Forget the personal, it’s just brand

Spinoza knew that all things long to persist in their being; the stone eternally wants to be a stone and the tiger a tiger.”

Captured in this quote from Jorge Luis Borges is the part of a person’s brand that to often remains unexplored. Who am I and what do I truly care about, what do I believe?

Not the veneer of how I look and what I say – but at my core, who am I?

The questions of purpose and values, so essential to understanding the organisational identity, play no lesser role when the identity in question is for one person. In fact they are even more important as there are fewer places to hide when it’s just you.

Margaret Wheatley, author, speaker and thinker about how organisations work, says:

“If people are free to make their own decisions, guided by a clear organisational identity for them to reference, the whole system develops greater coherence and strength.”

With a slight adjustment, this statement is just as true for one person.

If a person makes decisions, guided by a clear sense of their identity to reference, their whole system develops greater coherence and strength.

The whole system in this case is the full sphere of actions and decisions a person takes as they navigate their public and private worlds.

I’ve been writing blogs specifically about this topic here for years – you can read some of them here, here and here. And increasingly I get squeamish with the whole idea of ‘personal’ brand.

Brand is brand. There’s not some special formula just because it’s one person instead of a whole organisation. Sure, it’s a different scale. And perhaps it’s a bit easier to navigate the complex relationships that purpose and values drive when it’s only one person.

However, brand, at any scale, is a result of keeping your promises. So do the deep work to figure out your identity. Then be deliberate and conscious in making promises so you can keep them. Think about the alignment of your actions and decisions – this needs to go with that. And the result will be a strong resilient brand.

When it comes to matters of what a LinkedIn page should say, if a website URL should be the person’s name, whether you need business card or not, if you should wear a suit or jeans, and if you need to use a title or no title, there’s plenty of people out there who will be happy to help you with those decisions.

And by all means think about those things, they are the way you interface with others.

Just use the deeper identity work to guide you if you want to build a brand not a veneer.

See you next week.

Michel is an Independent Brand Thinker and Adviser dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make – with a strong, resilient organisation as the result. You can find Michel at or you can follow her on Twitter @michelhogan


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