Debunking Personal Brand Cultural Myths: Part 1

Personal Branding

Personal branding is relatively a new concept in many parts of the world. Many cultures feel it smacks of ‘western egoism’. As such, a big part of my job in Japan is to educate others about personal branding and the value it has for Japanese culture.

If you ask Japanese if they have heard of “personal branding,” 99% of the time they will not know. Personal branding is simply not part of the culture and so naturally people are not aware of it. When I explain what it is, I inevitably get a ‘2-part reaction’.

Part 1: “That sounds really interesting and Japanese people need to do this.”

Part 2: “But, I am Japanese and I cannot brand myself because….”

What usually follows the ‘because’ is one of a handful of misconceptions, misunderstandings or myths about personal branding.

For the next month each week I am going to share one of these ‘myths’ of personal branding. While these are myths I am debunking within Japanese culture, they can easily be debunked in other cultures around the world as well.

Personal Branding Cultural Myth #1: “I have to give up my group identity”

The foundation of this myth comes from Japanese being educated from childhood to be self-effacing and to put the group ahead of one’s own interest. The idea of understanding your unique attributes and using them to stand out to differentiate yourself from others is a challenging concept. People’s main concern is their in-group identity rather than their individuality.

How to Debunk This Myth

Personal branding does not mean isolating yourself from others. Rather, it is understanding yourself better so that you can add more value to your business, company, or career. Especially in “we” cultures like Japan, you need to stay focused on how your brand creates value for the group.

One way of doing this articulating how your personal brand provides SMART (specific, measurable, achieveable, realistic, and timely) benefits to the team or organization. For example,

“By using my passionate drive for success, our team is empowered to reach our quarterly department goals 1 month ahead of schedule.”

Remember, the diversity that the individual brings to the group does not come at the expense of others but rather empowers the group to reach a common goal. When the group understands how your unique value supports a larger group goal that they are also committed to, you become more memorable and your in-group identity is maintained.

Stay tuned for part 2 next week!


Peter Sterlacci is known as “Japan’s personal branding pioneer” and is one of only 15 Master level Certified Personal Branding Strategists in the world. He is introducing a leading global personal branding methodology to companies and careerists in Japan and adapting it for the Japanese culture. In a culture where fitting-in is the norm, his mission is to pioneer a ‘cultural shift’ by helping Japanese to stand out in a global environment. His background spans over 21 years in intercultural consulting, international outreach, and global communication coaching.