We are all aware of the product and corporate brands around us. We know brands with powerfully designed logos and some, more subtle, subliminally entering our psyches. And, like it or not, brands influence our choices in almost everything we buy, use or make: what we eat, wear, cook, drive; use for laundry and personal care. AND, we really like our favourite brands, even staying loyal our whole lives. But what of your own personal brand?
What do I mean by your personal brand? In a nutshell, your personal brand is what you stand for. It is what you do, say, how you behave and treat others. It is the way you present yourself to the world. Your personal brand includes your occupation, clothes, hair, personal care regime, what you eat and drink, your home, hobbies, holidays, manners, friends, spouse, your religion. Your personal brand is often (although not always) your best side and the outward manifestation of you. When you get your personal brand right – when it’s in focus – it will feel just right.
When you see a really great photo of yourself, it is because, at that moment, it captured your personal brand perfectly.
The development of our brands
When we are young, we haven’t yet grown into our adult selves or developed our personal brands. But slowly, through school and beyond, we start to discover self. That kernel that exists deep inside grows and our early brands start to flourish. On that journey we might develop some interesting, youthful brands; mine were Rock Chick and Surfer Dude. However, if your parents or school, political regime or culture were particularly strict, your brands may have taken longer to develop.
Do personal brands exist everywhere?
In countries, societies or cultures with oppressive regimes (or where an individual identity is unadvisable or not allowed) personal brands may not flourish or, only in secret. Sometimes, being the same as everyone else and fitting in is an easier and safer option.
Modern slavery is an example where oppression and exploitation allow no sense of self or personal brand. Arguably, anywhere that poverty exists, a lack of education, self-awareness or opportunity, personal brands may not exist or not in their ideal form. Junkie and Violent Gangster are not the personal brands that we want most for people.
Conversely, within some groups or workplaces such as, the police, army, hospitals, supermarkets, church, hospitality, your own brand might be submerged in favour of a corporate brand. Arguably, your personal brand is not appropriate or desirable in these settings. Even wearing a suit or corporate attire is still fitting in. (However your fabulous ties and socks might be exhibiting your own personal brand.)
Have personal brands always existed?
I think that the answer is definitely yes for men, but no for women; not even wealthy or powerful women, before the twentieth century. Historically, women with personal brands seem few and far between such as: Boadicea, Julian of Norwich, Queen Elizabeth I, Mary Wollstonecraft, Jane Austen, Queen Victoria, Florence Nightingale. Women’s personal brands were (and still remain in some cultures and regimes) subsumed into their husband’s or maybe a family brand. Feminism has enabled a profliferation of women’s personal brands and with it, voices and choices. Say no more, but this has got to be good thing.
Which is your most important brand?
Assuming that you have more than one personal brand (and most people do) your best brand often manifests as your most successful, powerful or effective self, or, where you spend most of the time. But if work is not the most successful or enjoyable part of your life, it might be a different personal brand such as: parent, spouse, best friend, cook or creative. So, wherever your power or best self is found, there you will find your best brands.
Most of us don’t live in one personal brand all the time. We switch our personal brands from time to time and even throughout the day. Many of us exhibit different sides of our personalities when we inhabit our different personal brands. It can be a pleasant surprise when your friends and family see you in your work brand and vice versa. Personal brands are often, very impressive. My great friend Nicola always fancied her husband, Simon, most when he was wearing his navy cashmere coat on his way to work. She fancied him rather less when he was in his PJ’s, drinking beer and watching the sport.
Maybe the Queen, POTUS, Putin, and reigning monarches and autocrats have only one personal brand?
Favourite personal brands
Many of our favourite personal brands only exist when life permits. Perhaps these personal brands contain elements of our wild and crazy young sides? They may not be out and about often but they flourish when they can. Some favourite personal brands that I have observed in others include: the Biker, Party Animal, the Princess, on Summer Holiday, Ski Bum, Down-the-Pub, Hostess-with-the-Mostest, Femme Fatale, Charmer, Going-on-a-Date, the Diva, John Travolta, Irresponsible Godparent and some, surprisingly impressive: My Kind Side, Nurse, To-the-Rescue and, Knight in Shining Armour. For obvious and less obvious reasons, some of these favourite personal brands remain under wraps a lot of the time.
I have so many competing identities, I pick the one that’s most convenient at the moment.Author, Malcolm Gladwell
Other personal brands
However, some of us discovered other personal brands during lockdown, new or long lost talents suddenly emerged: the Cook, the Gardener, the Cleaner, the Home-School Teacher, the Runner, the Walker, the DIY Supremo.
So, if you have the chance to explore and discover your other personal brands, take that opportunity. You never know, you might make a wonderful discovery that is just around the corner.
Seek out and find your hidden personal brands. You might be in for a nice surprise.Katharine
Do our personal brands need preserving? Absolutely they do, although our best personal brands can be hard work or and they come at a price. Next week we will look at Polishing the Brand and, beware the cost of the Service Brands.