Most of us interested in personal branding are only seeking enough knowledge on the subject to get ourselves in trouble, or forcing us into a victim of what I like to call “small fish, big pond” syndrome. We’ve all heard that we might be a big fish in a small pond, but what happens when we move into a bigger pond? We’re surrounded by bigger fish. Being a fish of roughly the same size, or smaller than everyone around you is killing your brand. Rather than taking your branding efforts and going back to the small pond, why not differentiate yourself from the same fish in the big pond with a few simple tricks.
You aren’t living your passion
The saying goes; “If you wouldn’t do what you are currently doing for free, you shouldn’t be doing it.”
How true is that? I’d do my job for free. I’d be living in a box, but at least on an ideological level it’s something that I’d be willing to do every day for the rest of my life without earning a cent of revenue. Of course this isn’t possible, but it wasn’t said to be practical, it was something that was meant to make you ask questions about what you are doing, and what you want to be doing instead.
Gary Vaynerchuk is a prime example of an internet celebrity that rose through the ranks by living his passion – wine. With the right amount of pavement pounding and his “work your face off” attitude, Gary was able to grow his personal brand to the point of not just being a successful online entrepreneur, but a face that’s recognizable offline as well.
How are the guru’s in their respective field going to tell people that hard work and finding a topic that you are passionate about is all you need to succeed? The guru’s aren’t even passionate about their fields. They’re teaching internet marketing… not how to love a glass of wine, or decide whether a ’03 Chianti is superior to an ’04. A guru that becomes a guru for money is quickly joining the small pond.
wandering in to staying out of the deep end
One of my common gripes with the personal branding crowd is that they just don’t get it. They put on their suits, get a professional picture taken, throw it on Twitter and regurgitate information and all the while this is their idea of branding. This isn’t branding, this is making you a generic face completely indiscernible from the millions of other marketers, entrepreneurs, and gurus that want to position themselves for success. This is the small fish, small pond syndrome I spoke of earlier. No matter how big of a fish you are, you start to look smaller when surrounded by equally-sized fish.
I hate gurus. I hate them because they are missing the point of what it is to be a guru. To be a guru, one doesn’t need to position themselves as a guru, they just become one. If you know more about a topic than the average person, you aren’t a guru. A guru is someone that has devoted their career to defining one particular niche, not someone who is posturing and attempting to trick others into believing that because of their professional picture, and their 500 connections on LinkedIn, and their “insightful” Twitter updates that they are an expert in their field. Once again, small fish, small pond.
To truly differentiate yourself in this competitive world, you can’t just tell people you are different, you have to be different. Be opinionated. Be controversial. Be a jerk from time to time. Just be something. Jump into the deep end, and force yourself to survive on who you really are, and not just who you want the public to perceived you as.
You just aren’t creative enough
Easier said than done, right? Creative branding is just that… creative. If you want to differentiate yourself from others, you have to find ways to do it that haven’t been done – or – find a way to do it better than those who did it before you. Any tips I provide here are just going to be my ideas, and they probably won’t work for your brand. Find what works for your brand, and then maximize your returns to implementing these ideas.
Have a crazy sense of humor? Embrace it!
Love to cook? How about creating a recipe for success?
Have a last name that stands out? Use it to your benefit ala my good friend Rick Butts.
The key to personal branding isn’t to create a professional version of yourself and then dance him around in front of as many eyes as possible. You aren’t looking to create a reputation as a generic, suit-wearing, headshot are you? The idea is to take your quirks, your passions, and your ideals and mold those into your brand. Those who succeed in this competitive world are those that know how to get the most from their unique personalities. You aren’t Dan Schawbel; quit trying to be. Instead, be yourself. You’ll find that it simplifies the process all while embracing the real you.