Yet when I explained this approach to others, especially those who were hip to all the latest marketing trends, my explanations were often met with rolling eyes and deep sighs. The product, I was informed, is of secondary importance. What counts today is the producer. The creator is more important than the creation; therefore, marketing should be skewed toward building and maintaining a “package” that defines and gives an impression of the creator. “What you have to do above all else,” one individual told me, “is create a ‘Francis Berger feeling and experience.’ When people hear your name, they will associate your name with certain emotions and thoughts. This in turn will carry over into your products, which consumers will buy solely based on your personal brand rather than for any merit of the products themselves.”
Though I understood how personal branding could and does work, I more or less rejected the endeavor. I just could not get into the whole idea of manufacturing a ‘Francis Berger feeling and experience’, nor did I have any solid notion of what the Francis Berger feeling and experience could be. In my mind, personal branding was just a fancy (and misleading) substitute for good, old-fashioned reputation, with one distinct difference: Reputations are also built upon what others think and feel about us, but these opinions are formed directly as a result of our actions, our character, and our integrity. Reputations may not always be accurate, but they tend to originate from a place of authenticity, and they allow for interpretation. Personal branding, on the other hand, is a far more synthetic process. We are essentially telling the world what we want it to feel and think about us in lieu of our actions, character, and integrity. Personal branding seeks to persuade and manipulate through presentation, packaging, and positioning. A personal brand is a show onto itself, and as such is often less authentic than reputation.
Though I understand it may lead to success in the marketplace, personal branding, as a concept, does not appeal to me, and I have avoided presenting myself as a brand on this blog and elsewhere (at least I hope I have). Nevertheless, personal branding is extremely popular. Unfortunately, it also seems to have become a prerequisite for success in most fields and endeavors, especially since the advent of social media, which is saturated with personal branding of all kinds. Yes, this is what the world has become – a vast marketplace in which selling oneself takes precedence over any service or product one may wish to sell.
Personal branding does not appeal to me because it renders subjects into objects. In many ways, it is a reversal of the trick corporations and organizations play when they, as objects, try to pass themselves off as subjects. Personal branding does the opposite. It takes a subject – a human person – and purposefully transforms this subject into an object. In this regard, personal branding is an objectifying force. It transforms people into things. Relationships with personal brands of people are not the same as relationships with the people themselves. The latter is based on a subject-subject dynamic, while the former becomes a subject-object relationship. Relationships formed from contact with personal brands are impersonal and unfree because personal brands lack an authentic existential center. A personal brand is a commodity – something to be hyped, bought, and sold.
In addition, a personal brand is, in essence, a false self. True spiritual development and learning entails attempts to uncover and become aligned with the Real Self in order to discover one’s purpose, realize one’s destiny, and establish a dynamic relationship with God. Personal branding is a purely materialistic concept and as such acts to draw people further away from their Real Selves. Rather than help us become more attuned to who we really are, constructing personal brands likely only build illusions of who we really ARE NOT. Personal brands are basically persuasive fantasies – they are manufactured, inauthentic representations of who we wish we were or who we feel we have to be to win acceptance in the marketplace of impressions and ideas. It does not take much thought to realize that personal branding has the potential to be spiritual harmful. In light of this, I suggest those who embark on any personal branding quest be particularly wary of the choices they make.
Ultimately, I believe it is probably best to forgo personal branding altogether and merely go into the world as person. As far as I know, Jesus paid no heed to notions of personal branding, so why should you?