The Washington Times - June 10, 2008, 12:19PM

What’s in a brand?

I have a very good friend, who works for a consulting firm that helps clients with their branding. Whenever I talk with her she will use that word many times in the course of the conversation. This made me become very interested in what “branding” meant. And, she has pointed out some of her branding projects to me and they are quite impressive. Being the fastidious social scientist that I am, I did some research. So I went to the ultimate source of definitions.  “I consulted Wikipedia.”

 According to Wikipedia “branding” is a name, logo, slogan, and/or design associated with a product or service. My friend said, branding is even more than that.  A brand is “a set of promises. It implies trust, consistency and a defined set of expectations.” For example, when I send a check or important item by FedEx, I trust that it will get there overnight. No matter where I am in the world, I expect a similar experience when I walk into a Starbucks.

It surprised me to learn that there was something called “personal branding.” Personal branding is usually associated with a career.  Another good friend, who is experienced at branding, told me that she helped a corporate executive with his personal brand, which was a detailed and introspective process that had a positive impact on his career. The personal branding process embodies some of the same elements as product or services branding which I mentioned above.

Now having said all of this let me tell you why I am choosing personal branding as the topic for our discussion today. This page is about providing social, political and spiritual commentary focused on how we can bring a more harmonious and balanced perspective to our community. “So there you have it.”

Now, I think everyone should have a personal brand. Actually I think most if not all of us do. Perhaps we developed it on the cuff and did not make a conscious effort like the corporate executive who sought my friend’s assistance. Nevertheless, I do believe that most of us have some sort of a personal brand. It may not be as defined as Bill Gates (dresses plainly, shares his money generously), Oprah (dresses extravagantly, shares her money generously) or many other luminaries. There are some not so famous people that we know who have strong personal brands as well. For example, I always knew what to expect from my parents.

The personal branding process involves developing and projecting a certain persona or presence that best communicates certain values and qualities. It’s packaging for the purpose of making one more appealing or acceptable for a career path or other venture, such as dating. This sounds very positive. But, upon further reflection, I have some reservations.

My main concern about personal branding is authenticity. So much of what we project to others in the work place and in our community is not authentic. I think it is based on what others expect to see in us in order to affirm our value and worth as a person and professionally. Also, when one decides to develop a personal brand, do they factor in spirituality, community, family, personal growth and change, etc.?  In other words: Is there a holistic approach to this personal branding process?

You know, most of us live by prescription.  This means that we develop a set of values, persona, and approach to life that are placed upon us by others. Think about it. For many of us, our political party affiliation, religion, where we live, how we dress, our personal interactions, who we marry, and career paths are largely based on assumptions and expectations which are also usually the result of outside influences. They are consensus decisions, values and assumptions, which are shaped and molded by society and important figures and institutions in our lives.

Living by prescription prevents us from expressing our individuality, which denies our community and ourselves the unique gifts and benefits that we have to offer. So I ask, do you have a personal brand? If so, what is it?  

I would like for you to do a simple exercise. Write down what you feel are the five essential elements of your personal brand. Then ask yourself how authentic are these elements and how do you apply them in your life. Please be honest. After all, that’s what this discussion is about. It’s about bringing an honest and authentic presence into your life and community. For me, personal branding is a personal statement of excellence and the higher beliefs and values that you apply in everything that you do.

I did the same exercise several years ago. It was a life altering experience that resulted in a new direction and a book called “Harmonious Day.” In the second part of this series I will discuss this transformation with you. The third part of this series will include an online chat where I, along with some branding experts (my two friends), will discuss personal branding with you.



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 You can learn more about me at .  And be sure to buy my new book, “Harmonious Day.”