Innovation. Ideas. Insight.

The Brand You is Dead. Long Live The Brand You Build.

In DINU, Foundtrack, Ideas, Insight on January 5, 2009 at 11:35 am
It's not you, or at least it shouldn't be

It's not you, or at least it shouldn't be

In today’s hyper-connected, no-barrier-to-enty, Consumer-generated-content world it’s hard to escape the cult of Personal Branding. Everyone has a website, blog, Twitter account and Facebook page and they aren’t afraid to use them. But it seems to me we’ve reached an inflection point, and what was once smart move now feels self-congratulatory and driven more by ego than producing value.

I think we as marketers, strategists, consultants and social media participants need to re-think what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. What’s the purpose of having 15,000 people following you on Twitter? To help clarify my thoughts on this issue, I went back to article that really launched one of the most influential magazines of the 1990s:

Fast Company, Tom Peters and You!

Back in 1997 Fast Company changed the way business people thought about themselves, business, branding and marketing with the “Brand Called You” cover story by marketing guru Tom Peters. The article is worth reading again, some 12 years later. In going over it again myself I got the feeling that, like a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy, the original intent had lost some of its clarity.

“Any damn fool can put on a deal, but it takes genius, faith and perseverance to create a brand.” – David Ogilvy

With the advent of social media platforms like MySpace and YouTube, content sharing sites like Digg and microblogging tools like Twitter, people have taken personal brands to mean “look at me,” and when enough people did, presto!, you had yourself a personal brand. But that’s a gross misrepresentation of what Peters was saying, or at least what he meant. His idea of a personal brand was one that provided value. Unique value that set you apart from others. Yes, you can get 23 million people to hear your pleas on behalf of Britney Spears, but I’m not sure what value (beyond comedic) you’re bringing to the table.

The “Brand Called You”-era is dead.

Should you have personality, a distinct P.O.V. on issues and are qualities like honesty, integrity and hard work still important? Absolutely, in fact those qualities and attributes will always be (and have always been) valuable. But the inward-looking focus on branding yourself is no longer the best way to serve yourself.

Here’s what Geoff Livingston said back in November of 2008:

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.

It’s become a lot easier to create a personal brand. Gather up 3,000 Twitter followers (by any means necessary); create a Facebook page and start blogging. In three months you just created your personal brand. But, as Geoff put it, that’s just a racing stripe. Of course the very best of breed, the Seth Godins and Chris Brogans have created very strong personal brands by creating real value for thousands of people every day. Their personal brands are focused on helping others, not on promoting themselves.

The Brand Called Me, Me, Me!

Scott Monty, formerly of Crayon, now bringing his intelligence and expertise on behalf of Ford, also has seen the rise of Personal Branding as a form of egotism:

I’m tired of seeing social media bloggers focusing inward. Whether it’s a laundry list of the latest appearances, self-referential links to previous entries in the blog, or thought leadership that feeds an overinflated ego, their sites become a great monument to…themselves.

That’s the trap of the current ‘Personal Brand’ or “Brand Called You’ thinking. How can I get more attention for myself, my blog, my Twitter feed. There are just very few people who provide value for the eyeballs and minds they are furiously trying to gather. I think most people engaged in conspicuous personal branding are missing another key element: It’s hard for other people to become engaged in your efforts. What’s in it for me when you get your 2,000 Twitter follower? The answer: not much.

Becoming a brand manager by being a… brand manager

Here’s Tom Peters from that Fast Company feature:

To start thinking like your own favorite brand manager, ask yourself the same question the brand managers at Nike, Coke, Pepsi, or the Body Shop ask themselves: What is it that my product or service does that makes it different?

This is something I think a lot of people misinterpreted or maybe just simply missed an opportunity. Today, thinking of yourself as a brand is like swimming in an ocean full of sharks all fighting over the same seal. That’s a blood red ocean. I think there is still an opportunity to have a Blue Ocean Strategy. By creating a brand that lives outside yourself.

Here’s another excerpt:

One key to growing your power is to recognize the simple fact that we now live in a project world. Almost all work today is organized into bite-sized packets called projects. A project-based world is ideal for growing your brand: projects exist around deliverables, they create measurables, and they leave you with braggables. If you’re not spending at least 70% of your time working on projects, creating projects, or organizing your (apparently mundane) tasks into projects, you are sadly living in the past. Today you have to think, breathe, act, and work in projects.

Now that’s an idea I can get behind. But instead of making your personal brand your project, why not make creating an actual brand your project? Rather than trying to impress your boss, colleagues and peers by having an awesome LinkedIn account, why not create something external and tangible. I’ve referenced Seth Godin as someone who has gone about creating a personal brand the right way, but he’s also created things like Squidoo and Triiibes, brands in and of themselves that live without and beyond his participation, yet are unmistably his creation.

Putting My Branding Where My Mouth Is

I’ve put a lot of work into creating Eyecube as my personal brand. I’ve learned a lot, made plenty of mistakes, but overall I think I’ve made a respectable contribution to the greater marketing community. But long before Eyecube I was the founder of Arsenal America, the official supporter’s club of Arsenal FC. From nothing, with no money, I created one of the top U.S.-based supporter’s clubs. Even though I haven’t been actively involved for a couple of years, Arsenal America is still a vibrant brand with members throughout the country, the vast majority of which I’ve never met.

A few months ago I launched Foundtracks, an art project / creative outlet that I’m excited about continuing in 2009. It’s still very early for Foundtracks, but I think it has potential to inspire others to create their own artifcitions.

These projects aren’t money makers, but they demonstrate my ability to promote something other than myself, work with others and compete in the marketplace of ideas. Those sound like the type of attributes an employer or client would be interested in.

I’m certainly not alone in seeing the value of creating external brands. Take a look at this recent New York Times article citing ad agencies that are creating their own brands. Listen to what Ben Jenkins, the strategic director of Zag, a division of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, says:

“Advertising is a massively old model based on the 1950s. As media has proliferated, it’s become a lot harder for us to earn enough money off our ideas,” said Ben Jenkins, . “Zag is about creating the properties ourselves from scratch and having 100 percent of it.”

Let’s do a quick rewrite and see if it doesn’t still ring true:

“Personal branding is a massively old model based on the early-2000s. As social media plaforms have proliferated, it’s become a lot harder for us to earn enough money off our blogs. Now it’s about creating the properties ourselves from scratch and having 100 percent of it.”

The Challenge For 2009

So, for 2009 I think I might pull back a little bit on the Facebook Friending Frenzy, or not check my Twitter Follower/Following ratio quite so diligently. It’s not that I think those social media channels are worthless or irrelevant, I think they are very valuable. But I think I could learn a lot more about brand stewardship by creating something that other people can interact with and even contribute to. If I can prove my abilities to create, maintain and grow a real brand – with virtually no resources – then I think I can demonstrate to my company and our clients that I can provide real value to them.

I’ve already got some ideas, but I would love to hear from you, please let me know your thoughts.

  1. Very thoughtful post, Rick. Personally, I moved beyond the numbers game at some point last year when I realized that this isn’t a game. It’s not about trying to achieve a rank on some list or trying to be competitive with other bloggers. It’s about helping people.

    How do you help people learn and grow? How do you create value in the lives of others? How do you connect people so that they can in turn create value for others? I think THAT’S how we’ll be judged in this space (kind of like life, huh?). What will differentiate a good brand from a personal brand is how we address the “What’s In It For Me” (from the perspective of your audience/customers/community). A personal brand only addresses WIIFM from the brander’s perspective. And that gets old quickly.

    You know who gives freely of himself, is incredibly helpful and bright? Chris Brogan (http://www.chrisbrogan.com). He is the master of this, bar none.

    Thanks for raising this important point, Rick. It’s worthy of discussion.

  2. What a great post. As I am starting to figure out this personal branding ‘thing’ you just nailed it. Who cares about me unless ME is providing something of value to you. Again..great post.

  3. This is a great post — was sent here by Chris Brogan — and I think right on the money. Too much of the infosphere (or whatever we’re calling it this year) is about ME ME ME and not really about value.

    In talking about social media with a friend and fellow marketer a few weeks ago, I asked him why bother if there’s no money in it. Otherwise, it’s just a hobby. (Which is great BTW, but then the metrics for success are very different.) I didn’t mean that “money is all that matters” or that your blog has to have monetizable traffic, rather if you’re not providing some kind of value that can ultimately be traced back to your bottom line, then why bother? Clearly the content can’t be that worthy and compelling if it doesn’t help you advance the core mission of your business.

    Clearly, I’m focusing on one narrow method of measuring success. But I think that as you/we consider the whole notion of the personal brand, it might be worthwhile to change your method of measuring success away from stuff that is of questionable significance (Facebook Friending Frenzy!) and onto things that can be spent on beer down at the local.

    Thanks for the post! Loved it.

  4. For me, it was never about the numbers. I completely agree that building a monument to self is the worst possible way to use (and frankly “abuse”) social media.

    It should always be about value. I’ve found that people listen when I make comments that help them without getting any gain for me.

    The interesting thing that isn’t covered here is a definition of a brand. I know what I think it is – wikipedia’s take is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brand – but I’d love to know your take.

    Making money off just a blog (and a lot of social media) is increasingly difficult. Value allows you to make money, and too many blogs say the same stuff. You have to use those as part of a marketing strategy for a brand/product now – it’s all change.

    Social Media is just the vehicle, not the product/service. It has to be about something or it’s worthless and valueless.

  5. These are great thoughts, but I do think you need to make it clear who you’re speaking to. There are a lot of people whose sole purpose of even getting involved in social media is to promote themselves to meet people, not necessarily generate a “brand.” Most blogs started out as online journals for people to express their thoughts that they might not have shared otherwise [though it is, admittedly, sort of a cowardly way of doing so].

    But for those who are online to make a buck, then you couldn’t be more right. While some of my absolute favorite “blogstars,” as I like to call them, are full of entertainment value, I come away with nothing learned [which sometimes leaves me feeling like I've wasted my time].

    So thank you for promoting the idea of dedicating yourself and your personal brand to helping others. We need more of that!

  6. Excellent post (came from Chris Brogan’s RT from Scott Monty) and well put. It is a thin line between positioning yourself as the expert and actually being the expert. To echo what you said – if you create more things of value and maintain that – you will see the rewards of the hard work. Thanks for the thought on this.

  7. Interesting post. I agree that adding value should be the goal of utilizing social media. The me enthronement is just not very useful to anyone.

    Food for thought re: Tom Peters and life is a series of projects…Harvard Business Review, “Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail” Jan 1, 2007 by John Kotter (sorry about lack of link, requires HBR login), says projects are pointless without a clear, concise, crisp vision. The point being, take on projects that enable you to achieve your vision.

    I like the idea that no one is an island; that we depend on and even thrive on interacting with others. Should the goal of social media be to interweave personal visions for the greater good of the whole?

  8. If you look at the biggest brands of the last 10 years, Apple would stand out as the # 1 brand that created a product that was all about the user-and not really about Apple at all.

    Of course they have grown a huge ego, as well as slapping Microsoft around, but the iPod started out as a cardboard brick that “might” work out somehow.

    They designed it for the ultimate experience-to be able to take your music with you anywhere you wanted, and play what you wanted when you wanted to listen to it.

    And they made white cool again-expensive looking. Not cheap.

    They were making something that people wanted to get their hands on- a great user experience that people could share.

    My example might be off base as far as their motives are concerned, but I really do believe was a product that was all about the little guy. And it made them superstars once again.

  9. Rick – great post! I’m looking forward to reading the Fast Company article.

    For all the talk about personal branding over the last few months, it seems that those who actually are adding value (Chris Brogan, Scott Monty, Armano) tend to rise to the top, and those with inflated brands (like the rising group of “social media consultants”) don’t garner any real notice online.

    While you can easily write yourself a bio that says you are the smartest person on earth, at the end of the day I agree with Scott, it all comes down to how much value you add. I think that social media tends to be self-correcting over time… if you have a ton of time on your hands you can easily build a large twitter following, but you’ll get fewer RTs and more unfollows over time if you aren’t actually interesting.

    I do think that personal brands serve a purpose, the same way they do for “real” brands. The KEY is that you have to be able to deliver on the brand promise. I think that being aware of how you are perceived (which is your brand) is important – I personally made some changes to my social networking profiles when the audience changed from purely social to a mix of social and professional. This is brand management. The exercise (if done correctly) of building your personal brand can actually be valuable (focus on what your strengths are, how are you unique, build a blue-ocean strategy, etc). I think that it is important to consider how you are perceived in a professional capacity (there have been image consultants around forever)…. the issue is that online it seems easier to fake it and people suddenly become experts at everything… I don’t know if this has really changed (I see resumes like this all the time and talk to people who exaggerate their achievements) or just become more public and obvious as magnified by social media.

    Anyways, great, thought provoking article… Now off to write a new bio and get some more twitter followers “Krista Neher is an expert on everything…..”

  10. The second line of your post reads “Everyone has a website, blog, Twitter account and Facebook page and they aren’t afraid to use them.”

    Maybe in the world of PR and social media “everyone” does, but for most people, that’s far from the case. “Value” is not created by blog posts and constantly retweeting OPPs (Other People’s Posts) in the hope that they’ll retweet yours. It’s about actually doing something- be it arguing an important case before the Supreme Court or performing an incredibly complex surgical operation.

    That’s something too many in the closed bubble of tech and social media would do well to remember: that their online behavior is atypical, not typical- and that most people don’t use social media for anything other than being social.

    The ability to create a strong personal brand is always tied to actually doing something that other people admire.

    Whether that’s an achievable goal for most people is open for debate but in my opinion, it’s just another get-rich-quick scheme most people are bound to fail at.

  11. Your post is excellent – and jarring. In my view, the workers face different challenges from those the owners must deal with. It’s extremely important on economic, health, psychic, and spiritual levels to advance the idea of personal branding, so that the work force assumes appropriate self-responsibility as society speedily morphs these days. Brand is self knowledge; brand precedes product. Thoroughly understanding this means maximizing your gifts, and not wasting time in oppressive work environments.

    Branding for the worker is the individual’s answer to the question, “What can I offer to the world?” or perhaps, “What kind of transaction do I want to make with the world?”

    For the owner, in fairly typical American fashion, the profoundity of branding is often cheapened, with the activity of it narrowed down to creating a logo and advertising. Company brand can easily miss all the force and conviction of personal brand. Companies that keep it personal and compassionate thrive.

    I’m all for focusing on the product and offering real value. Me-centered advertising is just dumb. Huge budgets for advertising are dumb. Though you may work at your brand’s definition and power, in the end it’s completely out of your hands. It’s the world, your customers, other people who decide what your brand (your reputation) is. And what you do, not what you say, will shape it.

  12. [...] The Brand You is Dead. Long Live The Brand You Build. « eyecube via @chrisbrogan @scottmonty great article [...]

  13. Your article is so right on in terms of the over-use, even abuse, of personal branding.

    But, at the same time, I think a personal brand of YOU is NOT dead for everyone. If what you sell is services based on YOU (creative, consulting, inventions, TV appearances, etc.) the brand YOU is and should live for a long time. Here’s what I mean.

    People didn’t know what I was talking about when I “branded” myself in 1979. I was 17, living in Pakistan, and started “IMRAN” (of course, not being ego-driven, ;-) , I made it stand for Information & Media Resources, Affiliations & Networks. This was before the Internet era so people didn’t know what I was talking about.

    Over the years http://imran.com and http://imran.net as well as http://imran.TV served different business (and personal) purposes but I did not go crazy grabbing every single imran.* domain name available. Having had a domain name of my own since 1994, I am amused seeing people making online videos announcing their domain names as if it is a new high-tech development.

    I am using Twitter, and rarely retweet something unless truly funny or special. I have a linkedin page and adding up all the ‘contacts’ I now have like 7000 in my address book.

    In 2009 I am going to work hard – to prune that list.

    I will test each of the contacts with emails (as personalized as can be done with 7000) and see what I get in response. e.g. I will ask people to sign up for a free service I started (Live, Forever http://neternity.org ). Then I’ll send relevant links to others items of value I have on my site of use to THEM.

    Depending on who responds or takes action, I will start moving people into a “Phase Out” group.

    After seeing 2 or more non-responses from a person, I will know the person is merely BYTES on my hard disk, not a real contact or someone who adds value or even takes the value I offer. For them, it’s “You’ve Been Erased”, B’Bye.

    As my girlfriend says, she’d rather have 50 close and reliable contacts in her FaceBook profile instead of 5000.

    In the meantime, of course, feel free to check me out at imran.com , Twitter, FaceBook, etc. LOL

    All the best in 2009.

    IMRAN™

  14. Cool beans. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Thought-provoking piece. Whether a brand is about YOU, your company, or your political party (dare I add religion?), it’s a part of how you tell people who you are. It has become part of the cornerstone of the relationship.

    The problem is that too many people have forgotten that it is about the relationship and not just “he who has the most toys (followers, friends, etc.) wins.”

    When we meet someone face to face, most of us, knowing or unknowning, make a split-second decision about the person based on their appearance. That is part of that person’s brand. It’s how you present yourself to the world.

    The other trend that is happening here is the rise (thankfully) of more awareness of authenticity, which is where your references to Seth Godin and all play out. These people are consistent. The image you see when you first “meet” them, is the image that shows up again and again, no matter what the circumstances.

    For a brand to work today, IMHO, it needs to be consistant and authentic. People are deciding all the time, like it or not, whether or not they want to have a conversation with you. This is true online or off.

    Perhaps people have confused “brand” with a popularity contest?

  16. Great article, but I agree with Imran. I don’t believe that the You brand is dead and here’s why.

    Anyone focusing on themselves was not really out to brand themselves to begin with. The internet was simply another channel to say “Hey, look at me!” We have celebrities doing this already thanks to the media craze and the people who follow celebrity gossip. Some celebrities then try to take their popularity and make it a brand – a perfume, clothing line, etc. So in essence, popularity doesn’t necessarily make one a personal brand. Simple example – Paris Hilton is not a brand. The Hilton hotel chain is.

    However, there are those like the Gary Vaynerchuks of the world whose very names relate to a specific industry. Did he intentionally go out to make a name for himself or was he just bringing awareness to an industry or business? One can still end up branding oneself while branding a business. Chris Brogan wrote an interesting article about titles the other day, but it is hard to not acquire a title (or personal brand) while branding a business.

  17. [...] the only one. But recently, I’ve been giving some thought (mostly as a result of it being a hot conversation on the web) to the branding dimension of marketing, how it’s changing, and how it relates to the art of [...]

  18. Great blog. My organization is a 35 yr./old independent, non-profit education advocacy group. We are concerned about informing and convincing many stakeholders about the importance of neighborhood public schools, especially to poor, minority and other underserved students and families.
    We also market our services in a broad spectrum of public education needs, i.e., professional development for teachers, curriculum development and evaluation. Our brand & niche comes from the currency & validity of the data/information we provide and also from the quality of our training and technical assistance.
    What’s interesting about your article is that the personal is not discounted, because we are at the organizational service and product brand end of the continuum and perhaps need to highlight a bit more of the unique, strong and highly marketable skills of individuals within the organization.
    Thanks for your continued valuable information, so freely shared.

  19. Rick,

    Thank you for this article.

    For me, a personal brand is your promise to the world. It’s not what you say (on Facebook, Myspace) but what the marketplace perceives as the “value” that you bring there.

    I agree with you that the focus has shifted heavily towards a “social media popularity contest” in the name of “building your personal brand”

    The bedrock of a solid personal brand is “accomplishments” and the marketplace requires “proof” of those accomplishments before handing out the “marginal rewards” associated with a personal brand.

    Best Regards
    Raj

  20. [...] the only one. But recently, I’ve been giving some thought (mostly as a result of it being a hot conversation on the web) to the branding dimension of marketing, how it’s changing, and how it relates to the art of [...]

  21. Um, yeah! It’s what Scott said! It’s about helping people. LOL, great post.

    I really think your approach, and historical perspective dating back to the original F@st Company article says it all. In my mind, it gets back to the Smith Barney ads, “We do it the old fashioned way. We earn it.” Stop talking, start doing.

    Thank you for this… Now heading to delicious to bookmark it.

  22. Rick

    Eloquent and timely.

    In 08 I dubbed ‘edu brand meisters’ figjamers, but now I’ll have a better response, a link to this post.

    So much overlap, regardless of our specific domains or interests.

    In not for profit fields, the mini me’s don’t dominate, most share and add real value through their PLNs, even the expensive key noters, well most anyway.
    Thanks for the thought provoker,

    regards
    Tony

  23. Thanks — good post. I’ve been thinking, saying and doing this for a year now. You’re right, it’s easy to “build a brand” but hard to add value.

    kevin marks at google got me turned on the difference between organic and viral marketing.

    as i wrote last march,

    An organic campaign nourishes the hosts (or network nodes), and gains the social ‘word-of-mouth’ hyper-growth as the result of its direct benefit to the host. In fact, organic is not just about a marketing campaign, but should be integral in the design of the product in the first place, reducing the need for flashy or creative marketing.

    Take Facebook and LinkedIN as examples. Whether I’m reading the digerati or talking to close colleagues, professionals have become weary of widget spam on Facebook, because the widgets are noise, not signal. But new features from LinkedIN actually provide benefit to professionals, and are therefore quickly adopted. In this comparison, Facebook is viral, LinkedIN is organic.

    everything that doesn’t provide value will get wiped out in 2009 — no time for waste anymore.

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  25. I really agree with everything that you said. To many people strive and then brag about all those followers on twitter but what does it really mean in the end.

    I think there is a fair amount of people that do use these services correctly and as everything grows it simply becomes harder to find these people, but their there. I also think that the people who do provide content are the ones that really benefit from these services. So someone may have thousands of followers on twitter but for no particular reason, however if they follow me and I help them or they look to me for something then I get benefit from it.

    So it may not matter if some people don’t use the services correctly if you can find a way to reach them and get them to look to you for help, advice or whatever you do.

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  27. You are right. I want to offer value to others. I will try hard to do so.

  28. Fantastic post! And more importantly, you are doing what you preach, “creating something that other people can interact with and even contribute to”, whether it is the communities, the art project or the altruistic Facebook group that you started, How can I help you in 2009, http://www.facebook.com/inbox/?ref=mb#/group.php?gid=57860431296

    Well done, you have set the tone for 2009.

  29. Hmmnnnn……very thoughtful article, Rick.

    Although I think I’m in a slightly different game, as my business is not in creating brands or innovating brand new markets or that I’m even heavily linked into the social media web, there are aspects of this that do hold true to what I have to offer, what it’s value is and how I build it, while still making it “accessible” to people (as the way in which people find what is of value to them has hugely changed in the last decade, and seems even more apparent to me in the last 5).

    And I have to admit, it’s something I have and continue to struggle with, walking that fine line of being authentic, honest and having some weight behind what is offered and the draw of falling into the game of “Look at Me”. With all the “Hey, look at me….me…..you’ll love…..me……my cat scratched (link to buy something) my face off *WTF* and now I’m a huge fan of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt (link to buy something) as I search for the one who I will have twins ( link to buy something) with so they can bake blueberry pies for my neighbors (link to buy something) dogs *LOL*….aren’t I soooo funny…..me…..by the way you should buy something…..me, as it’s the greatest thing I have to offer the world.”, along with the ridiculous number of people who follow that stuff (which honestly blows my mind), you can see it’s influence on how businesses market themselves, brand themselves, to get the same attention.

    There aren’t any limits on how much you can sing your own praises (due to it’s next to no cost of doing it on the internet) and therefore many will get swept along with the hype. Sifting thru it all and finding ideas, services or products that really hold any value is not easy. And seeing that from a consumer/customer stand point, then translating that over to the business/product/ service provider, you feel like if you don’t do the same, then people won’t “see” you, let alone even get a chance to see whether you have anything of value to offer in the first place.

    You’ve got stuff buzzing about in my head. Thank you for the great article. I’ve found something of great value here (and value there is, as it reaches beyond what appears to be the target audience) that will undoubtedly be of assistance to me as I continue forward with creating a “brand” that has something beneficial to offer others.

    Shane.

  30. This is a valuable read that goes hand in hand with Seth Godin’s Tribes.

    Thanks for the food for thought…

  31. [...] The Brand You is Dead. Long Live The Brand You Build. « eyecube [...]

  32. We’ve been blogging for months without income and are building a brand for angelic symbols, life in the galaxy, The Jesus Opal and gregoryandshelina thinking that we might build up a following for seminars and our books but it hasn’t happened because we didn’t have the foundation of a website. It seems that alot of the twitter is advertising but we still do it. Just found out twit for The Jesus Opal showing up in the google search which was a nice surprise. We agree with you totally that you have to help people and are learning that perhaps its best to answer the replys on the blogs to interact with people even if some of them are hard to answer. Thank you for a great article!

  33. Great article. Thanks so much. I’ve started blogging recently to promote my novels but had been feeling a bit sheepish about the whole thing. Two good points I’m taking from this article: one, provide something of value (I’ll have to think what!) and two, keep 70 percent of my time for writing my books.

  34. Thanks for a great post that addresses a lot of things that have perplexed me of late, as well. Defining a what “brand” means tends to expose lots of confusion and engender interesting discussion.

    Here is how I have come to define a brand:
    Your brand IS your reputation. Reputations are largely made by word of mouth, so what people think of your or your business is a by-product of not only your actions, but also other people’s reactions to them. Therefore you cannot entirely control your reputation, or brand. So your reputation, or brand, comes from the relationship between your actions and people’s reaction to them.

    What is off kilter is the world’s loosey-goosey ideas of what branding means. When you meet a very attractive person who has nothing to contribute, you lose interest. So it is with brands. Sustainable brands are not superficial, but integral and fundamental. They act with integrity, that is: all parts working together in an integrated fashion with a larger purpose in mind. There is a recurring recognizable element in all that they do.

    This is one consideration that is often overlooked: people and companies also choose NOT to do certain things in order to have a strong reputation, or brand. In my mother’s day, girls had to be very careful not to do any number of things, in order to maintain their “reputation.” So jumping on the bandwagon du jour is not something a strong brand would do without thoughtful purpose. Strong brands chart their own course, set new standards. They take the new tools and find fascinating ways to apply them.

    As for the world’s obsession with “projects,” I have had the same lament. There is a real prevalent tendency toward randomness and rush with no methodical purpose. There is a reason that the evil-doers in “Get Smart” were named “Chaos.”

    And Maryhruth, you are right. Owners of companies make many rash subjective decisions based upon ego, confusing themselves with the company’s brand, and many a marketer has suffered for trying to look out for their best interests trying to keep the plan objective, brand-wise. “Might makes right” is not a good marketing plan, because the customer is left out of that equation. Whatever we do, we must ask, “is there a net gain for both the customer and the business?”

  35. Excellent post and insights. I’d like to add an important insight that aligns completely with your observations.

    The key to your whole point (IMHO) is the quote – “His idea of a personal brand was one that provided value. Unique value that set you apart from others.” Later, however, you expand on the quote, with the additional quote “Start thinking like your own favorite brand manager..ask yourselves: What is it that my product or service does that is different?”

    Here in lies the fundamental problem I see in marketing, “branding,” and selling today – the focus has become “being different” rather than creating “unique value.”

    We forget (or at least seem to forget) that if we create UNIQUE value, we are – by definition – different. The key is to define value. My definition of creating value is doing something that someone would be willing to pay more for – and you do that by solving a meaningful problem for someone.

    So there you have it you create unique value when you solve a meaningful problem that no one else is solving. When you do that, people buy from you, hire you, read your stuff – whatever you want.

    If we would all stop focusing on “being different” and instead focus on ways that we can uniquely solve meaningful problems, we’d all have powerful brands.

  36. The understanding of brands is perverted by the verb Branding.

    A brand is in fact not what the brand manager thinks it is, it is what the customer or other externals think it is. In the short term brand understanding can be created, in the long term brands can only be the experience that others have of them.

    Brands are about value.

    Good brands are simple and mean a very specific thing. My personal brand is one thing “the brand is you” but any product or service I create is something different, Seth Godin is a brand Triibes and Squidoo are their own brand.

    Can you create a brand of nothing?, no you cant, but you can spread the word of a brand that delivers value from nowhere.

    Branding delusions
    covers some of this.

  37. what a breath of fresh air. the incessant pissing match and circle jerk of the social media “experts” online is sickening.

  38. way to go rick! very insightful post…i have officially been inspired today & you have provided real value to me.

    don’t be surprised if you see a link referencing this insightful post on m-cause soon.
    –ryan

  39. Absolutely the value has to be behind the brand. But personal branding is still essential. Case in point: ME, Susan Ireland.

    I’m a professional resume writer who established a fine reputation in the SF Bay Area through one-on-one sessions and workshops back in the 1990s when career fairs and career centers were in concrete structures that you walked into. When Monster, Careerbuilder, and others got big, those concrete buildings were no longer needed, so I moved my presentations online to my website, which I branded with the URL, susanireland.com.

    All my efforts went into making my site one of high value: a free source of all I thought job seekers needed to know about resume writing. But what I didn’t do was promote my personal brand outside what search engines could crawl. I didn’t market my personal brand through blogs, social networks, and other forums. As more and more resume sites came into existence, my site became just another resume site, even though the value of its contents is, IMHO, remarkable.

    My challenge is to speak up on Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, etc. I continue to work on the value behind my brand, but promoting myself (my brand) doesn’t come easily for me.

    I know others are in the same boat. (As a resume writer I’ve worked with 100s of highly qualified job seekers who have trouble putting in writing their qualifications.) Not everyone promoting their personal brand is saying “Look at me,” for the sake of her ego. Some of us actually have trouble saying, “Look at me,” yet when someone comes to us for our expertise, we’re ready and able to provide very high value.

    Thank you for the post. What I take away from it is how to build my personal brand: with more value. I can say, “Look at THIS (the new value I bring to the table),” instead of “Look at me.”

  40. [...] ultimately the smart will stay smart, and reputations will sooner or later return to their ultimate barometer: Performance. While brand affilitiation may work for a period of time, without core value many lesser composite [...]

  41. [...] It’s Not About You. Seriously, it’s not about you or your personal brand. It’s about everyone else. Shine the spotlight on others. Celebrate their successes. Brag [...]

  42. [...] I think we as marketers, strategists, consultants and social media participants need to re-think what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. [...]

  43. Hey Rick – thanks for the comment… Definitely enjoyed your post and insights, and I think that you said some things that both Geoff and I missed, or didn’t touch on. Certainly didn’t mean to make it sound like I was dissing you or anything… just is my writing style… :)

    Definitely enjoyed it and am looking forward to reading more of your thoughts!!
    C

  44. [...] this week I wrote about where Social Media has taken The Brand Called You concept. I took issue with the practice of measuring your personal brand by how many Twitter followers or [...]

  45. [...] from Eyecube rails against the personal branding phenomenon. He argues (correctly, I believe) that it is about value and not chasing [...]

  46. [...] The Brand You is Dead. Long Live The Brand You Build. Talks about the importance of creating value in your personal brand – not just having one for self promotion. Good stuff! [...]

  47. This is explosive and timely. Aside from value adding, the time we are in is time for value accelaration. Keep adding value instead of self , ego promotion. but I am of the opinion that Brand You is not dead but still alive and well.
    There will always be counterfeits in everything. The fact that there is a shadow is an indication that the real object is close.

  48. [...] first article discusses or shall we say disses the notion of the crazy online personal brand building. I tend to [...]

  49. Very insightful and thoughtful post. As a recent newbie to the social media bandwagon who is trying to figure out where it all fits for my law practice, I think you have very accurately captured the frustration I feel as I try and take a sip of water from this Web 2.0 firehose. Way too many of the FB pages, Twitter pages, et al seem to simply be inwardly focused and not relevant. My general rule these days is if someone is tweeting more than a couple of times a day, then I dump them. They are too focused on Brand You.

  50. [...] consciously creating and communicating a “brand.” It’s focused on Me, not You. As ‘Eyecube’ writes: … the inward-looking focus on branding yourself is no longer the best way to serve yourself [...]

  51. [...] “I certainly agree with you that you don’t build a brand just by promoting yourself on social media. As a matter of fact, [...]

  52. [...] — oops reputation — is a distraction from the company’s real purpose, which is serving its stakeholders in the marketplace with true value. This is a basic tenant of public [...]

  53. [...] is an interesting article posted by EYECUBE that discusses an issue I raised in an earlier post  about brand you.  what are your thoughts on [...]

  54. [...] The Brand You is Dead. Long Live the Brand You Build. [...]

  55. [...] Liebling waves “Bye-Bye” to The Brand Called You. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback [...]

  56. [...] say start building your brand, I said start building a brand. Read my The Brand You is Dead post here. What do I mean by that? I’m not that impressed by the number of followers you have on [...]

  57. [...] = 'eyecube'; Several months ago I challenged the notion of personal branding, suggesting that there is more value in creating something external to yourself that brings value [...]

  58. [...] excellent post from Rick Liebling at Eyecube on the philosophy of The Brand Called You. His take – the idea is dead.  Now the focus is on “The Brand You Build.”  How [...]

  59. [...] private media, customer marketing, branded content and so on. Rick Liebling (@eyecube) calls this branding. For the most part, aren’t they all pretty much the same [...]

  60. [...] media sites and focus on differentiation, relevance and value. That’s the message behind The Brand You is Dead – shared by @SocialBees. @KimVallee provides 5 good tips for how to write better blog posts. [...]

  61. […] private media, customer marketing, branded content and so on. Rick Liebling (@eyecube) calls this branding. For the most part, aren’t they all pretty much the same […]

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