It's Time to Unbrand Personal Branding (A Rant)


I have a few problems with "Personal Branding." I've read a lot about the topic and the recommendations provided are all pretty good. Things like  creating a blog, signing up to services all over the web, tweeting, podcasting,  commenting, getting a yourname.com, checking-in, speaking at conferences, creating content, connecting on LinkedIn, name dropping, making fun of MySpace, etc.

I've done most of these things myself and they've all been helpful. I wouldn't be a Social Media Manager if I hadn't tried all of these. More importantly, doing them has been a fun and rewarding learning experience.

Still, I don't like that "personal branding" is sometimes sold as a roadmap to success. It's sold as a way to make money and become a micro-celebrity. Celebrities are often associated with "personal branding," as if the average person could ever be Oprah. I'm sorry but Oprah doesn't need Twitter to be Oprah and if she wrote a book about success, I doubt she would start with "How To Tweet Your Way to Success." The fact is Oprah happens to be a nice likeable lady that worked like crazy for many many years.

Another thing I don't like when I read about "personal branding" is that they often fail to mention that actual branding at companies includes a heck of a lot more than just doing social media marketing. Sure, anyone can grab a marketing book and say "see, you can do all of these things, starting with the 4 P's." Again, just like with Oprah, McDonald's did not become McDonald's over night.

Please don't get me wrong, I have huge respect for anyone that has ever written about the topic and I know their intentions are probably good (I myself try to share what I've learned about and in social media and would love to be able to even start writing a book some day).

My really big problem with "personal branding" is... the term itself. People don't need to be more like brands. Brands need to be more like people.


If you ever meet a brand with a soul, emotions, dreams in the middle of the night, fears, suffering, family members, aspirations, you tell me... because I've never met one. Without the people behind them (entrepreneurs, designers, engineers, marketers, accountants, architects, lawyers, executives, salespeople, customer service reps, subject matter experts, testers, consultants, etc.), brands would cease to exist.

If anything needs some "personal branding," it is brands and companies.

I am not a brand. I don't want to be a brand. I won't ever be a brand.

And I think anyone who is really into social media needs to get past the idea of wanting to be a brand because trying a little too hard might actually end up making all of us a bunch of narcissistic people trying to get a bunch of retweets, views, and comments out of others. I have close friends who have told me that I share too much and that I blog too much and that they'd rather give me a call than sign up on Twitter.

So my question is: Do we really want to have a "personal brand?" Why?

Are we interested in marketing the hell out of ourselves to be micro-celebrities or do we just want to do use social media to learn, have fun, make some actual friends, and hopefully do some of that for a living? I think there is a difference.

Think about it.

Do you want to sell "you?"

Is "engaging" and social media really about success and selling ads and books and ideas and... people? Or is "engaging" and social media really just about... sharing life?

I hope it's the latter.

Maybe it's time to re-brand personal branding.

Or maybe it's time to unbrand it altogether.

Copyright © Esteban Contreras. All rights reserved.