Response to “Don't fall into the personal brand trap”

A few days ago I read Kevin Dickinson's article entitled "Don't fall into the personal brand trap", published on the BigThink website.

The "clickbait" headlines (much ado about nothing) are the sign of the new times, so I'm going to try to clarify what they mean by that "personal brand trap."

Here's a one-minute video summary:

Here you can listen to the Podcast version in Everything leaves Mark , episode 81, In iVoox, Apple Podcast And Spotify.

Dickinson's article is based on an interview with the writer specializing in branding and design Debbie Millman. And for me it contains great successes and great mistakes., that's why I propose this post as an open response, always from the admiration I feel for her.

"Brands manufacture meaning through consensus; people should strive to create their own."

Here's the first clash with Debbie Millman and her "personal brand trap". She thinks that personal branding is "manufactured" as if it were a trademark.. People should not strive to manufacture, build or create nothing.

The personal brand is a mark that we leave on ourselves and others. And it's like energy, neither built nor destroyed: is identified, is transformed (if this is the case) and is projected. And the result of that projection will be different for each person.. That's what I was about two weeks ago in "The perspectives of your personal brand".

The identification part is diagnostic (Where am I), is part of self-knowledge, the transformation part is strategic (where I want to go) and the projection part belongs to our visibility (how can I get there). 

A brand like Apple can be created in a garage. Personal branding does not.

"More than building a personal brand, you should focus on developing your skills, relationships and sense of authenticity"

Congratulations, Debbie, you've hit the nail on the head, That's it, in essence, personal branding, managing our personal brand. Or at least a part. Repeat, if you find a consultant or trainer who talks about "building your personal brand", run away as fast as you can. Personal branding is much more tangible than a corporate brand, since it is based on elements that we already have, and that is why we must not build.

True, perhaps Tom Peters' famous article by 1997 "The Brand called You" has become somewhat outdated. I am not a brand called Guillem. Guillem leaves a mark on others. And it's complex, it's never the same for everyone. This is how I see it and after the digital explosion I confirm it. And I think I'm not alone..

"We are not working, but healing the experience of us. We are not professionals building relationships, But influencers appealing to followers for likes and retweets"

New confusion, and large. Here the idea of "the trap of personal branding" collapses. Work, we build relationships, and we also share experiences and try to influence. Debbie, I understand that you may not like bloggers, people who post content on social media or who interact with those people.

But we have not stopped working (you can believe me), or building relationships. The only thing that happens is that in addition to building relationships "the old way", we have added other media, new resources, and we have acquired the ability to communicate openly. Can that cause a decrease in the quality of the contents?? Of course, now a new competence that we must acquire is to separate the grain from the chaff and identify the contents that have value or digital crap. (The clickbait). 

I know several professionals whom you call contemptuously."influencers". And they work 20 hours a day 7 days a week and are mired in multiple problems. And most importantly,: create value... incredible, Truth?

Being a brand eliminates the glorious humanity of the human being. You become a manufactured thing.

Back to the load, we don't become things, in products or brands. The "objectification of personal branding" can only be considered if we create a character, an alter-ego, a "mini-me".

Let me turn to an idea I've expressed on more than one occasion in this blog.:

We are not brands, nor products. But our actions and inactions leave a mark on others.. Deep down, everything leaves a mark, what we do, what not, what we say and what we shut up.

Guillem Recolons

"If we stick with the term personal branding, at least we can change our understanding to something more humanizing than “Me Inc”"

Millman's definition of personal branding is “deliberate differentiation”.

Here we can agree a lot, Debbie. Together with a group of colleagues, we think that the concept of personal branding is being misunderstood. Your misinterpretation is not the only one. Many confuse personal branding with creating a character, others with over-exposure in digital media...

We have tried to find an alternative expression to "personal brand", but so far we have not achieved it. We haven't even managed to get "personal brand management" differentiated correctly. (personal branding, the process) of "personal brand" (personal brand, the result).

I like the "deliberate differentiation" thing. I call it "relevant difference" because I think we should know how to express what we contribute. (Value, Relevance) and how we do it (Difference, method...). 

I'm missing something in Millman's reflections: What about the humanization of the corporate brand?

The article on the personal brand trap is very extensive, and on many things I agree. There is an explanation about the origin and history of the brand very well spun (congrats, Debbie). 

There are even several tips from the great Guy Kawasaki on how to manage personal branding.. They will not solve your life but you have to take them into account.

But there is a great absence. As a brand expert, Millman has forgotten the role that people can have in the humanization of corporate brands. Today, People (company) talk to people (the market) in a rich and complex dialogue that cannot be left aside.

Our role as brand conscious ambassadors must be part of today's branding. All of us who are at the service of a project - our own or someone else's- we are your spokespersons, or if you prefer, their representatives, its ambassadors. A waiter represents the brand of the restaurant and the chef to a customer. If we don't understand that, branding will not evolve like us and will be anchored in the last century.


There are big differences between managing a commercial and personal brand. A personal brand is not, in my opinion, comparable to "create", manufacture or build" a corporate brand, is something that already exists, it's there, leaves its mark and you have to identify it and learn to project it to add value.

And the future of personal branding is not self-knowledge, relationships or sense of authenticity. That is the present. The future lies in how that authenticity of personal branding can help humanize trademarks and bring them closer to their customers..

Photo by michael podger In Unsplash

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2 thoughts on "Response to “Don't fall into the personal brand trap””

  1. Ains, Ains, Guillem, the word games that must be done to make the pieces fit, my friend. Let's see, I fully subscribe to one of your headlines: "More than building a personal brand, you should focus on developing your skills, relationships and sense of authenticity". Pos'eso, do the latter and not the former. Why then talk about “personal brand” if it does not have to be built? Focusing on our own capabilities with a sense of authenticity is something that good people who have always done., In addition, make smart decisions. And they are authentic because they seek to be happy with themselves, and not because they are looking for “leave a mark on others”. You yourself know that this is not sought. That is why we should not “Build” Nothing. That's why I've always thought the term “personal brand” is very unfortunate. Suggest the opposite of what you recommend. Sorry for standing up, but it is with affection and from respect. A hug

    • Hello Amalio, if you reread it, you will see that we are aligned. You don't have to build a brand or seek to leave a mark, it is inevitable to leave it. My approach is to discover it (a process of self-knowledge and feedback) transform it -if necessary- in a strategic process and project it. With expression “personal brand” if you can think of an alternative, will be welcome, for some years now, several colleagues have been looking for a.

      In this post I precisely warn that the personal brand is not something that should be manufactured or built, that seems insane to me and something to be fought.
      A hug!


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