Unbranded You

Over the years, Tom Peters has entertained and sometimes stimulated me. An interesting and, I suspect, a humane man. My sense is that when he launched his concept of Brand You back in 1997 he saw it as a clarion call for individual freedom. But it’s a funny kind of freedom he’s advocating here:
“You’re every bit as much a brand as Nike, Coke, Pepsi, or the Body Shop. To start thinking like your own favourite 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? Give yourself the traditional 15-words-or-less contest challenge. Take the time to write down your answer. And then take the time to read it. Several times.
If your answer wouldn’t light up the eyes of a prospective client or command a vote of confidence from a satisfied past client, or — worst of all — if it doesn’t grab you, then you’ve got a big problem. It’s time to give some serious thought and even more serious effort to imagining and developing yourself as a brand.
Start by identifying the qualities or characteristics that make you distinctive from your competitors — or your colleagues. What have you done lately — this week — to make yourself stand out? What would your colleagues or your customers say is your greatest and clearest strength? Your most noteworthy (as in, worthy of note) personal trait?”

When I first read this all those years ago It felt like a trap, a way of fitting oneself as an acceptable cog into the marketplace, a way of diminishing who you are. Since then I have become increasingly disturbed by the way that Tom Peters’ rap has taken hold. So it was with a jolt of pleasure at a truth well told when I read Josh Kamler’s, “Personal Branding is Nonsense”:
“My target market? My unique difference? My ass. Personal branding misses the point: people are not brands and they’re not companies. They are, uh, people. And there’s all this gooey, messy, intuitive, emotional, vibe-type stuff that humans innately get. Sure, we want to be perceived a certain way by other people, but that perception is allowed to change. In fact, it’s supposed to change.
We are unpredictable, and inconsistent—even to our closest friends—and we like that, because we see ourselves in each other. We learn how to be better people (yes, that includes career stuff) by allowing ourselves to change as we wish, by watching our fellow humans fall down and get up, and by admantly refusing to define ourselves in 15 words or less.”

Amen to that and go and read the whole piece.

One thought on “Unbranded You”

  1. I catch your drift.
    Part of me resonates with the sound bite and the elevator speech and part of me really feels a stong connection to genuine real connections.
    I keep thinking of that old cowboy show that had the theme song that went something like this: “Branded, scorned as the one who ran, what do you do when you’re branded and you know you’re a man, wherever you go for the rest of your live your a man…branded!”
    Thanks for helping me not drift into an easy brand and think about where I am headed.

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