01 September 2009

"I don't care about your personal brand."

I've been sitting on this quote from Aaron Brazell (@technosailor) since BlogPotomac back in June.

A few thoughts about branding:

NACHRI is currently going through a major branding initiative - consultants, fonts, colors, phrases, brand book, the whole nine yards. But, as Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff remind us:
Marketers tell us they define and manage brands. Some spend millions, or hundreds of millions, of dollars on advertising. They carefully extend brand names, putting Scope on a tube of toothpaste to see what happens. We bought this brand, they say. We spent on it. We own it.

Bull.

Your brand is whatever the customers say it is.
Groundswell, p. 78

Which of course leaves me with a lot of questions about branding consultants, the number one being: Are they even providing a useful service? If they're helping an organization IDENTIFY what their constituents think about the organization, great. If they're helping an organization figure out what they can do to help their constituents think better of them, great. If they're trying to tell you what your brand should be, um, not great. I came into the process here too late to be able to tell which one our consultants did, but I sure hope it's option 1 or 2.

But the larger point is that I think "brand" is too constructed a concept for people. A company has a brand. A person has a reputation. And it's the sum total of who you are. Ever seen those Facebook pages that show NO personality? Guaranteed that's someone who's decided anything other than 100% professional information is bad for his "brand." You know what else is bad for your "brand"? Coming across as a cardboard cut-out.

Furthermore, in an era where we're all trying to become stars in the social media firmament, personal brand starts to eclipse corporate brand. Not to name names, but there's a car company that rhymes with Mord that has a socmed star on staff. What happens if/when he leaves? Whose "brand" suffers? I'm just guessing, but probably Mord's.

I'm not sure what the answer is, so I suggest you read Maddie on it here, here, or here, and then tell me what you think.


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2 comments:

Deirdre Reid said...

I cringe at the money spent hiring a company to rebrand an association (and we've all seen it) unless they do exactly what you say - find out what members, prospects, attendees and other critical groups think about the association and help the association lay out a path to actually live up to that ideal brand. Thanks for saying it.

Cynthia D'Amour said...

Elizabeth,

Personal brands/reputations/power have been around long before social media got big.

In the old days, people with powerful networks brought more value to the party.

You knew if certain people were involved, certain things would happen. Biz rock stars had fans. A well networked person was worth more - if they knew how to work it.

Social media just makes the process a lot easier. I don't have to be a media darling. I can make my own talk show, blog, Twitter followers, etc.

Sometimes I think it's important to look back into pre or early Internet times to see what we learn there too. There are still lessons that can be learned.

All that said, I'm also in the camp that many branding efforts miss the mark for many of the reasons you described.