Today personal branding is a very fashionable concept. Some call it self-marketing (or personal marketing). But do you really know what it refers to? How is it different from career management? And how is it relevant to you today? This article aims to give you a quick tour of what personal branding is all about to demystify preconceived ideas and give you tools to start building your own personal brand identity.
Kim K, Queen B and you do the same thing
When we hear the names of Kim Kardashian, Taylor Swift, or Beyonce, it immediately creates a vivid image in our minds, as if we personally knew these women (well, kinda, in a way), we could trust them, we would like to have them as friends. But Kim's scathing attitude, Tay Tay's class, and Beyonce's friendliness are certainly not attributes we experienced directly. How then can these public figures have this effect of closeness and authenticity, this powerful ability to communicate with a mass of strangers? The answer, of course, lies in their effective personal branding.
Naturally, these three women are helped by a whole team to get the most out of their positive online presence, to advise them on their style of clothing, and even to correct their way of speaking. But in our ultra-connected era, where anyone can become an Instagram star and where competition is fierce in both the job market and the business world, personal branding becomes an important tool for quite a few people. This guy, that celebrity, you, your local convenience store, a freelance website designer... you get the idea.
What the heck is personal branding?
At the frontier between communications science, psychology, and advertising-marketing, personal branding is the practice of applying to an individual the concepts generally reserved for corporate brands, all with the goal of creating and managing one's own positioning in the marketplace.
For those who are not marketing students, here is a more precise definition of branding from a commercial point of view. According to the site Marketing Definitions, branding is ‘a marketing or advertising logic that seeks above all to position a brand in the consumer's mind. Here we will be talking about qualitative attributes such as notoriety, image, credibility, attitude, and quantitative attributes such as direct sales, store visits, etc.’ With personal branding, the same concepts are used, but in different ‘sales contexts’.
Users, the Web, and your personal brand
Thanks to Web 2.0, it is easier than ever to spread a personal brand, whether on social media, blogs, or online networks. Indeed, it is now possible to reach an audience once reserved for entities with significant marketing resources. But beware, a brand takes a lot of work if you want to adequately and consistently communicate an individual's value proposition.
And like any brand, a good strategy will allow you to target the right audiences and achieve the desired results in less time. Because everyone knows that if your name is Chanel or Yves Saint-Laurent, you probably won't want to sell your products to the people who usually shop at H&M. It's the same principle with promoting your brand.
But what is the point of personal branding, anyway?
If you're from Generation Y or Z, you know very well that the employment landscape has changed since the days of our parents. With globalization, the ever-increasing graduation rate, and the fierce competition within companies for management positions, it is no longer enough to have a bachelor's degree and a great attitude to find a job that matches your skills. This is where personal branding takes on its full meaning.
Whether it's for:
• Finding a better job, with better pay and more rewarding; • Building a network of customers for your business and boosting your sales; • Nurturing your professional network and exposing yourself to new opportunities; • Build an online presence and build a community for your blog, your project, your passion; • Launch yourself into entrepreneurship; • Manage your reputation, online or offline…
… you will need marketing techniques to show to your contacts, customers, or employers that you are the right person to solve their problem. In short, you will need to show that you are someone they want to have on their side at all costs.
Isn’t it the same as career management?
As an individual, we feel a certain discomfort in perceiving ourselves as a product. This is normal. Perhaps a less harsh way of looking at it is to think of it as the "qualified self," the sum of our education, skills, abilities, qualifications, and work experience. This does not represent our complete personality, but a facet that employers are looking for, and that makes you a unique resource in the work context.
Career management is therefore a section of personal branding that focuses on professional mobility. And whoever says professional mobility also says financial mobility. So for many people, personal branding will be first and foremost an instrument to climb the career ladder to accumulate the greatest capital possible - be it financial or reputational - through employment.
Personal branding for entrepreneurs too?
On the other hand, if you are an entrepreneur (and therefore don't have to promote yourself to an employer), personal branding is also for you. Because in the beginning, you will have to sell yourself, maybe even more than your product! Building a bond of trust with your customers will mainly be based on the image you project from the first contacts.
It is therefore wrong to associate personal branding with career management only. It would be more accurate to see the former as a very important subset of the latter. Finally, whether you are an entrepreneur, a student, or an individual looking to advance your career, everyone benefits from mastering certain concepts of self-marketing.