What is Personal Branding and Why Should You Care?

What is Personal Branding?Personal Branding is a concept that’s been bandied about since the days of Napoleon Hill in his famous book “Think and Grow Rich”. The phrase itself is probably associated most with Tom Peters and his article “The Brand Called You” where he talks about people being a complete package much like any product that can be marketed. Today, it’s used in the same sentences as resume building, creating a social media presence, and reputation management. With all the confusing information available, exactly what is personal branding today?

A quick look at corporate branding

When most people think of brands they think of products, such as Coca-Cola, Band-Aid, McDonald’s, and Starbucks. ┬áBut these are just names that have become synonymous with certain products. Their brand is actually a combination of elements that have made those brands so recognizable.

For example, Nike may be recognized by it’s checkmark logo, but it’s even better known for the phrase “Just Do It” and all the emotions, values and messages that go with those words. McDonald’s isn’t just known for their big “M”. Their brand is all about fast food, consistent quality, global presence, great value, and even their charitable foundation.

How does personal branding differ from traditional product branding?

The real difference is that a personal brand is an individual person’s image that’s being expressed vs. a company or product. For entrepreneurs, there may be no real difference. But for anyone else, your personal brand and your specific work experience or the products you sell are completely different animals.

Your personal brand reflects the characteristics that make you unique. You may share some characteristics with other people, but your own combination is always going to be unique.

What should your personal brand include?

The combination that makes up your personal brand should reflect your core values, your biggest strengths, and your mission in life. It can also include significant accomplishments, personal stories, or other things that make you stand apart from the crowd.

Most importantly, your personal brand is everything that makes you “you”. After all, you’re not a product, you’re a person – even if you are trying to sell yourself in a job interview. A product can’t have the sense of humor that pulls teams together, but a person can. A product doesn’t have the insight and courage to try new innovations, but a person can have these attributes as part of their “brand”.

Lately, there’s been some criticism of the term “personal branding”. With all the emphasis on transparency and real-time social interaction online, the idea of associating a person with a product is less than appealing. ┬áBut personal branding is really just another way of exploring who you are, what makes you special, and what you stand for. Companies go through the same process.

By defining your personal brand, you are creating a portrait of yourself for the whole world to see. Then it’s just a matter of consistently conveying that brand through your actions.

What do you think of when you hear the term “personal brand”?

If you’d like more information about personal branding, I just released an entire pack of Personal Branding PLR content that includes articles, a worksheet for creating your personal brand, and examples.


  1. Personal branding is funny to me. People regularly tell me they want to “brand themselves” as something. They ask it as if a personal brand is something people buy, but they want to create it on their own. What they don’t understand is they already have a personal brand.

    In high school it was called a “reputation”. Remember the smart girl? What about the guy that was always making robots and stuff in his garage? And everyone knows the dumb jock, right? None of those people set about to create their personal brand, it just is. Your brand is your reflection in the eyes of others.

    I agree, Sharyn, if you want everyone to know you as the knowledgeable wine guy – that better be who you are.

    • Oh no! Don’t bring high school into the mix!! I hope we’ve all grown a little since then.

      Ok, so what about the wall flower who didn’t want to be seen as a nobody? Or what about the geek who really wanted everybody to see him as brilliant, not geeky? There’s an element of self-discovery and growth in too. Then there’s the question of what you have to do to change your reputation to the one you really want.

      I agree that the term “branding” does tend to make people sound like commodities, so maybe we just need a better word for it.

  2. You are so right! Personal branding is just your personality, skills, and experiences. It’s what makes you and what you do in business stand out from the crowd! I’ve heard some negitive remarks about it…people saying that you need an exit strategy and blah blah. But branding you doesn’t mean that you can’t have other parts of your business that you can sell. I’m in this for life…I love the things I do and I’m looking to do even more.

    I’ve been really thinking about personal branding a lot lately. I was confused about it for a while. But putting YOU into your business is so important no matter if you are doing business under your name or another name. Many BIG brands are…names of people…Ralph Lauren, Chase, Tiffany!

    • An exit strategy? With a personal brand, doesn’t that happen when you die? I hadn’t heard that one before.

      I think one of the best reasons for pen names is so that you don’t confuse your brand/reputation/image – whatever you want to call it.
      Also, a personal brand is less about what you sell or do and more about who you are and what strengths you bring to the table.

      For example, I’m not a PLR provider. I’m someone who strives to help others achieve success through professional quality content and continuous learning. Or something like that. I’m still a work in progress. I definitely don’t want to be pigeon-holed as a PLR seller since I know I want to do much more than that and it’s only a small part of who I am. And it’s certainly not my whole story. I suspect that’s the same for you.

  3. I can’t imagine ever thinking of myself as a brand. Sorry to those of you who are caught up in the concept, but I feel it’s vain and shallow. Being a brand is like being famous for being famous (K family, anyone?) Reputation is a different matter.

    • Hi Alan,
      Many people feel uncomfortable referring to themselves as a brand, even if their primary business is selling their services. I think it’s just a popular term that can easily be replaced with something else like reputation or identity. The main point is to make yourself memorable in a way that sets you apart from others. What are you known for? Most people haven’t clarified what they want to be known for, and even if they have, they may still have trouble communicating it. Skip the word brand if you don’t like it and focus on the important part – establishing your reputation, as you mentioned.
      – Sharyn

  4. Personal branding is being the best possible version of you and letting others know about it.

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