Branding Versus Branded

by Burns, Karen Wednesday, November 18, 2009
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There’s nothing so annoying as a buzz word and this year there’s no word out there buzzier than “branding”.

As in, “You’ve got to establish your brand.”

Ugh. WG keeps thinking of what Alina Tugend said in this NYT piece a while back: “What if I don’t want to be a brand? What if I like the security and camaraderie of being ‘just’ a worker in a company?”

Working Girl suspects there’re a lot of people out there who would be content to be “just” a worker, and who find the prospect of constantly networking and marketing themselves to be exhausting. Else why would this article have been on the NYT’s most-emailed list?

But maybe it doesn’t need to be such a big deal. When you think of it, your “brand” is really just your reputation. People have always wanted reputations for honesty, smarts, reliability, and general uprightness. No problem, right?

Well, maybe one. In this Internet age your reputation takes a lot more forms, and can spread a lot farther, and faster, than it used to. Also (this is important) the Internet is uncontrollable. One post of a photo of a topless you chugging cerveza on spring break can “brand” you for a long time.

In a sense the Internet has returned us to small town living. In a small town everyone knew your business, knew you “when,” and remembered. Living down an indiscretion took years. As a result, people were a lot more cautious and circumspect. They watched what they said, they paid attention to their appearance, they used good manners, they took care not to be caught in incriminating situations.

Partly out of fear, true. But would it be all bad to return, in a small way, to those discreet-er days of yesteryear? We’d all have great brands...

(For a completely different point of view on branding & why you should brand yourself, check out this piece from Parade Magazine.)