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    I took a week vacation, where I was barely online (it costs 59 cents per minute to use the cruise ship internet service) and I thought really hard about all the criticism that personal branding has received in 2009.  I’ve heard rants from people who think personal branding is selfish and others from people who view personal branding as being not authentic. I don’t get discouraged or upset by any of these opinions because people fear what they don’t understand (a line I got from The Dark Night movie) and since it’s the “hot buzz word,” people are getting annoyed hearing it all of the time.

    I dedicated this post to people who disagree with personal branding, but care enough about it to voice their opinions online.

    If you’re a personal branding expert or enthusiast, you may use this post to help others understand what the concept is all about.

    What the critics say about personal branding (and my responses)

    Rather than hide the criticisms over the past year, I’d like to shed light on some of the one’s that have caught my eye. The blue italicized sentences after each remark are my interpretations of personal branding.

    • “Personal branding makes you afraid.”
      If you’re confident about your brand then you’re proud instead of afraid.
    • “Could another term downplay the marketing connotation that risks reducing human beings to commodities?” Human beings start off as commodities and by way of personal branding, they can stand for something, achieve greatness and become visible to their audience.
    • “I’m just saying all this ballyhoo about ‘branding’ is nothing more than simple, basic marketing.”
      Most people don’t have marketing backgrounds (marketing isn’t taught to non-marketing majors) and the internet has forced us to all become marketers of our own brands using social media tools that are free and allow us to connect to our audience, employers, etc.
    • “Personal branding is like religious evangelism: if you don’t buy into it, you’re going to hell.”
      If you don’t buy into someones personal brand, then you have the authority to unsubscribe to their blog, unfollow them on Twitter, etc.  The world is opt-in, so you get to select your own religion.
    • “Personal branding is often an ego-based image based on communications.”
      When personal branding becomes ego-based, the ego is usually deflated by an audience that can move elsewhere fairly easily.  Everyone in the world has an ego and it’s how they behave that accounts for their brand (and how they’re perceived).

    As you can see, this is opinion based and the disagreement is the result of a misunderstanding of the concept.

    The idea behind the concept

    If you disagree with the concept of personal branding, then you might agree with the idea behind the concept, which is marketing yourself to stand out from the crowd.  No one can deny that the world population is growing exponentially and that with that larger pool of people comes massive competition.  The competition puts us under great pressure to stand out and be known amongst the people vying for the same opportunities as us.

    Here is another way how you can look at it:

    • Problem: competition
    • Goal: standing out
    • Solution: personal branding (you can replace this with self-marketing if that makes you feel more comfortable)

    The idea wasn’t formed when people starting blogging or when Tom Peters wrote about it in Fast Company on August 1st, 1997.  Personal branding has been around forever!  How did you ever find out about Christopher Columbus if you weren’t born during that age?  You read textbooks about him and watched the history channel on TV.  Same with the dinosaurs as well.  The tyrannosaurus rex is a brand and you describe the creature as ferocious and it’s branded as “the king of the dino’s.”  Everything has always been branded/described/labeled, but it wasn’t until social media took off before people start seeing themselves as a brand.

    Why is there a lot of buzz about personal branding now?

    There’s no question that social media is the fuel that is making personal branding a common term used in our language now. The reason why it’s happening is because all types of brands have the same privileges now and branding has been taken down to a personal level.  For instance, the fact that Britney Spears, Oprah, Comcast, a small pizza place in Chicago, a local dry cleaners in my town and everyone else can have a profile, a website and a blog now, makes it obviously and apparent that branding is everything.  The issue isn’t branding though because that already exists as long as you let it.  The main concern is making a brand and a reputation.

    5 Questions you should ask to people who disagree with personal branding

    1. Do you know how you’re being perceived by the people that surround your life?
    2. Have you ever been called something over and over again but dismissed it?
    3. Are you pursuing your dream or someone else’s dream?
    4. If I Google your name or search for it on Facebook, what will I get?  Are you proud of it?
    5. Has any kind of visibility, online or offline, generated leads, love interest or opportunities for you?

    Your turn

    Do you agree with personal branding?  Do your friends?

    Dan Schawbel is the Managing Partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm. He is the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin’s Press) and the #1 international bestselling book, Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future (Kaplan Publishing), which combined have been translated into 15 languages.

    Posted in Marketing, Misc, Personal Branding
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