0

The Amazing Magic Of Audio Branding

Audio branding is like the icing on the cake. It provides an amazing, rich and memorable tone to your brand identity. Sound can stop you in your tracks and quickly engage you like no other sense can. Music and sounds can trigger memories and emotions. To test your audio branding knowledge, we have created a quiz. Listen to 7 different unique sounds and see if you can identify the brands.

Most retailers already leverage music as a selling tool in stores. In building a brand, the use of sound is underestimated. Few brands are strategically using music, sound and voice to create a magical brand connection.

 

The Beginning of Audio Branding

Before television, radio was the darling for reaching consumers. I have been told by those who still remember that radio was the entertainment center in households. Entire families would huddle around the radio to listen to broadcasts sponsored by a brand. Well before the trend of radio advertising. Generals Mills aired the first singing commercial back in 1926 entitled “Have you tried Wheaties?” It was an instant success and made Wheaties a national brand.

The art of building brands through jingles reached a peak during the economic boom of the 1950s. Many product categories jumped onto the trend such as breakfast cereals, candy, snacks, pop, tobacco, beer, automobiles, personal hygiene products, household products and especially detergent, advertising jingles were often used. Like the epic musical films, branding jingles lost their appeal by the 1960s. Any Boomer can recite several advertising jingles as they sit dormant in their brains like “Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Mayer Wiener,” “Ai, Yi, Yi, Yi, I am the Frito Bandito,” and “I’d like to buy the world a Coke.”

To be a memorable and enduring jingle Linda Kaplan Thaler, Chairman of Publicis Kaplan Thaler advertising agency, say, “[a jingle] have huge sticking power. A jingle is not successful if you listen to it once and liked it. You have to listen to it and want to sing it. Essentially, you become the advertiser for the brand.” She also thinks today is a perfect time to build a brand through a jingle due to the many social channels to share it on. While Martin Puris, past Chairman and CEO of Ammirati & Puris, thinks jingles are passé. “In a marketing wary world, a jingle seems oddly out of place. Too slick, too contrived.”

Singing a brand message is a beautiful thing.

Big Bold Sounds

“Master of suspense” filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock understood the importance of sound in telling a story. He said, “When we tell a story in cinema, we should resort to dialogue only when it’s impossible to do otherwise.” He was brilliant at manipulating his audience’s emotions by using sound design to enhance the situation. Remember his movie, The Birds (1963). He used a combination of real bird sounds and electronically synthesized noises, creating an auditory assault that brought the vicious bird attacks to life.

Great sound design is fully appreciated through good quality sound systems and speakers. Since the 1960s, we saw significant innovations concerning sound systems, from the bulky multiunit stereo systems and the iconic boombox to putting our entire music library into our pocket with the iPod. Add a set of good quality headphones, and you are in another world.

 

Audio Branding – Music 

Eric Sheinkop, co-author of Hit Brands: How Music Builds Value for the World’s Smartest Brands, says, “Music brings value to a brand in three ways: identity, engagement, currency. Specifically, using music to establish an emotional connection with a brand increases brand recognition, creates excitement and buzz beyond the brand’s core products or services and can empower consumers, giving them valuable content to discover and share. Music creates the value that brands need to win the war for attention and develop a genuine connection with their consumers. When used correctly, music not only creates loyalty but true advocacy.”

Music has played an essential role in brand building for automotive and aviation brands, where it is all about the emotional state. Music is a universal language that crosses all borders of culture, nationality and languages. It is a personal connection to the brand. Yet, most brands tend to use sound and music to be campaign-oriented, not brand-oriented. Here is an example of a campaign-oriented advertisement by Honda featuring a 60-person choir who were the sole audio track. There isn’t any car sound that they can’t sing.

United Airlines took the brand-oriented approach using music as a key brand element. Since 1976, United has used the familiar George Gershwin’s tune Rhapsody in Blue as a foundation for their brand. The music is played in its television advertisements, airport terminals, and pre-flight announcements. United Airlines uses this piece of music to strategically create a distinct audio identity that expresses its vales at all necessary customer touchpoints. Have you ever watched someone bring on a musical instrument onto a plane? How about the entire London Symphony Orchestra.

Their onboard safety video creatively incorporates the distinctive rhapsody in blue music in various interpretations to emphasize each cultural destinations – brilliant.

 

Audio Branding – Sonic Logo 

The sonic logo is linking your brand logo with a distinct and unique sound that becomes synonymous with the brand identity. The key is using it everywhere the brand is communicated.  It takes years of reach and frequency to link a sound firmly to the brand. But, once it occurs, it becomes timeless like NBC’s three-tone chimes, Intel’s five-note bong, and THX Sound System’s deep note. Kevin Perlmutter’s brand strategist and a blogger explain that because sound bypasses the rational part of the brain and reaches the most intuitive level, sound can be the fastest way to heighten brand engagement. Therefore, a brand identity is incomplete without utilizing a sound or music to help develop an emotional connection even if your brand is an unemotional computer chip. You have a better chance to position a brand into the customer’s mind if you use a multisensory approach.

 

Audio Branding – Product Sound

Some product brands have their very own sounds that can help differentiate themselves from the competition. Kellogg’s Rice Krispies “Snap, Crackle, Pop,” Alka-Seltzer’s “Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz,” Snapple’s “Pop” when opened, Dyson’s unique vacuum sound, Infiniti’s engine sound (check out the ten most distinctive sounding cars) and the “scritch-scratch” sound of a Sharpie marker on paper. The sound of your product can be as unique as its look, feel and smell. Rachael Pink, an acoustic engineer at Dyson, says, “People now expect products to sound good—not just sound quiet, but have a nice quality.”

Frit-Lay, part of PespiCo Inc., introduced a compostable chip bag for its SunChips brand to become more environmentally friendly. Therefore, as a result, the bag became noisy changing the customer experience so drastically sales fell, and consumers complained about the sound. Frito-Lay went back to the old bag. Don’t underestimate the customer’s relationship with your brand and product sound.

 

Hearing is Believing 

Today, visual branding remains the focus of many marketers and branding experts. Even with the increased number of touchpoints (like TV, radio, website, mobile apps, voice assistants, social channels, in-store displays, voice messages, events and in-store), you can’t rely solely on visuals. The trend is towards digital channels (social media, bloggers, podcasts, voice assistants, video) for brands to communicate.

Well, digital has many channels to reach the consumer; it can lack personality and emotional attachment. Supporting this conclusion, Kevin Perlmutter says, “The strategic use of music and sound can dramatically improve a digital interaction by placing a brand’s unique identity and personality front and center to provide clear navigation with proprietary sounds that are simultaneously functional and emotional.”

In our chaotic and over-stimulated communications world, brands need to engage all senses to create a powerful emotional impact that transforms brand experiences. Audio branding could be the magic your brand needs to be believed. Start turning up the volume.

0

Pink Colour Branding

It’s not just a colour. It’s a state of mind.

The colour pink is a striking and controversial colour, full of meaning and emotions. Dr. Veronika Koller, a professor and researcher at Lancaster University who studied how people interpret the colour pink, says that pink contains more interpretations than any other colour. This article is a respectful summation of this revolutionary colour. If history has anything to tell us, the pink colour branding has a lot of opportunities left in it in the world of branding.

The Colour Pink

Christina Olsen, director of the University of Michigan, Museum of Art, says the colour pink isn’t part of the electromagnetic spectrum, which means we don’t see actual wavelengths. Pink light is “an extra–spectral color, which means other colors must be mixed to generate it.” The primary two colours to make pink are red and white, but it is yellow and blue tones that form a broad spectrum of pink hues. Wikipedia has identified over 46 notable shades of the colour pink (blue has over 73). In the ranking of fashionable colours, pink is number four behind blue, black and grey.

Alice Bucknell, in her article A Brief History of the Color Pink explains pink has been a spectacular contradiction for masculinity and femininity. In Japan, the colour pink represents masculinity honouring slain Samurais, whereas western cultures popularized pink in the eighteen-century fashion scene within the pastel-loving bourgeoisie. The art world brought pink to the forefront, starting with the French Impressionists and Neo-Impressionist movements (such as Claude Monet’s lilies and Edgar Degas’s dancers). In the 1960s, pop art took pink to the next level with artists like Andy Warhol (with his famous Marilyn Monroe). From there, we saw the pink move towards a vibrant neon-soaked 90s, to finally to a subdued Millennial pink that speaks to a more emotionally connected and tolerant society.

Tickled Pink

Pink is known as a cheerful colour. Think about cotton candy and bubble-gum— pure delights.

The psychology of the colour pink is firmly rooted in the perception that pink is a feminine colour that connotes nurture, care, calmness, romance and hope. Marketing has played a role in portraying pink as a “girly” colour.

Intensify the colour to hot vibrant pink, and the psychological properties shift the tonality to youthful, energetic, sexy and fun. The range of moods and feeling pink can portray vast and can quickly define gender or personality.

T-Mobile uses hot pink (magenta) to help differentiate their brand from the big competitors (AT&T and Verizon) and set an irreverent brand tone. In 2012, John Legere joined T-Mobile as CEO, who created a new brand around the colour of pink, transforming the company to be more energetic, youthful and hip. He must have done more than introduce hot pink to successfully motivate his employees to wear their shocking magenta uniforms every-day proudly.  This brand transformation has been a large part of T-Mobile’s successful turnaround from a $29 billion in sales and -$6 billion revenue loss to, today, a $51 billion in sales and positive revenue over $4 billion. In 2014 T-Mobile was successful in shutting out AT&T subsidiary from trying to use a similar magenta colour by trademarking theirs— feisty true colours.

Pretty in Pink

Associating baby boys with blue and baby girls with pink is a relatively new trend, says Jo B. Paoletti, author of Pink and Blue: Telling the Girls From the Boys in America. She told the gender-code between pink and blue was firmly drawn in western societies in the early 1980s thanks to branding and marketers such as Care Bear, Barbie, Hello Kitty, and many Disney princesses. Pink became the leading colour to define pretty little girl’s materialistic world of glitter and fairy tales.

In 2011, Forbes reported that the Disney Princess franchise made $1.6 billion (U.S.) in North American retail sales and $3 billion globally. They were making it the best-seller beating Star Wars, Sesame Street and superheroes. Pink colour branding power prevails.

The colour pink doesn’t stop with infants and young girls. Victoria Secret has successfully used the colour pink for over 40 years to build a lingerie empire of over $8 billion U.S. (2015) in worldwide sales. In 2002, Victoria Secret introduced the PINK brand to attract high school and college-age girls to purchase causal loungewear a step down from the sexy lingerie.

Gender-Coded Pink

Despite this pink persuasion, I have found no conclusive scientific evidence that gender-coded pink influences women more than men, nor does it have any effect on human behaviour. JR Thorpe stated in her article, Why Are We So Obsessed With Millennial Pink? There’s A Scientific Explanation For Everything that there is sufficient “evidence that we do seem to view pinks in a positive light in some situations, likely as a result of cultural programming.”

Post World War II, every home had some sort of pink household products based on targeting women who were entering into the work-force and started drawing a paycheque (thanks to the war). Remember grandma’s pink bathroom complete with pink doilies? As Jennifer Wright says in her article How Pink Became a Color for Girls, if a lady “tells you that her favorite color is “pink!” she might be telling you that she wants to be dainty and demure and stay at home. Or she might just be a badass who’s trying not to scare you too much.” Does this mean that intrinsically women are influenced by pink to some degree due to generational exposure or a desire to be part of something bigger?

The Politics of Pink

The colour pink connotes passive, innocent and girly; however, as an advocacy pink colour branding, it’s fierce and powerful, loaded with pride and strength.

The pink triangle was associated with the gay liberation movement. Still, its original creation was far more evil as it was used by the Nazis to identify homosexual prisoners in concentration camps.

In 1991, the Susan G. Komen Foundation gave pink ribbons to runners in its New York breast cancer survivor race. The following year, the pink ribbon became the official, now-ubiquitous, symbol for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

In both cases, the pink colour communicates active defiance and empowerment. Many feminist groups have adopted the colour pink as a sign of strength and pride in the mission towards equality and opportunity.

Pink Ribbon

The Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an excellent example of using the gender-coded colour pink to their advantage to promote awareness and increase early detection of breast cancer. Some people would argue that the pinkification of breast cancer has turned a horrible disease into a brand that has been commodified by other brands for their profits. BreastCancer.org estimate that “about 42,170 women in the U.S. are expected to die in 2020 from breast cancer, though death rates have been decreasing since 1989. Women under 50 have experienced larger decreases. These decreases are thought to be the result of treatment advances, earlier detection through screening, and increased awareness.” I wasn’t able to find any awareness statistics on the pink ribbon campaign, but I would guess it would be highest among the many ribbon campaigns that exist today.

For Pink Sake

Then there are those brands that don’t care about the gender-coding or personality traits of the pink colour branding. They just want a colour that will differentiate them from the competition.

Owens-Corning is one of those companies that introduced their Pink Fiberglas insulation into the market over 50 years ago. In 1980 they introduced the Pink Panther as their mascot in all of their marketing to accentuate their pinkness and likable pink personality. Since launching the Pink Panther, customers prefer pink insulation by a ratio of seven to one over the closet competition, as revealed in an Owens-Corning study done in the late 1990s. They were also one of the first companies to trademark their colour against copycats successfully. Mr. Smith, Head of Marketing, says, “We are fortunate. We have a trademark color that is up there with Coke red.” In his dreams!

In 1893, the Financial Times went from a generic white paper newspaper to a shade of salmon-pink, which immediately distinguish it from all the competition. Why pink? It was cheaper to dye it pink than making it white. Today, the opposite is correct, but as readers’ transition to the online version, the colour is more about tradition than attracting attention on a dying newsstand.

Millennial Pink

Millennial Pink, also known as the Tumblr Pink or Scandinavian Pink (check out Pinterest), is the politically correct colour that has appeared in shades of beige with a touch of blush to a pleasing peach-salmon. This gender-neutral, androgynous colour is growing in popularity since it first appeared in 2012. You can find it in restaurant interiors, furniture, household products, clothing for both men and women, hair tints, drinks, rose-gold iPhones, and Drake’s album cover Hotline Bling, to name a few.

“Millennials are increasingly redefining what it means to be a grown-up in a seriously troubled world,” explains JR Thorpe. “Sometimes, we all want to be soothed — and what better way to do that than looking at Instagrams of a mid-century modern pink velvet settee.” May I suggest that they use the pinky velvet Pepto-Bismol, a better solution to soothe their tummies.

I predict there will be a few digital gender-neutral brands that will be utilizing this colour soon. Two brands that have embraced this restrained colour so far are Acne Studios clothing retailer and Thinx, a period-proof underwear company.

Pinked Out

No question, pink is an intense colour to build a brand, but you must understand the connection you are trying to develop with the colour. You can’t ignore the historical gender connection that pink has in defining or promoting femininity (both good and bad). Maybe Millennial Pink will make pink less about gender and more about how it makes you feel.  But until then, as hip-hop rapper Talib Kweli said, “women are complex creatures.” I think pink colour branding is just as complex.

However, many brands have successfully broken away from the competitive crowd by pink colour branding, and more new brands will do the same.

Check out “Does the Colour of a Brand Really Matter

This updated article was originally published on January 14th, 2018.

1

Suddenly Corona Beer is in Danger of Becoming a Victim of Coronavirus

We all know there is no link between Corona beer and the Coronavirus, but they have an unfortunate coincidence of sharing the same name. After 100 years of building a formidable beer brand, Corona is helplessly watching its brand name become a victim of a devastating global pandemic. Prior to Coronavirus, Corona Extra was the third-most popular beer in the United States. Coronavirus is becoming this century’s biggest catastrophic causing untold amounts of mental and physical mayhem on people, societies, businesses, and countries. Coronavirus destruction will live in the annals of history longer than any pale lager. Suddenly, Corona’s brand name is under attack with no clear direction of what they should do.

Fear Mongering

The first bad press Corona got in association with Coronavirus was from 5W Public Relations. They surveyed 737 U.S. beer drinkers and vigorously promoted their results: 38 percent of beer-drinking consumers would not buy Corona under any circumstances due to concerns about Coronavirus. They also claimed that 4 percent of people who previously drank Corona would stop drinking it — a rounding error.

PRWeek received the release but determined that “it was lacking in credibility…due to previous interactions with 5W and Torossian [CEO of 5W], who has courted controversy in the past and is not averse to a little self-promotion.” The 5W website shows no connection to beer consumers. But they got the results they were looking for. Mainstream media (like CBS News, CNN, Bloomberg, Fox, Vice and New York Post) jumped on the story, focusing on the 38 percent stats without any further investigation. Constellation Brands CEO and President Bill Newlands, owner of Corona, had to address the situation head on. He stated that “these claims simply do not reflect our business performance and consumer sentiment, which includes feedback from our distributor and retailer partners across the country.”

We all know that Corona beer does not causes Coronavirus, at least I hope we do. But people are scared and drinking a beer that shares its name with the virus can make some people uncomfortable. Is this the beginning of Corona beer’s demise or just bad research?

Negative Brand Names

The world is over saturated with brand names, making it almost impossible to break through the marketing noise. Wine brand names have tried to break this barrier with negatively charged brand names. With wine brands popping-up on shelves everywhere like Frog’s Piss, Earthquake, Killer, Fat Bastard, Prisoner, and BoomBoom. Negatively charged brand names are cutting edge. They are notorious and risqué like Fcuk fashions, Heart Attack Grill, Monster Energy drink, Skinny Bitch apparel, and Raging Bitch beer.

While negative words can generate negative feelings, they also create marketing opportunities because they are different and memorable. However, research has shown that extremely negative brand names can create consumer avoidance. But humour and attitude based negative brand names can create excitement, savviness, sensuousness, hipness and daringness that appeals to Millennials. Negative brand names challenge conventions and stand out from the crowd, but I don’t think this is where the Corona beer brand wants to go. It prefers golden sandy beaches, turquoise waters and clear blue skies.

Brand Name Casualty

Every brand works hard to build positive associations through product performance, employees, advertising, promotions, sponsorship, events, customer interactions, and social and community engagements. Once a negative association starts to take hold, its hard for people to separate the two.

A similar unfortunate situation developed for Ayds (pronounce as “aids”) candy. They were a popular appetite-suppressant candy in the 1970s and early 1980s until Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) was discovered. The horrible disease also caused massive weight loss in patients. To try to save the brand name, they changed it to Diet Ayds. The negative connotation was still too great to overcome. The brand eventually went out of business.   

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina, the most devastating hurricane to hit southeast New Orleans killed 1,836 people and affected over 15 million residents. At the time, the name Katrina was ranked the 246th most popular female baby name according to nameberry.com. Seven years later, the name’s popularity has dropped 696 spots to 942. Once a negative connotation is placed on a name, it’s hard for people to move on. Once a brand name becomes negative, its almost impossible to turn the tide.

Drowning Sorrows

As the saying goes “when times are good, people drink — when times are bad, people drink.” Beer and other alcoholic beverages sales continue to rise as people self-isolate and worry about their future. No sports, no clubs, no concerts, no events of any kind, yet Nielsen data showed that beer sales rose 34 percent year-over-year for the week ending on March 21. Sales of Constellation Brand products, owner of Corona, are up higher at 39 percent, led by the Corona family, which is up 50 percent. Impressive until you compare it against toilet paper sales which are up 160 percent!

Corona Beer Virus

Since the end of January, the hashtag “corona beer virus”, “beer virus” and “beer coronavirus” have continued to trend upwards on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Some followers support of the brand, while others mock the virus and beer with creative memes. As the Coronavirus situation continues to intensify and people are in lockdown, connecting with friends and family through video conferencing online is the new normal. Corona beer has become an online celebrity for all the wrong reasons. Kellan Terry, senior manger of communications at Brandwatch, says that young people tend to laugh at what they consider to be dystopian events as a coping mechanism online. Having your brand associated with a deadly virus isn’t a healthy trend with or without the name.

Then, corona’s next problem appeared. Corona launched an online campaign for their new Corona Hard Seltzer with the slogan “coming ashore soon.” Twitter followers quickly attacked the campaign as “bad timing” and in “poor taste” amid the spread of Coronavirus. Corona promptly removed the slogan.

Beer Branding

Marketing alcohol is like marketing water; its not the taste that matters, its the brand image. In a classic blind taste study done in 1964, regular drinkers of certain brands failed to rate their brand as significantly better than the other samples. In fact, regular drinkers of two of the five types of beer scored other beers significantly higher than the brand that they stated was their favorite. There have been many other studies since with similar results. In 2018, the beer manufactures in the United States spend close to $1.5 billion on advertising. Constellation Brands ranked 2nd with a $368 million ad expenditure on Corona and Modelo. Beer brands live and die on their image. Corona brand marketing executives are likely increasing their own alcohol consumption in these unprecedented times.

Brand Reaction

Corona owner Constellation Brands has over 100 brands in beer, wine, spirits and, more recently, cannabis. Each brand gets its allotted marketing, brand support, and funding. So far, they have been lying low. If sales are good, why rock the boat? Reputation expert Andy Beal says, “The real threat would come if Corona were to dive in and capitalize on this by running some crass social media post.” In light of the seriousness of the situation, he cautions that “they should not make light of it.”

This isn’t about online social strategy (which Corona isn’t involved in). They do the bare minimum on social channels. Sitting on the sidelines and hoping this will eventually blow over isn’t a leader strategy either. The challenge is all alcohol brands make money on the image of people having fun. The Corona brand is all about sandy beaches, hot sun, and total escapism. John Alvarado, SVP of Brand Marketing for Corona Extra says Corona is “a carefree brand that encourages consumers to relax and enjoy life no matter the situation.” The Coronavirus is the antithesis to these positive vibes.

Brand Survival

Today, the Corona virus is attacking the United States with the fierceness never before seen in our lifetime. The Coronavirus crisis is affecting millions of people’s lives and livelihood. Consumers will judge brands on how they helped and stepped-up through these terrible times. Stress can cause people to make inappropriate jokes to lighten the mood; right now, Corona beer is one of those jokes. After all the turmoil, deaths, and dramatic life changes, can Corona bounce back as the king of carefree and sunny times? Will the emotional shock associated with one of the world’s darkest moments destroy the Corona name? Can a brand name live with so many negative connotations? In these catastrophic times more alcohol will be consumed than ever before. Hopefully after the hangover of isolation is over, Corona beer will still live on.

Stay safe and healthy.

4

Rethinking Personal Branding

In 1997, Tom Peters coined the phrase “Me Inc.” This sparked the idea that we should strategically build our own personal brand and hone in on our unique selling proposition (USP). Peters recognized the competitiveness of the marketplace. Since then, online presence has quickly penetrated every person’s life. Social channels consume valuable time, always demanding more content to satisfy the millions of eyeballs. The personal branding concept has grown exponentially.

Almost 3,000 books have been published on the topic of personal branding. A Google search returns over 2.5 billion pages. There is no shortage of resources but, in the grand scheme of things, do you really need a personal brand in the first place?

Shelly Lazarus, former CEO of Ogilvy & Matherwould argue that a human isn’t a product, so they are therefore not a brand. She has emphatically stated that “I hate it when people talk about personal brand. Those words imply that people need to adopt identities that are artificial and plastic and packaged, when what actually works is authenticity.”

A Slave to Personal Branding

Once you have built your presence on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and your blog, you are obligated to feed the channels with consumable content. Good social presences also engage with other content and solicit likes and comments. We become slaves to the online—curating images, developing witty insights, capturing video expositions and quipping quotable proses. Twitter suggests you create three tweets a day, complete with eye-catching imagery, to engage your audience.

But most people have a real job, and it doesn’t include being a self-publisher. As a brand builder, I used to think building your personal brand was a must. Today, I am not so sure.  As the pendulum swings, I am beginning to question the idea of branding an individual. Neatly packaging each of us into a formulaic design, carefully crafting our look and tone of voice, and hunting for the right followers. It’s beginning to feel like a controlled environment, where we must conform to the needs of business, social channels and HR recruiters searching for new human capital. I understand the need for the perfect online resume that highlights our strengths and hides our weaknesses but, as Lazarus says, we aren’t a product.

Do we need to control how we present ourselves online? Absolutely! But do we need to spend important family time to build our personal brand? No.

Life is too short. Life is about living in the real world, not about gathering likes, comments, and shares. Anthropologist Ilana Gershon and author of Down and Out in the New Economy: How People Find (Or Don’t Find) Work Today, states that personal branding doesn’t actually increase a job seeker’s chances of landing a position.

Humans Aren’t Brands

We are trying to take a complex, multidimensional, living and breathing human (with emotional needs and wants, personality traits, and values to boot) and fit them into a simplified, rigid, one-dimensional product brand. Using regimented branding techniques to enact personal branding doesn’t do any person justice.

Gershon says that people trying to brand themselves “are using techniques designed to associate an object with a personality, techniques that had to be radically simplified to be effective precisely because objects don’t engage in the world in the complex ways that people do.”

And seriously, do we need 7 billion personal brands? We already have too many product brands!  Many personal brand experts have taken the traditional product branding discipline and parlayed it into a business of packaging people into brands. This has become one of the biggest self-help topics on the internet, thanks to LinkedIn and bloggers. No surprise, all the social media channels profit from this craze. Sounds more like a money-making scheme than sound advice.

Playing to Our Vanity

The personal brand success metrics are based on the number of followers and likes. The metrics, unsurprisingly, were set by brand marketing experts. Although being liked can contribute to your sense of self-worth, social media following has little impact on career success. “It’s a reward cycle, you get a squirt of dopamine every time you get a like or a positive response on social media,” explains psychologist Emma Kenny. According to the Omnicore Agency, the Facebook “like” button has been pressed over 1.13 trillion times.

Okay. So we are addicted to social media and the desire to be liked. In the real world, networking and human interactions are positive and healthy for our survival as a social animal. Trying to emulate this positive effect on social media isn’t as easy nor as healthy, says Holly Shakya and Nicholas Christakis, both professors in the science of social norms. In 2017, they studied the relationship between social media use (primarily Facebook) and well-being. They attribute the negative experience of social media to unrealistic curated content from others’ lives, leading to negative self-comparison. Add to this the addictiveness of always interacting; a constant need to be online. They conclude that “online social interactions are no substitute for the real thing.”

Our Digital Footprint

The reality is that we all must present a digital self or resume if we want to work in this digitally transforming world. We can try to ignore the fact that recruiters and employers search online as part of the hiring process but, at the end of the day, if we don’t take control of our digital footprint, others are free to do so. Creating a digital existences of one’s self immediately shifts you from being free-wheeling and shooting from the hip to having to be more strategic, more thoughtful and more vulnerable. It doesn’t mean that you can’t have a point of view or a strong conviction, but everything you do and say is on the record for everyone to see and analyse. All of your actions and inactions will define you. Your professional persona quickly becomes your authentic self and vice versa. We are expected to conform to our employers’ values and act as advocates to support our companies’ business goals. Our personal lives are no longer offline or off the record. Over time, it becomes impossible to shift from your professional persona to your personal self without jeopardizing your credibility or your true intent. You are better off to align the professional with the personal self from the start.

Standing Out Beyond a Commodity

Many years ago, most products were undistinguished commodities based on supply and demand, without any intrinsic value. Then came brilliant marketers who took a commodity like water, built a brand story, and got people to spend more money on a litre of water than a litre of gasoline. Will personal branding protect our intrinsic value as we compete for jobs against artificial intelligence? After all, the job market is changing faster than we can enhance our skills and build our resumes. Having a post-secondary degree used to translate into better job prospects, but degrees hold far less weight today.

By 2030, the McKinsey Global Institute estimates that 30 percent of the world’s human labour will be displaced by intelligent agents and robots. Similarly, Oxford University predicts that 47 percent of total US employment is at risk due to computerization. That could mean over 800 million people requiring rebranding as they attempt to switch job categories. The potential upheaval of the workforce creates a greater urgency to differentiate ourselves from technology (and each other) if we wish to survive. According to a Jobvite survey of recruiters, 95 percent of those polled think that the job market is going to get more competitive, and job seekers that stand out are likely to benefit. Does this mean personal branding may become paramount for our survival and keep us from becoming a human commodity without a job?


Branding Limitations

The perfect brand is everything a human being isn’t—consistent, predictable, rational, logical, and dependable. Some of the greatest attributes humans have are emotions, feelings, and thoughts. We get bored easily and our moods shift like the unpredictable weather. We grow and learn from our experiences and our values continue to evolve.

Being a brand limits us significantly. We can build different online personas, but these become a challenge to manage over time. The easiest way to build an online brand is to step away from our individual quirks and move towards a business entity, like a consultant with clear attributes and benefits. Your brand may be your name, but it becomes more of a business entity bigger than just you. Better yet, just focus on ensuring your LinkedIn profile is always up-to-date and portrays all of your redeeming qualities.

Life is Short

Indra Gardiner BowersCEO of i.d.e.a, says that “Life goes fast and the time you spend cultivating your so-called brand is not going to make you happier, more fulfilled, or more valuable. What will do that is focusing on being a good human being, doing your work well, acting with integrity and truly loving the people in your life who deserve to be loved.”

Be cognizant of the time and effort in continuously feeding the system with your thoughts, comments, sounds, and images. Don’t waste your life curating it. Eric Ruiz, writer and Partner Marketingat Netflix, reminds us that the sum of our tweets, images, and online thoughts are only a small part of our reputation. The most important aspect is the hardwork (actions and decisions) we perform five days (or more) a week. He says “A personal brand is worthless if it’s not backed up.”

To Tom Peter’s credit, the world was very different 20 years ago. Today, search engines like Google allow anyone to find out everything there is to know about you. Where you live, where you work, what you are interested in, what you post, and what you have shown interest in (likes and shares) becomes commonplace knowledge. The moral of this story? It’s important to take control of the image you portray in the digital world, especially in the workplace. Your personal image strategy is an essential career asset, as it functions as your online resume as a living digital record of who you are. Be cognizant of what you post online and think carefully about future audiences for your content, but don’t get so wrapped up in the online world that you forget to participate in the real one. Like most things, balance and common sense is key.