Personal branding has gained more attention in the recent past due to the rise in social media trends, and the platforms they create to share information and ideas. The ability to share stimulates a desire to craft and control the narrative of who we would like people to view us as, which is precisely what personal branding is defined as. The origin of this concept is believed to have been developed as early as the 1950’s by Erving Goffman in his Self-Presentation and Impression Management theory (Goffman, 1959). Let’s take for example leadership branding, some would like to be seen as a Servant Leader, one who leads from behind and serves the needs of the team from a humanistic standpoint, others as an Inspiring Leader – one whose presence, demeanour and communication inspires action , while others want to be known for their innovativeness. The power of knowing what your personal brand is, and mastering the communication thereof is what links to greater Impact Power.
Conversely, a weak personal brand can be damaging to one’s ability to influence. In my research and whilst working with people, most often a weak personal brand is a result of a lack of Self Awareness. Self- Awareness allows one to communicate from a place of authenticity. One’s authenticity or “native- genius” is one’s magnetism. We are attracted to people who are comfortable in their skin as this creates comfort in us. It is challenging to project a way of being if that is not a true reflection of one’s internal state i.e. having a true sense of confidence and purpose about one’s life. We are highly attuned to the non- verbal signals and other phenomena that go beyond just the words that we speak. What captivates us about people has more to do with the “energy” and visual stimulus that they project. In order to communicate this fluently one must develop an adequate and acute level of self-awareness.
Authenticity is your Magnetism
It is not sustainable to create a persona that doesn’t speak to the truth of who you are, one of my favourite TedTalks by Caroline McHugh which provides inspiring insights is called the art of being yourself (McHugh, 2013). A clear sign of this is an inability to be consistent with one’s brand, interests and goals. We are multi- faceted beings with various tastes and preferences. We should explore, grow and live a full life which should however stem from a deep sense of inner stability. People do not feel comfortable in unpredictable environments. You will never master your brand if you fear to commit to your own unique potential and take it to the highest level through discipline and conscious effort.
A few simple tips in starting your journey to develop a powerful personal brand include:
- Having a pointed focus in examining and establishing your core values
- Genuine interests
- Latent/ natural talents
- True fulfilment goals
After you have done this self- analysis you will have a more developed self-awareness that will make it easier for you to distinguish which brand messages you would like to align yourself with and share with others.
Taking it a step further; I would like you to consider Carl Jung’s 12-archetype model which was later developed by Pearson (2002) for business purposes (Jung, 1991). Jung speaks about the “collective unconscious” which draws a harmonious thread in how we as humans relate to stories and their leading characters. If we can find and build ourselves (our brand) around a central character, we create a strategy for influencing others that speaks to them at the deeply ingrained level Jung called this the “collective unconscious”. Many organisations have adopted this ideology and have premised their entire marketing strategy on their chosen archetype.
The 12 Archetypes include:
- The Creator
These types use high imagination to come up with new innovations that change the status quo. Always considering being ahead of the curve. Examples include Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein.
- The Innocent
Wants to portray the message of virtue, chastity and peace. This archetype is brilliant at creating the sense that they are not a threat and so people associate all that is pure with them. Examples include Snow White and Dove (brand).
- The Explorer
This type is expansive, wanting to go to uncharted territory and does not want to be restricted. Values freedom and openness high. Examples include Sir Richard Branson and Toyota Ford Ranger.
- The Ruler
Possess a deep desire to be in control and sit at the top of a hierarchy, to build a strong team as a formidable leader. Examples include Rolex and The President.
- The Caregiver
This type has a deep sense of duty to the “other”, wants to be seen as the person or organisation that is acutely attuned to the needs of the people. Examples include Johnson and Johnson, Dalai Lama, Mother Theresa and Princess Diana.
- The sage
The sage is the individual possessing wisdom and giving truth to the people, their character is built on the fact that they live to provide guidance to the world, examples could be SABC News, Oprah Winfrey.
- The Magician
This persona is one of immense manifesting ability, to claim the understanding of intricate workings of universal law and intuition, inspires a feeling of fantasy and promises impossible ideas. Examples include Disney and Mac Cosmetics.
- The Hero
A character who seems to possess an indomitable will. One who takes the responsibility to take on a challenge for the sake of others, a champion. Examples include Nike and Nelson Mandela.
- The outlaw / Rebel
This type aims to break the rules and push the boundaries. Break with industry modes. Examples include Miley Cyrus, Malcolm X, Virgin and Apple.
- The Lover/ Seducer
Wants to cultivate the feeling of intimacy and to make customers/peoples feel special through luxury and indulgence. Examples include Ferrari, Victoria Secret and Beyoncé.
- The Jester
This type’s aim is always to introduce humour and a sense of hapless abandon. They want people to feel happier through jokes, stories and/or pranks. Examples include Ellen DeGeneres, Charlie Chaplin and Nandos.
- The Regular Girl/ Guy
This type wants to appeal to all men and women and says they understand the needs of the common people because they are one of them. Examples include Matt Damon, Ackermans and Kia.
Figure 1: Master brand archetypes (Mark & Pearson, 2001)
Along with each Archetype includes their approach, shadow aspect and goal. Take the time to research to a greater extent how major corporates have centred their brand strategy on these archetypes. The same principle can be applied to individuals. If you lead with your archetype the conviction behind what you say and your energy will speak to the story aspect in the minds of people. As such they will feel like they have a well-formed understanding of who you are. This will lower the barriers to acceptance and trust. Be mindful however, to ensure that your leading archetype draws on authentic parallels to your personal narrative and can be built with relative ease.
Another area that I find many people struggle with is in knowing how to use their personal brand in real life situations that are constantly changing. Consider the personal brand as your base line. The framework that one houses one’s opinions, communication and behaviour in, but which consists of many other layers that allow you to be adaptive and flexible in any given situation. The fluency with which you are able to relate to various people or your decision making ability in a given situation signal impact power. An example would be; if you are the jester type, it will be in your nature to communicate in a style that is less formal, hoping to make your team feel comfortable to share ideas and your encouragement will always carry a sense of humour, however if the moment requires you to make an important and serious decision you need to have the agency to do so in an assertive manner because this is what the moment calls for. This can be challenging because you may fear that you will lose your reputation and friends, however it is important to remember that your personal brand serves a greater goal, and is not the goal itself.
The Self and Others
As we have previously discussed Self- Awareness is vital in creating one’s personal brand frame work, another important element to your ability to influence and make a positive impression is being able to understand other people i.e. “Knowing your audience”. If you are not able to read the signals that people give correctly, you may offend them unintentionally or put them off. While you are constantly sending out your own personal signal (Personal Brand), so are others. When people feel understood even at a basic level they are more prone to view you positively. Your social intelligence wonderfully outlined in his book Social Intelligence: The new science of human relationships by Daniel Goleman is practised more effectively when your communication skills are established by a good observation, listening and congruent feedback loop (Goleman, D 2007). Making people feel heard and seen is a power that not many utilise, due to being overly concerned with how they themselves come across.
The Primacy Effect
According to Professor Michael Shea of Strathclyde University in Scotland, “You may be brilliant at what you do, but unless you are recognized as such. You may well be ignored” (Shea, 1999). What Shea suggests is something known as the “Primacy Effect” inspired by classic studies by Asch et al. (Asch, 1946; Hamilton & Zanna, 1974). This is also the title of his book that explains the importance of the first and critical impression we make on others. Research shows that the first impression is made within less than 7 seconds of the initial interaction. You want to be able to make a positive first impression because it becomes the lens through which everything else you hope to communicate about yourself is viewed and perceived. Within the first 7 seconds you can communicate positive things about yourself by implementing the following:
- Walking into a room with confidence
- Looking people in the eye
- Speaking with conviction and clarity
- Having good posture
- Appropriate body language that links to your message
- An appropriate handshake and projecting a positive temperament
Another important element is your appearance which I will talk about next.
Strategic Image Development
We are all unique, possessing different features and aesthetic qualities to our image, some short, some tall, some fair skinned and some darker skinned. In an excerpt from his book David Kibbe says: “Do you realise that nature created you perfectly? It’s true! There’s not one thing about your natural physical appearance that isn’t absolutely perfect for the totally unique individual you are” (Kibbe, 1987)
One’s impact power, as it relates to image, has less to do about meeting an ideal beauty standard and more to do with understanding your own body and how to elevate your personal brand visually in a way that markets you in a more empowered frame. It is no secret that we are visual beings. If someone is talking but doesn’t make use of any body language we can start to lose attention, or if appearance and body language don’t align to the message being communicated something will seem off, making it harder to make an impactful point.
Being confident about oneself is not about imitating others perfectly but is about being one’s own greatest version (being one’s authentic self). One’s image much like the personal brand can have a framework, such as knowing the dress code expectation of your work environment; where darker colours, more tailoring, classic style, smaller print and higher quality fabric speak to a more formal attire, while conversely lighter colours and less rigid fabric speak to a more business every day or casual attire. It is important to know within that framework what suits you individually, i.e. as a tall man a black formal blazer should be double breasted as you will carry it well, whereas a shorter man may not look as good because it is too heavy for his stature. As a woman I should wear high waisted pants because I am more petite, and this will help to elongate my appearance and so on and so forth. When you dress and groom in a way that enhances your own features you are more able to communicate your brand with confidence and ease. When you don’t feel good about how you look or even simply about yourself in general it becomes more difficult to influence.
The personal brand is an all-encompassing marketing strategy where you are the product. To market effectively you should consider implementing the following skills:
- First, have good knowledge of the product you are selling (Self-awareness),
- The product must be something you believe in and are passionate about (Authenticity),
- You must have a strategy to appeal to your defined market audience (Archetypal Branding) through story-telling,
- You must have the ability to be agile enough and sell to people you didn’t expect to come across and have good decision making ability (Flexibility),
- You must be attuned to the needs of others and not only push what you are selling. Consider the reference point of others (Self and others),
- You must ensure that the first contact that people have with your brand is a positive one (The Primacy Effect) and;
- The packaging of your product is what may cause people to be attracted or repelled, so great effort should be put into this important element of your marketing strategy (Strategic Image Development).
Asch, S. E. (1946). Forming impressions of personality. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 41, 258−290.
Goffman, E. (1959). The presentation of self in everyday life. New York: Anchor Books.
Goleman, D (2007). Social Intelligence: The new science of human relationships. https://doi.org/10.1002/jpoc.20099
Jung, C.G., (1991). The archetypes and the collective unconscious. Routledge.
Kibbe, D (1987) Metamorphosis: Discover Your Image Identity and Dazzle as only you can hardcover.
Mark, M. and Pearson, C.S., (2002). The hero and the outlaw: Harnessing the power of archetypes to create a winning brand. McGraw-Hill.
Mcugh, C (2013). The art of being yourself. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g5H5u6Eg4fM
Shea, M (1999). The Primacy Effect: The Ultimate Guide to Personal Communications Skills.