Monday 28 July 2014

Branding people is wrong

In my early days in branding, there was a lot of talk about brands being like people. One brand had a "sophisticated, witty, inspiring" personality. There was another one that was continually "reinventing itself according to the Zeitgeist", like Madonna. Yet another was "your best friend, who truly understands you and is always there when you need her, for tips and advice."

This stuff was all very well up to a point, as long as those bright young marketing people remembered it was just an analogy. But it often got out of hand, with those oh-so-keen execs wittering on about what their brand "wanted" or "needed" or being obsessed with consistency, such that the sophisticated, witty and inspiring personality was apparent at every possible touchpoint - and any signs of imperfection or irrationality were clouted promptly with a large Corporate Design manual.

The point is, it is a mistake to attribute human emotions to something non-human - or worse still - inanimate. You are welcome to love a brand but it is not going to repay your love. Your loyalty, perhaps, but not your love, because it can't.

The tables have now turned with the rise of social media and we hear less about brands as people, and more about people as brands. An entire industry of writers, coaches, courses and programmes is devoted to Personal Branding. 27m plus Google results popped up on the subject. There are thousands of books on the subject on amazon.

Some people have set out to be brands - it's their personal ambition, which is OK if you too want to be "as famous as Persil." But for others, I'd be very wary of being treated (or treating yourself) like a packet of soap powder (or a luxury car if the soap powder stuff makes you squeamish!).

Self-promotion is not the same as self-expression. Self-promotion is about self-packaging - defining everything from your appearance, your online presence and which areas of your skills or knowledge are going to pushed - and what is going to be hidden. And someone - you or your publicist - will be  making a decision about which of those factors will be associated with success.

If you are going to blow your own trumpet, it's a good idea to learn to play it first.

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