Personal branding. Decades ago, that's what Tom Peters (Millennials probably never heard of him) hammered was necessary, no matter what professional setting we operated in: Organizational, self-employed or startup.
At the time, Peters was right. We had to have a way to differentiate ourselves from our colleagues and competition. And the meme caught on to the extent that those doing the hiring or buying bought into it. Somehow, maybe it was affluence, we doing the selling got away with pitching, "My personal branding is _________."
Now, if we're savvy or been banged up enough by this turbulent economy, we don't dare introduce the concept of personal branding. Sure, there are still powerful personal brands out there: Journalist Michael Wolff, lawyer David Boies, politico Hillary Clinton and corporate leader Mark Zuckerberg. They can leverage all those wonderful attributes which once branding embodied. That's them.
When we go after something it has to be in real time with an explanation of our real edge, outcomes we have already achieved and the strategies for how to achieve them for the employer, client or investor. That's the new script.
Actually, I learned that by accident. I was pitching to do the copywriting for an app. The whole thing, including creating banner ads, was new to me. So, I had to figure out how to present myself. That's when the epiphany happened: That team wants to sell more of its apps, not generate a premium brand or have content in its marketing communications which wins awards. I went in and explained how what I would do for them would generate leads. Then we could convert them into sales. I got the assignment. From then on, no more personal branding memes in my own marketing communications.
Is branding itself dead? No. It will also exist to make it easier in B2C and B2B for buyers to choose when it comes to big-ticket items, ranging from a college education (Harvard or the state university) to real estate (town of Greenwich or Milford, Connecticut).
But when it comes down to the invidual player, that game has ended. We are what we provide buyers of our services today. Not yesterday. Not tomorrow.