can a person be a brand?
The Shocking Difference Between Having vs Being a Brand
Does intentionally building and utilizing a personal brand make you a fake, self-important asshole? I’ve been toying with this question as I see more and more anti-brand movements pop up in the online business world. Can a person be a brand without succumbing to the pitfalls of mainstream branding – the flawless aesthetics, the controlled perception, the impervious image?
Even as a brand strategist, I totally understand the resistance. As a society we’re kinda fed up with inauthenticity and false promises of perfection being shoved into our faces on the daily. And it doesn’t take much for a brand to become contrived, disingenuous, and forced.
As entrepreneurs building personal brands, it’s a fine line! We want to build strong and consistent brands so that they’re effective, but we also don’t want our reputation to overtake us and trap us in a box. Because that’s where the trouble starts. That’s when a person can go from simply HAVING a brand to actually BECOMING one.
Can a person be a brand? Sure. But as soon as they are, they give up their humanity. And humanity is something we absolutely can’t afford to lose as business owners.
Putting people before profit is what gives a small business true longevity. It also just makes practical sense; you have your business because you want to make a difference, not just because you want to make money.
Humans are destined to evolve, so building a brand that can evolve with you means you get to preserve your humanity. It means you’re allowed to change your mind when you get new information. It means you’re allowed to fuck up without getting shunned. It means you’re allowed to be multi-passionate. It means you’re allowed to be yourself. It means you’re allowed to surprise people. It means you’re allowed to wake up one Tuesday morning and suddenly decide to operate your business differently than you did the day before.
So how do you achieve this balance? How do you build a consistent, reliable brand without letting it consume you? How do you maintain your identity as a person who has a brand, without actually becoming the brand itself?
There are four really simple ways to find the balance:
1. Build your brand on the most crude human components there are – values. Our core values rarely change drastically, unless something drastic happens to us, which means this is a pretty solid guarantee your brand will be built around who you actually are. It works because you can’t fake your values; people will see right through it, and eventually you’ll feel shitty for pretending.
2. Build your brand on your personality. Not the one you think people will like – your actual personality. Yes, even if you’re a raging bitch! I mean as much as I don’t want to condone being a raging bitch, if that’s your real personality? It’s always better to be honest because it’s the only way you’ll attract your target audience like magic.
3. Build your brand on your uniqueness, which I promise is WAY more effective than trends. We typically undervalue our uniqueness because we’re trying so hard to fit in, but it’s truly our superpower for standing out. Whatever it is that makes you unique – your skills, where you grew up, a natural talent, a life-changing experience, your hobbies, your education, your worldview – leverage the hell out of it and shove it into the spotlight.
4. You have to consider your ideal clients (since that’s who your brand is for). How does the sum of your values, your personality, and your uniqueness make you specifically qualified to help them? Build relationships beyond the transaction. Create a community around your ideas. Make it obvious that you actually give a shit about your fellow humans.
You can easily avoid becoming a brand by refusing to compromise your humanity.
Inevitably make mistakes and apologize for them. Communicate clearly and openly. Take constructive feedback graciously. Be honest about your process. Have public conversations with people you disagree with. Focus on being the best you instead of building the best brand, and I promise a strong reputation will naturally form around you.