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.”
Positioning, branding, and packaging are related but differentiated.
“Self-packaging is the shell of who you are” whereas “self-presentation (is)…that essence of what sets you apart from the crowd,“ according to blogger Murray Newlands.
The goal of personal branding is to communicate intrinsic, important, differentiating personal characteristics, exemplified in self-packaging details like attire, business cards, speaking style and more.
Academic researchers have brought some rigor to considering the intangibles of personal branding, presentation, and packaging.
One example is University of Michigan’s Daniel Lair with Katie Sullivan of University of Utah, and Kent State’s George Cheney academic analysis, Marketization and the Recasting of the Professional Self: The Rhetoric and Ethics of Personal Branding.
They refered to personal branding as “…a startlingly overt invitation to self-commodification” worthy of “careful and searching analysis…as (perhaps) an extreme form of a market-appropriate response.“
Examining complex rhetoric tactics used in personal branding, they identified how these approaches shape power relations by gender, age, race, and class.
Sylvia Ann Hewlett of the Center for Talent Innovation identified the potential biases facing women and members of minority groups in meeting unspoken, implicit requirements for executive presence embodied in personal appearance, a component of self-presentation.
These analyses suggest that personal packaging, branding, and marketing can have significant impact on professional opportunities and outcomes, despite challenges of tracing these effects.
-*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