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I Don’t Care About Your Personal Brand

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:

  • Build value for the community with meaningful conversations.
  • Have an opinion. Great voices on the Internet have an opinion and stand by it, even if some folks don’t like it.
  • Be generous and give your spotlight to others.
  • In addition to building value and shining a light on others, write/create great content.
  • Be you. Personality, genuine, transparent, authentic… Whatever, choose your word of choice.
  • There’s a reason personality was fifth in that post. Communicators put their stakeholders before their egos.

    Thanks to Amber Naslund who brainstormed with me and inspired some of the 25 manifestos.

    About Geoff Livingston:

    69 Comments on “I Don’t Care About Your Personal Brand

    1.  by  yinka olaito

      You absolutely correct if all that is in personal branding is ego promotion, but i gues that is not all, although that has been overbloated by ambitious guy who do not know ‘how to’ of personal branding.I gues personal branding is about value accelleration and not just about value creation like kroontz etals enthused.

    2.  by  Joseph Manna, Infusionsoft

      I’ll have to disagree that personal brands are meaningless. Consumers connect with personal brands, figures and personalities. While people respect and initially attract to a professional brand, when they experience a problem, it’s a personal brand who saves the day.

      Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that personal brands are everything. Consumers still want a product or service that exceeds their expectations. However, when it comes to corporate communications, they want it to be authentic, sincere, passionate. People are tired of “Dear Valued Customer,” and they are tired of companies that sign their communications with no names. That’s where personal brands begin.

      I totally respect your views on it, but I believe personal brands have a place in every market. Especially now in a recession when consumers don’t particularly trust corporate brands.


    3.  by  Sean O'Neill


      How about thinking of branding (whether personal or corporate) in this current economic climate as it might pertain to new car salesman on the still (we hope?) new car lot. Do we really care in the end, what salesperson presents the best “brand” to the consumer?

      Shouldn’t we all be asking…do I really need to buy this car (brand) and if I do, from this company (brand)? Seems a bit of deck chairs (brand) being switched on the Titanic (brand). Should’t we be more concerned with looking out for the icebergs or at least designing hulls that can stand the elements?

      I see a lot of people focusing on building a brand to nowhwere? Isn’t that what facebook is all about and the like?

      Should we be focused on using our creativity to CREATE something that delivers real value..like income that is sustainable from a source that is intrinsically good. Should we be more active in looking over the horizon to see where our unique talents and personality have a place to land..and get busy building the LANDING?!

      Seems all this talk about branding is like a few million GM and Ford 4×4 being unloaded in a land without roads and no gas stations..!

      Thanks Geoff for your strong opinions on the insipidity of Branding!


    4.  by  Luigi Centenaro

      Great post and great conversation, but also odd: for me the Personal Branding essence is exactly in your 5 tips at the bottom!

      It is clear that the term Branding has a “Bad Reputation”

    5.  by  Chris Perry

      I agree with Luigi. I agree completely with your final 5 tips; however, I was under the impression that my personal brand was directly linked to my true and genuine value proposition (basiscally, exactly what your 5 final tips describe).

      Unfortunately, I think personal branding is perceived to be more and more of what you do online with social media and Web 2.0 tools, but I believe these just to be the channels of distribution for your personal brand. Personal branding, as it should be, are the messages you provide your potential or current employers in multiple formats through multiple channels describing, promoting and hopefully reinforcing your value proposition.

      I do care about your personal brand if it correctly and effectively represents how you meet my or my organization’s needs.

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    15.  by  Beth Harte

      I am not a personal brand, nor do I want one thrusted upon me. It’s TOO MUCH WORK and EFFORT. And I don’t have time for it because I have work to do for my employer and I am serving our clients (who, by the way don’t have a clue what my “personal brand” is & why they should care).

      We tell brands everyday that they need to “adjust” their brands to the market.

      Would you do that as a human? Because trust me there are a lot of people I’d like to let know that their “personal brands” lack substance, are idiotic, sophomoric and asinine. Do you think they’d feel the pressure to change themselves? Doubtful.

      The only people who are paying attention to “personal brands” are the ones who are vying for some of what they think others have. Think about it.

    16.  by  Davina K. Brewer

      Thanks to Beth Harte for the comment and tweet, I’ve been meaning to take a rant out of draft mode for sometime, will have to link back to this post. I’m not into the PB label vs. professional reputation, just suspect too much time is invested building up the person when the professional should speak for itself. FWIW.

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