Personal brands, being human, can not truly be consistent.

Reading Gwen’s post Leave it at the Alter about personal brands got me thinking.

hans-haacke-blue-sailPerhaps our online personal brands are really pseudonyms for the Umbrella Corporation? A protective wrapper than includes a “a highly-trained security force capable of rescue, reconnaissance, and para-military operations” division. And one sub-corp that makes band aids for the kids when they skin a knee so we also get some good PR for our radical transparency.

So for the sake of argument, let’s assume that personal brand are the umbrella. Yet humans, like Tara, are very diverse creatures. We cycle through roles as Goffman’s Symbolic interactionists. From wikipedia:

…people act toward things based on the meaning those things have for them; and these meanings are derived from social interaction and modified through interpretation.

A fancy way of saying we act differently in different situations when we play different roles. As a speaker I am outgoing. As a person, not so much, testing as an introvert.

The fundamental flaw with personal brands and radical transparency is brand consumers can’t handle this dissonance. Yet a human will always be a messy puddle of emotions and role playing and bluffing and reality.

Specifically brands are strengthened as they move towards one (1) thing in the mind of the consumer. Positioning is about the internal brand singularity. From Ries:

The Law of Singularity: The most important aspect of a brand is its single-mindedness. What is a brand? A singular idea or concept that you own inside the mind of the prospect. It’s as simple or as difficult as that.

THE leading energy drink. THE best violin. THE fastest sports car.  Get it?

So real brands CAN be consistent. Coke-a-Cola is “the real thing”. Personal brands, being human, can NOT truly be consistent. Unless we hold back and show only our personal-brand-act in all public channels.

Steve Martin has an act, but that isn’t him. The fact that he inherited a personal brand of his name simply means he must live a double life, or triple life, of cover ups. Or risk not being true to the personal brand “Steve Martin” which surely isn’t him. (when did he stop doing stand up?)

So yes we have a personal brand. But they will never be as strong as a real brand.

And on that note, personal brands are horribly unfair. Think about it. People with no marketing training are compelled to come up with a brand name for all social software channels. But unlike companies that can trademark a brand; they typically don’t. And companies can buy their domain name. But how can an individual reserve their personal brand on every new social web site? So even IF an individual comes up with a great personal brand, they have no formal method of protecting it. Completely an unfair challenge to the individual. Yet there it is.

Great post on personal branding Gwen! Clearly you got me thinking. Thanks!

The image? Hans Haacke’s Blue Sail. It is every changing and completely dependent upon the fan as part of the installation. Just as our personal brands are completely dependent on how others perceive them. Whether in person or through social media. Our brands are singular and exist in the mind of the consumer, correct or not, if we wish or not, they just are. Sitting in a spot in their brain. And that is a tad bit unfair…