Murketing: Rob Walker on why we brand ourselves

Last weekend I witnessed Rob Walker, of Murketing and Buying In fame, give a talk on personal branding.

He was to speak to the proliferation of personal branding, how we are managing ourselves just like MBAs manage detergent. Specifically, would this be an insult to our humanity, to craft our lives as a brand, transforming ourselves into this guy?

Here’s the gist of his theory on the growth of personal branding:

We are motivated by an audience: pre-Internet, if we were to invest time into blogs, Twitter, or Facebook, the expectation would be a direct transfer of wealth. That’s changed. Be it our innate desire for credibility or validation, the “I’ll follow you if you follow me” mentality shifted the focus off of money. It’s now about building an audience, and the bigger the better.

Why now? The Internet made it easier. We’ve got tools like Blogger and Twitter to br0adcast ourselves. And we can measure everything just like real brand managers. Instead of sales, we can track subscribers, followers, comments, technorati, diggs, and friends.

With this measurement, we can be brand managers…of ourselves…truly participating in a market dynamic, where winning is reflected by the size of our audience and manufactured authority.

So is this a bad thing, treating ourselves as an object to be marketed and positioned? Rob was on the fence. But when I see things like this, I certainly agree:


(This is pulled from front page of the most popular personal branding blog on the Internet)

It’s one thing to play the numbers to sell a toaster–but when we are exploiting ourselves to the game of “most twitter followers,” I can’t help but be reminded of every villain from “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged” whose personal value was extracted from others rather than himself.

The unrelenting quest for external validation, constantly shaping our personal brand, is only a distraction from the hard-work that will ultimately make our personal brand extraordinary.