Nov 6 2008
All of the personal brand noise in the echo chamber amazes me. Why? Because it’s not good marketing.
We are in a recession, and telling people they need personal brands infused in their marketing – while important – will not help companies close transactions. Yes people do business with folks they like, but that’s only a pre-cursor for success. There are lots of people that folks like who are losing jobs and contracts right now.
Thus personal brand propagators seek to bulwark a business model destined to fail. What people need to do is build substantive value for stakeholders that will deliver return on investment for time or money. If personal brands are infused in this value, all the better, but please don’t tell me its the quintessential focus of social media marketing.
Quite frankly online marketing is not about silly personalities with motorcycles (me) or rubber ducks or even pole dancing. If you want to defend your right to be stupid — all in the name of a personal brand — go for it. But while momentarily interesting, your personal brand won’t build real value for the market – unless your personal reputation revolves around delivering consistent regular value to your community.
There is a big difference between reputation and personal brands. Reputation is built upon past experiences — good or bad, a real track record. Personal branding is often an ego-based image based on communications. A personal brand can demonstrate a person is there, but it’s often shallow and can be contrived. It’s just like a sport stripe on a car, nice but no engine, no guts, no substance.
Chris Brogan is always cited as the penultimate in personal brands. I disagree, Chris Brogan has a personal brand, but more importantly he has a fantastic reputation for delivering great, helpful content every day. The combo of incredible value AND the personal brand is lethal. But one would succeed without the other, and its not the personal brand.
25 Personal Brand Manifestos
Here’s some brutal truths delivered Cluetrain Style for those propagating personal brands as the keystones to social media.
1) The online community — a.k.a. the market — doesn’t give a damn about your personal brand.
2) The only people who give a crap about personal brands are the personas trying to prop them up as a business model.
3) While personal brands are concerned with themselves, the market is also concerned about itself.
4) The market doesn’t care about the persona, only what value the persona contributes to the larger community.
5) Ultimately, if the market does not perceive value, the personal brand — while famous — will not successfully monetize him/herself.
6) Businesses do not need personal brands to succeed online. They need to come off their ivory towers and communicate with the market in real conversations.
7) Then companies need to listen so they can give back to their online communities and markets vis a vis real valuable information or products.
8) Messaging — whether delivered through a personal brand or from the corporate ivory tower — doesn’t work online!
9) Personal brands can be contrived and faked.
10) If a personal brand promises one thing and delivers another, their personal name is mud!
11) If a company over-relies on personal brands it can be let down with no social media presence post persona (Microsoft and Scoble)
12) Personal brands can let the market down… in some cases regularly (Calcanis).
13) If a personal brand becomes regularly tied to a corporate brand, then it’s not personal. It’s business.
14) Having personal interaction is a small part of the larger value proposition to the market in order for it to have a transaction with you. It is not a business model in itself.
15) The difference between a good personal reputation and personal brands is subtle. One delivers constant substance while the other relies on BS to overcome shortcomings.
16) The only value of a personal brand is blinding the uneducated on lack of social media expertise (from Micah).
17) When a personal brand fails to deliver real expertise, the market turns quickly on the persona.
18) Twenty years later national personas gone wrong get super bowl ads (MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice, or in the case of K-Fed 2 years later). Micro personal brands online are simply forgotten.
19) When reality catches up with personal brand hype, bad endings occur.
20) The marketplace wants solutions, not to feel better by hanging out with coolness. Even better if you can provide both, but at least provide the prior.
21) Personal brands are like toilet paper. They are a tradable commodity on the interent. Reputation is another thing.
22) Social media consultants rely on personal brands, communicators rely on building value between organizations and their stakeholders.
23) Communicators can measure their social effort, personal brands talk about friends and “hubris.”
24) A personality oriented brand does not necessarily equate to successful results. Ask John “Maverick” McCain.
25) The marketplace doesn’t need specific personalities. There’s always another chap who can fill the role.
Refocus on Others
So what do you do if you are over-relying on personal brands? As part of the Solutions Stars Video Conference, I wrote a post about rising above the noise that offered five tips. Here’s a short summary:
There’s a reason personality was fifth in that post. Communicators put their stakeholders before their egos.