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.
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.”
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.
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.
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 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?
- How Much Does Appearance Matter?
- Executive Presence: “Gravitas”, Communication…and Appearance?
- Glass Elevator and Nine Principles for Personal Branding, Career Impact