Branding yourself is very similar to how you brand a product.  The goal of branding is to differentiate the product (you) among all of the other products in the marketplace in order to achieve your business objectives and goals.  Defining the product brand, attributes and market position must encompass all aspects of the brand when you are branding yourself.  That is to say, if you want to brand yourself – you can’t just brand little pieces of what you share with others.  You must be totally committed to convey the attributes intended for the brand to be successful.

The Limits of Branding

There are also constraints on what is in scope when you brand yourself. Think of the very public failures encountered by people who branded themselves as something that didn’t align with reality. The guy who brands himself as a family man, wholesome, sober and upstanding is later found to have been engaged in activity that was something out of sync with these publicly branded attributes.  The brand was destroyed and lost all credibility due to a lack of integrity and authenticity.  Take special care when branding yourself that when you “change your attributes” that the concern is presentation or style, not personality or who you are as a human being.   Always stay true to who you are and be authentic.  Keeping the brand based in reality builds credibility, authenticity, and loyalty.   

With that said, branding yourself requires you to be tactful and use common sense.  Think about how using common sense applies to you as you begin the process of branding yourself.   You have be be self-confident and unafraid to brand yourself, but you also must be cognizant of the line demarking sharing too much information.   I’m not really sure anybody wants or needs to know what kind of toilet paper you use, or if you fold your toilet paper or wad it up into a ball when you wipe your butt.

The Process of Branding

There are several steps that one should use when branding yourself.  The process is closely related to steps used when branding a product other than yourself.  Are you a can of green beans with a pretty label grown on a corporate farm and shipped from several States away?   Or, are you a box of organically grown green beans from a local farm that doesn’t use pesticides and available to be purchased in bulk?   The only thing common in the last two sentence is that the product sold is green beans.   Branding the product and the associated attributes of the brand are incidental to the green beans themselves.  Attributes should also be incidental when you are branding yourself.   That is to say, packaging and marketing can be adjusted – but not the green beans.  And this also applies to you.  You be you.

Branding Yourself 101

Step 1: Define your aspirations. Clearly, and with specificity, define your goals.  Remember, you are branding yourself. Is your goal to become known for producing fine art? Do you want to be known for teaching art?  Do you want to use your voice-over talent in documentaries?  Why are you branding yourself? |
Step 2: Conduct research. Look at those who have already achieved the aspirations you outlined.  Can you learn from them, both the good and not so good branding techniques?   How have others achieved similar goals?  Remember, any bad lesson learned is a future bad lesson avoided.  List a few of your biggest competitors (people who have similar goals as yourself) and list what they are doing to brand themselves.
Step 3: Determine your brand attributes. When people think about you, what do you want people to think.  Said another way, what adjectives do you want people to use to describe you, or what do they associate with you?  Branding yourself involves more than selecting channel art or a website logo.  Branding yourself requires you to align your goals with how your brand (you) will be perceived by potential customers and fans.
Step 4: Assess your current branding status. How do people currently define you? Don’t be afraid to ask for opinions.  After you have some valid feedback, conduct an honest assessment about how large the gap is between your current status of perception and how you want others to perceive you?  You’ll likely need to change something – so think about what needs to change, and why things need to change.  It could be something as simple as wearing clothes associated with your brand goal, or other similar attributes.    Personally, I would draw the line at any modification of your core self.   I would suggest that you change your goals to match who you are rather than try to change something about yourself to fit into a preconceived marketing niche.   Remember, you need to be true to who are you in order to be perceived as authentic. Your personal attributes will likely align with your desired brand persona if you’re honest with yourself.   Someone interested in being a glam rock star is not likely to be comfortable dressed as an Amish farmer in their everyday life.
Step 5: Create an action plan. Your action plan should include more than just branding yourself in social media.   Branding yourself as a product means that all aspects of your public persona needs to be managed.  Characteristics of branding yourself includes attire, grooming, behavior, verbal and nonverbal communication, mannerisms and associations.  Specific social media aspects in your action plan need to convey these attributes consistently across all platforms, and you should define how you will use each of those aspects to build brand recognition that matches the desired attributes..
Step 6: Manage your time.  The action plan for branding yourself should also include a monthly editorial calendar.   In a spreadsheet, list all of the days in the month, and then list the different social media platforms in which your brand should be visible. You don’t need to be on all social media – think about where you need to be active to achieve your goals.   Be strategic and actively engage on the platforms most likely to help you meet your goals.  Plan and list the platform and topics for each day of the next month.   Plan ahead and develop a consistent pattern of content that includes attributes that you want to convey in your personal brand with what you share on social media.  When you are planning your calendar, stay true to yourself and your intent.
Step 7: Manage your brand. Proactively manage your brand by ensuring all of your efforts are in sync and that they reinforce your desired brand attributes.   Keep in mind who will want to associate with you as a brand, or who or what organizations you want to associate with as a brand.   Do you want to be associated with Jack Daniel’s Whiskey?   Or, does Jack Daniel’s Whiskey wants to be associated with you.   Be honest.

Additional Words of Warning

Paul Reubens is an American actor and comedian best known for a character role that he played named Pee Wee Herman.   The Pee Wee Herman show was a kids television show very popular in the late 1980s. “The Pee Wee Herman Show” was branded as a light hearted, funny, engaging, and entertaining show with a wholesome image. Paul Reubens was the modern day Captain Kangaroo in many respects.   The brand was very successful.    One fateful day in 1991, however, Paul Reubens was arrested masterbating publicly in a theater showing pornography.  His show was cancelled, and it has been nearly 20 years and only now has Paul Reubens been able to partially rehabilitate his image..

Josh Duggar is the oldest son of TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting.   The brand of 19 Kids and Counting was built on a large family in Arkansas living modestly with a faith based lifestyle. Josh Duggar himself was portrayed as naive, with high morals and a sense of Christian ethics – supported by his father giving him a book on sex at the time of his marriage. He even took a job with the Family Research Council.  Unfortunately, however, the truth is that Josh Duggar was not only sexually unfaithful to his wife early in his marriage, but he was also protected by his parents for teenage sexual predatory behavior of his younger sisters.   The variance and gap between the brand attributes and the actual truth was so large that they could not be reconciled, the show being cancelled after being one of the most successful shows on TLC.   While the family remains whole, the show itself never recovered from the scandal or drama, with a new iteration of the show showing continued growth of the family without any further on-camera appearances by Josh. 

Shay Carl Butler is the Godfather of YouTube family video vloggers.   His family channel, The Shaytards, was an early success story on the YouTube platform.   Shay Butler, however, had personal demons that were incompatible with his brand.   His addiction to alcohol and his associated propensity to deviate from his faith and family with temptations not associated with his brand caused his empire to fail for reasons similar to those that impacted 19 Kids and Counting.

The brands of Paul Reubens, Josh Duggar and Shay Carl Butler (ie: The Shaytards) suffered the same fate of destruction, because the brand attributes did not align with the personal attributes of the person holding the brand.   Your brand attributes must always align with the truth.

Personal Branding Success

Contrast these failed personal brands with a few other more successful ones.   Have you ever watched the Andy Griffith Show?   Ron Howard (Opie) has retained his brand through his life – and his personal brand is an example of being true to himself.   Penny Marshall is another person who holds a personal brand.   There are others – in politics, in the arts and entertainment, as well as in business.

When you are branding yourself – be true to yourself.    Do not present a false narrative nor, as stated earlier, attach yourself to an identity that does not represent who you are as a human being.   

The most important attribute that you can have as a brand is your personal integrity.