was traditional branders designed our business cards. And when someone received it, that logo may have shaped their view of you. Now it's the opposite. What that person thinks of you is shaping their emotions of your corporate logo. Brand seems to me to work much better on both sides of that business card when there is a perception that real humans are part of those graphic representations.