There are many, many good reasons for building a personal brand in
business – people buy from people after all. The more you are known the
more likely people are to do business with you; or else why would we all
spend so much time networking in both real and virtual worlds?
But brand has to be built on substance,
Look at last years contestants at The Apprentice. There was one young
man who insisted that he was a brand. Lord Sugar’s associates in the
interview process quickly showed him that he wasn’t a brand, just a very
silly boy. Where he went wrong was to confuse brand with personality.
He certainly had a big opinion of himself and an inflated view of his
own abilities but he was not a brand. To repeat, in my opinion brand has
to be built on substance and he had none – I can’t even remember his
But can brand be built on air; the hot air of publicity perhaps?
Look at Jordan. Though she now prefers to be known as Katy Price her
brand was built as Jordan. If you talk about Jordan everyone knows who
you mean and what the Jordan brand is. She built the brand solely on her
looks and her abilty to make the front pages of magazines and tabloids.
It is here at the boundary between brand and celebrity that we start
to encounter problems. I meet lots of women who tell me that they are
building a brand – they are not. They are networking for dear life,
starting their own networks in order to be the centre of attention,
writing books about themselves and desperately trying to get onto what
they see as the lucrative speaking circuit. They are not building a
brand with substance; they are courting celebrity. Their name may well
be known, but for what? For being “that woman off of the telly”?
And from the other side of the fence; what happens when a celebrity
feels that they are a brand and that they need to protect that brand?
Think Tiger Woods here. Not just a golfer but a range of equipment
and clothing and the face of lots of other products with a brand built
on his sporting prowess and his promotion of family values. His brand
collapsed when news of his repeated adultery hit the press. His actions
had undermined his message and his brand.
Here in the UK we have heard lots about the injunctions and
superinjunctions taken out by TV and sports personalities to protect
Consider Andrew Marr. His brand was built around his credentials as
an investigative journalist. His brand was damaged more by the
revelation that he had taken out a gagging order to prevent other
journalists from reporting on his affair than it ever would have been by
revelation of the affair itself.
So by all means build a brand but make sure that it is a brand that
stands for something – that you are not just courting celebrity. And
make sure that your brand is aligned to your values so that your actions
can never betray your brand.