In the last year, I’ve been hearing a lot about building a “personal brand” or “branding oneself.” I joined Twitter recently in part because I was advised at a non-academic careers session that doing so would make me more employable, though precisely how it would accomplish this was more mysterious—apparently it would involve writing blog posts about my nostalgia for Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, of which I have very little, and so am thus nearly doomed, I suppose.
In a recent post, blogger Alina Kulesh, a new Twitter acquaintance, suggests she enjoys apps like Gowalla and Foursquare because they allow her to publish her presence at specific restaurants, clubs and shops, thereby building her brand, an advantage she’s found overrides the oft-spouted fears about eroding privacy or potential security breaches. She’s had some success too, which I very much applaud her for—recently gaining an opportunity to write a weekly arts & culture column for photojunkie.
The notion that one must brand oneself also drives the proliferation of so-called lifestyle blogs, many of which dedicate lists, posts or even entire blogs to enumerating “things I like.” To brand oneself seems to mean that one should associate oneself with particular items, shops, products, adjectives, colours, destinations, restaurants, depths-of-field, styles, foods, choices, habits and, yes, brands. This accretion of characteristics, whether purchased, coveted, or simply noticed, allows one entrance into particular identities—urban homesteader, avid locavore, dedicated maker, fashionista, all-of-the-above, etc. On the whole, I don’t disagree that such a strategy can prove immensely successful. I’ve seen some bloggers build impressive online personas quite rapidly and earn some not insignificant profit by selling their personal brand to bigger brands. Others find communities of like-minded brands with which to mingle, converse and broadcast. And of course, whether at career-building sessions or gossiping with friends, we’ve all heard branding success stories: those who’ve found employment, creative opportunities or niche-lovers through their successful consolidation of an online persona.