Dealing with Austerity – Personal Branding: the Next Frontier? – Concepts – Part 2

Personal Branding FormulaImage via Wikipedia
Personal Brand Plan Model
Image by stefano principato via Flickr


This is the second of three linked blogs on personal branding. For the busy reader who did not reader Part 1, here is a recap of the challenge:

…………..Against this background, individuals face agonizing challenges, uncertainties and increasing risk. This includes youth unemployment and older workers displaced by technology or offshoring. Public sector workers are being targeted and family owned businesses are being told that they do not know how to run their businesses in the national interest. Social mobility and a post-war belief in education is being challenged like never before. Minorities with privileged education and their privileged networks will perhaps be spared some of the worst of the pain.

The Public Sector and large corporates are increasingly treating individuals as commodities. Individuals face an agonizing choice between being “a commodity” or an “individual” based on personal branding. In the field of interim management, many traditional interims managers are either giving up or becoming contractors.

Personally, I have always been a passionate fan of Dale Carnegie, and Positive Thinking. There is now a huge “self-help” industry and advice abounds on personal marketing. Personal branding is a specialized type of personal marketing. The concept of personal branding was probably first introduced by management guru Tom Peters.

This week’s focuses on clarifying the concept of personal branding including:

  • Definition of personal branding
  • Why personal branding matters?
  • Do you have what it takes to build a personal brand?
  • How ambitious are you for your personal brand?
  • So is personal branding right for you?
  • Towards the next frontier?


A personal brand is defined as:

the public projection of certain aspects of a person’s personality, skills or values that stimulate precise, meaningful perceptions in its audience about the values and qualities that person stands for (Montoya 2002)


In my opinion, the alternative to a personal brand is to be seen by stakeholders (customers, suppliers, competitors, politicians, bureaucrats etc.) as just another commodity product. There is an increasing trend towards commoditization and globalization which has been driven by neoliberal economic policies.


There are four basic qualities that you need to build a brand (Peters 2007):

  1. Be a great teammate and supportive colleague
  2. Be an exceptional expert at something that has real value ability
  3. Be a broad gauged visionary, a leader, a teacher, a far-sighted “imaginer”, and
  4. Be a business person, obsessed with pragmatic outcomes 

A more detailed checklist has been expressed as the eight “laws” of personal branding (Montana 2002):

  1. Specialization – including by ability, behaviour, lifestyle, mission, product, profession, service
  2. Leadership – managing uncertainty, clarifying path, commanding authority, demonstrating excellence, over delivering, and building on successes
  3. Personality – being a realist, demonstrating human weakness, fallibility, positive orientation and an authentic quality (reliability, trustworthiness, genuineness, undisputed credentials etc.)
  4. Distinctiveness – expressing oneself differently from contemporaries
  5. Visibility – strongly promoted, marketed and leveraged, constantly seen and repeatedly
  6. Unity – the branding must be realistic
  7. Persistence – building the brand may take years and it will be important not weaken the brand by passing fads and trends
  8. Goodwill – a tolerance built up over years of effective service


There are three levels of aspiration or influence (Montoya 2002):

  1. Advocate – associating with trends which might be short-lived
  2. Trendsetter – influencing thinking with specific trends but retaining a presence in a larger sphere, so that the brand remains when the trend finishes
  3. Icon – probably famous and able to influence organically trends across multiple and evolving fields


Personal branding is not a panacea, neither is it right for everybody. It potentially offers any individual the opportunity to improve his/her marketability by adopting a structured approach to personal branding. To be successful requires major commitment over many years. With youth unemployment at record levels, e.g. 46% in Spain, and Governments increasingly committed to policies of austerity, individuals who do not have privileged educations and privileged networks will need to use their own imagination, creativity and drive to build their careers. Austerity will mean increasing commoditization, with the big rewards limited to the privileged few. Probably the most exciting area of personal branding is at the iconic level where the individual is highly influential and effective in one field, and as a result of effective personal branding is able to project influence across multiple and evolving fields. If you do not want to be exploited as a commodity, you probably need to think about building a successful personal brand. Peters sums it up:

The good news – and it is largely good news – is that everyone has a chance to stand out. Everyone has a chance to learn, improve, and build up their skills. Everyone has a chance to be a brand worthy of remark.  


Next week’s blog focuses on how I developed the Dr Alf Oldman brand – it is longitudinal case study over twenty years. It is hoped that other may be able to use it as a benchmark to leverage their own personal brands.

5 responses

  1. Pingback: Dealing with Austerity Personal Branding the Next Frontier? Leveraging the Brand Part 4 « Dr Alf's Blog

  2. Pingback: Dealing with Austerity: Personal Branding – the Next Frontier? – Developing the Brand – Part 3A « Dr Alf's Blog

  3. Continued…..
    Brand building which took 20 years or more to achieve must be undertaken by the person of today much faster as trends change and what might have been regarded as an iconic brand or trendsetting in the past for quite some time lacks that sort of longevity.

    Thus the acquisition of money, resources and knowledge has to take place at the same time that the brand is under construction.

    In addition the brand has to be presented to the right marketplace, i.e. one where people will appreciate it and help to promote it.

    This means that it is important to evaluate your target audience and as Lord Rothschild said,”Make no useless acquaintances”.

    • John,

      Many thanks for sharing your views on personal branding which I broadly endorse. However, I am not convinced that the costs are necessarily as high as you imply in your first response.

  4. I think that Tom Peters who earns millions from his speaking engagements and books has very important insights into building a personal brand as do other famous and wealthy people.

    However translating what they advise into something that a person of lesser means can practically do/get away with in their present position or condition is another thing altogether.

    To build a brand, personal or otherwise costs money and an investment in knowledge, appearance and skills.
    When the process of brand building is incomplete this has a bearing upon whether or not a person(interim, consultant, permanent employee, freelancer or portfolio worker), actually works or not or is creditworthy enough to be financed or earns enough to effect the final metamorphosis into a unique personal brand on two legs.

    Much of this will be determined by the person’s influencing, persuasion and communication skills whilst they are in this “limbo” like phase.

    If these are good the transformation will occur quickly if not the unbranded individual will become polarised into the modern version of what Lenin used to call the “lumpen proletariat” or in interim management terms those individuals left on the bench to rot away.

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