Personal branding & consistency: the great debate #2

My last blog article Personal branding & consistency: the great debate #1 certainly prompted a lot of comments – feel free to have a peek.

Essentially, I wrote how about I came across the idea that consistency is not something to strive within the context of branding as it’s predictable and boring. An idea that for me I found hard to swallow. It was one event of two last week that ruffled my feathers! The second disruption of the force came from Hung Lee @wise_man_say when I came across his blog article entitled 5 reasons why Gen Y hates personal branding.  It’s a brilliant article that is well worth a read, so please do check it out. It raises some of the great issues of personal branding, and many that I felt compelled to comment on (read the comments section!). But it’s the consistency thread that I’ll pull out here…

Hung writes

“… the tension that exists between the twin tenets of Personal Branding – Authenticity and Consistency; it is essentially inauthentic to be consistent. Are you, my fellow humans, consistent? Almost certainly not. You have good days, bad days, every other kind of day in between; this is self evidently normal. However, the concept of Personal Branding doesn’t capture this dynamic; instead, it rails against it, preferring the static position of ‘always on’.”

But for me… [or at least my response to this was]

Consistency in brands is when the entity in question (person, service, product etc) behaves consistently according to their values. This still allows for massive inconsistencies in behaviour day to day. You’re unlikely one day to be tirelessly motivated by money, success and recognition, and the next day decide that lobbying for Greenpeace is actually more important to you in life.

If you’re not being consistent, it probably means one of 2 things: 1. you’re trying to be someone you’re not and you’re “borrowing” values, but can’t help defaulting to your true values. Or 2 you have a value conflict going on that is pulling you in different directions. But this pattern in itself will have consistency.”

Hung’s response to my comments were

“Brands Attached To Values, Allow For Inconsistencies In Day To Day Living. I agree that that Brands that have value embedded into them are more powerful than those that do not; however, I do not agree that this allows for the inconsistencies of authentic living. A brand is an abbreviation – a shortcut for people to understand who you are, in as short a time as possible. People do not have the time to process the ‘full you’ – hence why we create badges we call ‘Personal Brands’ so that overloaded consumers won’t have to have the hassle of dealing with you a human being. Any deviation from this and you are forcing your audience to do just that and, make no mistake, you will be penalized for it. Try it – tweet all day about something that really pissed you off (can’t think what..) and see what happens to your market. Something will.”

The problem we have here is a two opposing views that are unlikely to ever meet and so the debate could carry on indefinitely….

But before I move on, I just want to return to the idea of conflict between authenticity and consistency. I don’t see any conflict here. When you are true to yourself and behave in accordance with your values, you have integrity and when you have integrity, you are naturally authentic. People who are inconsistent in their behaviour are unlikely to be described as authentic, because they are clearly struggling to understand who they really are, and hence behave in such a way that reflects their true essence.

I decided to ask a few knowledgeable brand peeps how relevant or important they felt consistency was in the context of branding and this is what they said.

Will King, founder of @KingofShaves, says

“King of Shaves brand: “It is what it does, it does what it says”. Don’t just shave, King of Shaves #brandconsistency critical”

@BenAfia, Founder of Afia, an agency that helps brands to stick/engage through language

“Very important, but we need to let people’s (cust serv) personality come through too, Social media is changin things fast.”

@MalcolmLevene, Personal Branding Expert

“I put ‘reliability’ above ‘consistency.’ Reliability enables one to constantly raise the bar & change for the better.”

But it was @RachelElnaugh’s comment that really hit the nail on the head for me

“it’s about integrity – if you are true to yourself you can never be inconsistent!!!”

So, what do you think? Are consistency and authenticity happy bed fellows or never the twain shall meet?

If you want to read part 1 of this article go here: Personal Branding & consistency: the great debate # 1.

Thanks to Stockie for the image

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7 Responses to “Personal branding & consistency: the great debate #2”

  1. I really liked this follow up post. It’s great to see the debate moving forward.

    I get Hung’s point about if you tweet all day about something that pissed you off. In fact, I’ve seen a prominent UK business tweeter lose followers in exactly this way.

    However, I think that this was actually their genuine ‘personal brand’ showing it’s face. Yes, they are a significant business person sharing experience and advice, but they are also a volatile and slightly ‘flakey’ human being. Some people will like it, some people will hate it, and I feel that it only really matters if they are trying to attract the people that will hate it. …and that’s simply a matter of choice.

    I know I’m not to everyone’s taste, and I have let go of trying to be. My people like me – as a professional and as a person. If they don’t like me on both those levels, they don’t want to work with me (and visa-versa too).

    On that basis, I don’t see yours and Hungs viewpoints as being totally contradictory.

  2. @Tamsin Fox-Davies:
    HI Tamsin,

    Thanks for dropping by! It’s great to hear that you think we’re not in total opposite ends of the debate.

  3. I agree with Tamsin, it is indeed great to see the debate moving forward and it’s fascinating to see the follow up comments you posted, Alexia.

    People follow my inspirational and motivational tweets (pearlsofwisdom) and I’m extremely aware that I’m known for being very up beat. This helps to re affirm my brand which is all about fun in a business and social environment. Ever conscious of this, I avoid negative tweeting.

    This evening, however, I sent out a slightly more personal tweet that I’d had a tough day. In fact, it felt quite strange and I don’t think I will repeat this ever again. As honest as the tweet was, it didn’t feel like I was congruent with my brand. If we use social media as a shop front, there it is actually quite destructive for the brand to put anything out publicly that we are not particularly proud of, genuine or not.

    I’m with you all the way. You wrote “When you are true to yourself and behave in accordance with your values, you have integrity and when you have integrity, you are naturally authentic.” I couldn’t agree more. in addition, I just feel that a little editing here and there so that we don’t always air what is “on our lung” is advisable.

  4. @Tanya Rennick: Hi Tanya. Thanks for commenting. You’ve raised a realy important point. Sharing destructive comments, whether destructive for us or for others is never something that I would encourage as it will not do your brand any good, as Tamsin’s comment about the negative prominent business person. For us to hold back from publishing destructive or negative comments does require us to be mindful of our actions, and in some instances, take 5 before acting on any impulses. From the amount of negative commuication about, this is clearly not happening enough.

    You other point about “sharing something that we’re proud of, genuine or not” is also very valisd for me. If we look back and review what we have published, as status updates, blogs or comments, in the cold light of day, are we proudof our behaviour and do we think it enhances our sense of self. If not, then we have not behaved appropriately.

    Wise words Tanya! Thank you!

  5. Thank you Alexia. I totally agree with “taking 5” before acting on any impulses. A thoroughly absorbing debate.

  6. Great follow up article Alexia,

    I competely agree with @RachelElnaugh’s comment “it’s about integrity – if you are true to yourself you can never be inconsistent!!!”

    We are the sum of all of our feelings, emotions, behaviours etc. They may not be desirable or palatable, but they are authentic as they are an expression of how we are feeling at any given point in time.

  7. @Karen Haller: Hi Karen. Thank you!