“Self-Packaging” as Personal Brand: Implicit Requirements for Personal Appearance?

Napoleon Hill

Napoleon Hill

Al Ries

Al Ries

During the Depression of the 1930s in the US, motivational writer Napoleon Hill laid the foundation for “personal positioning,” described nearly forty-five years later by marketing executives Al Ries and Jack Trout in Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind.

Jack Trout

Jack Trout

Tom Peters

Tom Peters

By 1997, business writer Tom Peters introduced “personal branding” as self-packaging that communicates an individual’s accomplishments and characteristics, including appearance, as a “brand promise of value.”
He also enumerated “what branding is not.”

Murray Newlands

Murray Newlands

Blogger Murray Newlands opines that personal branding refers to all facets of personal presentation.
He notes that “self-packaging is the shell of who you are” and differentiates it from “self-presentation …that essence of what sets you apart from the crowd.

The goal of personal branding, then, is to communicate the intrinsic, most important, differentiating personal characteristics, exemplified in self-packaging details like attire, business cards, speaking style and more.

Daniel Lair

Daniel Lair

Communications researchers Daniel Lair, now of University of Michigan at Flint along with University of Utah’s Katie Sullivan and George Cheney, now of Kent State University, cast an academic lens on personal branding in their analysis, Marketization and the Recasting of the Professional Self: The Rhetoric and Ethics of Personal Branding.

George Cheney

George Cheney

They refer to the practice as “…a startlingly overt invitation to self-commodification” worthy of “careful and searching analysis… as (perhaps) an extreme form of a market-appropriate response.

Lair, Sullivan, and Cheney examine the complex rhetoric tactics used in personal branding, and how these shape power relations by gender, age, race, and class.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett

Sylvia Ann Hewlett

Sylvia Ann Hewlett and researchers at Center for Talent Innovation echo some of these social concerns with potential biasing effects of personal branding.

Hewlett and team consider the special case of personal appearance as an element of “personal packaging”.
They note the challenges facing women and members of minority groups in meeting unspoken, implicit requirements for executive presence embodied in personal appearance.

-*What elements do you consider in “personal packaging” and the specific case of personal appearance?

-*How do you mitigate possible bias based on expectations for personal appearance?

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9 thoughts on ““Self-Packaging” as Personal Brand: Implicit Requirements for Personal Appearance?

  1. Fiona Mason

    First impressions do count in establishing personal brand. There are some fascinating statistics on the physiology of first impressions – when humans first meet. What I find scary is the fact that the internet now probably accounts for a majority of first impressions.

    Reply
    1. kathrynwelds Post author

      Thanks for your comment, Fiona.
      I’d love to learn more about the findings on physiology of first impressions.
      I think you’re correct that the internet (in the form of email and social media) account for a substantial portion of first encounters.
      One example is my experience working in a large global organization: I have never met (in person) many people with whom I work frequently and closely.
      Our working relationships occur via video conferencing, telephone with video and email.
      On the rare occasions that I’ve met these colleagues in person, it’s a perceptual challenge to grasp that a life-size (taller or shorter than expected!) 3-D individual is the same as the postage-stamp size 2-D image, even though the voice is the same.
      As you reinforce, first impressions do count, and managing internet-based first impressions is a new skill for many of us to develop.

      Reply
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