Be a Voice, Not a Brand

My Voice
The Social communication tidal wave of the last few years has added urgency to the idea that individuals should reinvent themselves as “brands.” “Wrap yourself in a personal brand,” we are told, “or vanish”. This trumpeting points to a profound misunderstanding of the power of social communication. After all, what is a brand and why would you want to be one?  Wikipedia says a brand is “the personality that identifies a product, service or company.” The word that is missing here is “faux,” as in a brand is a faux personality that identifies a product, service or company. Products, services and companies do not have personalities, because they are not persons. Branding creates the illusion that one can have a meaningful interpersonal relationship with, say, a sneaker. I have great friends who work for Nike, but “Nike” won’t drive me to the hospital if I crash my bike. What do people have that brands don’t? People have voices. A voice is unique, original, and flexible. A voice has something to say. Tyrannical regimes are overthrown by voices not by brands. Voices initiate change. Brands reinforce stasis. Brands are, by there nature, static, consistent, and unchanging. My Big Mac in Los Angeles will be the same Big Mac in Paris. My cup of Stabucks Coffee will be as pleasant in Portland as it is in Moscow. Don’t be a brand. Strive to be a voice, because voices are extremely powerful. Social communication is powerful, because it facilitates conversations and allows our unique voices to be heard. Before you embark on building your personal brand ask yourself, “when was the last time a sneaker brought down a dictator?”

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