When you hear the word personal branding, what do you think of?

For a long time, I had a hard time grappling with the words personal branding.

Every time it was mentioned, it inevitably conjured up negative images of that big red 'D' I got on my marketing module and I always had this discomfort that it was somehow associated with cattle branding. 

Not a good image in anyone's mind.  

When I got out to work, people were beginning to use the words personal branding a lot. It became one of those cool new fangled buzzwords that people use all the time but don’t really know what it means.

For some reason, I found myself drawn to figuring out what personal branding meant and I began getting involved in many aspects from image and grooming, to public speaking to business writing.

In the process, I have spoken to many people, including hundreds of Millennials, about personal branding. Like me when I started out, a lot of them are uncomfortable about the concept, feeling that is is self-centred and showoff-ish.

Well, it most definitely can be all of the above, but on the flip side, it is incredibly useful if you need to stand out and be remembered (for all the right reasons) in any situation.

To feel comfortable about using personal branding in everyday life and business, it is necessary to know what it is not.

Over the next Here are 9 myths people most commonly have about personal branding. 

Myth Number 1: It’s only for famous people.

Her story captivated millions, making her an instant household name / Elle.com

Her story captivated millions, making her an instant household name / Elle.com


Think of Kate Middleton, Mother Theresa and .... Donald Trump.

In just the time it took for you to read their names, you probably went through a myriad of emotions, from inspiration to admiration and possibly intense love/disgust. 

Without a doubt, famous people are famous brands. 

Some have taken years to build up that brand name and the impression you have. Others have built up that impression based on the consistency of their actions and words over the years. The bottom line is that most famous people are masters of branding because the public instantly recall positive/negative experiences with them.

Debunked: Personal branding is for everyday people

Have an idea for work that you know will benefit the rest of the company? Want to get back into the working world after some time away? Hoping to break into a new industry? Aspiring to work more with people in your career (like training, teaching, coaching, etc)?

To have trust, loyalty and faith in you and your abilities, people need positive, consistent strong interactions from you. This means what you say, how you speak, how you behave, how you dress, how you write, how you act with other people, what you think / believe needs to be driven by the same message.

If everything about you harmonises with the message you are aiming to convey, you are building a strong brand. If things don't seem to be part of this message, then others may not want to take you so seriously enough to put their faith in you.

For example, Mary and Jen are interviewing for the same position. Both are equally qualified and both have spent an equal amount of time away from the work force to care for their families. Now, both are back and prepared to restart their careers again.

While both of them are prepared with the right things to say during the interview, Mary comes across as reticient, nervous and jittery because she hasn't quite gotten used to the idea that she can do this.

Jen on the other hand, has spent a bit of time rehearsing her interview with a friend and she comes across as confident, enthusiastic and less nervous. With all things equal, Jen got the job because her external demeanour matched her answers about her ability to do the job and the interviewer remembered Jen and the positive experience she had with her. 

Myth Number 2: It's shameless self-promotion


Ever had a friend who constantly talked about herself ALL THE TIME? It didn't matter if it was relevant to the conversation, she was most alive talking about herself and most unenthusiastic listening to anybody else. She pretty much inflated everything she did (or didn't do) and was generally unpleasant to be with. 

If you catch yourself doing any of the above, that is shameless self-promotion. 

 Debunked: Personal branding is about being others-centred

Have you ever caught yourself saying, "Wow, he's such a senior person in that company, but he's so unbelievably nice?"

The shameless self-promoter is out grabbing any advantage to benefit herself but the person is a master at branding is someone who is adept at using her personal knowledge/influence/talents to help the people around her.

For example, Kaylee isn't really too keen on going for networking sessions but she goes to them because 1) her boss has asked her to 2) she's found a way to get around the awkwardness of networking.

When she talks to someone new, she uses her natural inquisitiveness to ask questions and find out more about the other person. Along the conversation, she's learnt how to make timely comments to share her personal experiences to empathise and always makes the effort to be of service.

If the other person talks about her difficulty finding a good hairstylist, Kaylee recommends a good one she knows. If the other person is interested in HR trends, Kaylee always sends over some interesting articles she's read on the topic.  

To take the pressure off herself at networking situations, Kaylee focuses on the other person, and in the process makes it a win-win situation all around. 

Myth Number 3: It’s just a trend

Maybe like me, you keep wondering if all this a bunch of hot air, that it really doesn't matter, that people are making a big fuss over something that is as faddish as platform shoes. 

If you've ever wondered what's the importance of setting yourself apart from the competition, read on. 

Debunked: Personal Branding is here to stay

Coca Cola started out in 1886 as a patent medicine laced with cocaine but 131 years later, it's the one of the most well-loved drinks (now laced with sugar) for people around the world. In 2016, it was third on Interbrand's annual Best Global Brands ranking (just behind Apple and Google).

A man inside an African Coca Cola factory / Business Insider

A man inside an African Coca Cola factory / Business Insider


What made it go from "euuu" to "I want more!"?

We all know how Coca Cola's advertising is dreamed up by some pretty smart people but did you know that there were some other lesser known methods that Coca Cola used to build their brand?

a) They enforced strict standards with their retailers. 

Coca Cola made it compulsory for retailers to only serve Coca Cola between 2 - 4 degrees celsius. 

b) They kept the price consistent for 70 years

From 1886 to 1959, you could buy a bottle of Coke for 5 cents (US). 

c) Coca Cola came in a distinct, proprietary bottle.

The shape of a glass Coca Cola bottle was inspired by the cocoa pod which was the brainchild of a glass company who entered a national competition by Coca Cola for a new bottle design. Coca Cola loved it and began promoting it so much that today, it is an icon recognised by the world over. 

Just as Coca Cola made use of smart branding to leave hundreds of cola brands biting the dust since 1886, you can make use of smart branding to make sure that your ideas get heard, that you get the opportunities you want and of course to be remembered for all the right reasons. 

What is your definition of personal branding? Share with us in the comments!