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What It Really Means to Have a Personal Brand

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The following is the first in the series "Personal Branding For A Better Life," in which marketing expert Jim Joseph applies big brand marketing lessons to help you build a successful personal brand.

I was writing my first book about big brand marketing in 2009, just as the economy started to unravel around us. People were losing jobs left and right, and many found themselves stuck in a place they didn't want to be. As I watched people wrestle with career and personal decisions, I began to realize one thing: managing a career is like managing a brand. So I decided to put some big brand theory to use on the most important of all our brands: Ourselves. To coincide with the launch of my new book, The Personal Experience Effect (Happy About, 2013), I'll be breaking the personal branding process down each week to help people formulate what works best for them personally and professionally.

I would argue that each of our personal brands began at birth. When Mom and Dad gave us a name, they unknowingly launched a new brand, the first of a lifetime of personal decisions that makes us each uniquely our own being -- or brand. From that day forward, we spend our lives living up to our given name.

Ironically, when you look at it from a marketing perspective, this is no different from launching and marketing a brand like Tide or Levi's. The brand starts out with a name and a sense of what it's all about. The brand then starts a journey of connecting with people to add value to their lives, constantly evolving over time to be more and more relevant, just as we initially connect with family and childhood friends, go to school to learn and grow and continue to make more and more connections.

The choices we make in life are no different than the choices brands make when marketing their products. We choose our path of education, life's work, a partner, having children, and many career decisions along the way. The stakes are more personal and arguably higher than with a "commercial" brand, but the process is nearly the same whether we are talking about growing a business or ourselves.

As we market ourselves for new careers or take ourselves in new directions personally, we need to think as a brand and stay true to who we are and who we want to be.

What are we projecting to those around us over time? How do our personal qualities, traits or experiences create a brand that works for us personally?

A personal brand, like any good brand, needs to be consciously managed and controlled throughout our lives. Choosing where to go to college, for example, is a huge decision that affects a lifetime of experiences. Picking a life partner is even more influential. Deciding whether to leave a current job and pursue a new opportunity can be considered from a branding perspective to make sure we're making the right decision. The "right" decision is one both consistent with our brand and in track with goals we have set for ourselves.

Brand managers follow a very rigorous process to create a marketing plan, and they update it every year. This can be easily applied to our own life decisions in order to create a roadmap for getting what you want out of life and ultimately a reputation that serves you well both personally and professionally.

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