Personal Branding—A Comment

In a recent article published on Linked In, Nicolas Bordas discusses personal branding (Thanks to John Aggrey for the link). I have some comments. Although Bordas seems to think that branding a person would be different from branding a product, I think not. Personal branding (like product branding) elevates the value of the person attached to the brand. How?

First consider what branding is: it is the process of linking a word, phrase or image to a product or service. If a brand owner does not protect the meaning (quality) behind the brand, the brand will lose its value. Does this discussion remind you of something in the context of human qualities? How about


I applaud any person who wants to develop a personal brand. He must think about who he is, what character traits he wants to and can represent. If he does this with consistency, anyone who associates with him will know what they are getting. But if he is not diligently consistent with those traits his personal brand will be lost.

What is more, anyone who wants to develop a personal brand must be thinking about the value of that brand to society. That is, such a person is conscious of his impact on the world, trying to make that impact into something other people want or need. Building a brand around deceitfulness, narcissism, petulance and arrogance will benefit you only if you have an otherwise popular national political party promoting you, not if you are just an average person.

Thus personal branding is about creating value in your personal traits, and being internally consistent in those traits, so that your associates appreciate and always know what they are getting when they deal with you. I think more of us should be trying to create a personal brand and build its value.

As an attorney I have one more observation: Famous brand names like Tommy Hilfiger, Trump, and Martha Stewart link a person’s name to the product or service their company offers. This is not personal branding even though a personal name is used. The distinction is necessary, because different bodies of law back up product and service branding versus personal branding. Product and service branding would be impossible without trademark law. But personal branding is more generally protected by a subset of tort law known as mis-appropriation of name or likeness (or in some states, the right to publicity).


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