Who Said Personal Brand Isn't Important?

Personal Brand. Is it important or is it not? Some say it is super valuable and is the doorway to other opportunities. Still others say that personal brand is a waste of time and a distraction from the core mission of a company. Which of these sentiments seem most important to you?

The United States Olympic Committee took a black eye today when pictures of a 14-time gold medal winner smoking a bong emerged on the internet.

Speedo, concerned about fallout from recent photos of a spokesman smoking marijuana at a college house party, considered yanking his endorsement contract.

Michael Phelps, America’s swimming legend, who has secured a record 14 gold medals is in danger of losing endorsement contracts and be banned from competing in the 2012 London Olympics.
81972649RB208_Olympics_Day_If you are thinking about this the same way I am, you recognize that the most damaging sentiment to the greater public is the third. Sure, Speedo investors might be concerned about a hit to the reputation of the Speedo gear, but probably not. I mean, really? The USOC is used to being rocked by scandal, so that brand is already pretty worthless.

But Mike Phelps? He’s an icon. He makes girls swoon and guys try to be like him. He’s a legend in his own time, possibly eclipsing Lance Armstrong or even Tiger Woods.

And he has a history of getting in trouble with substance abuse. Four years ago, at the illegal drinking age of 19, he was arrested for DUI. He made mends, so we thought, and did good by the community by making frequent visits to high schools and preaching the sins of alcohol abuse. He was reformed and America wanted to buy into his brand. His personal brand.

Then the news of him being a 23 year old and doing the college party scene, hitting the booze hard and then happily accepting a bong in, what some observers called, a well-practiced hit. (Click the link to see the incriminating photo which, Phelps now admits is real).

Coming full circle, I respectfully submit, that personal brand might be one of the most important aspects to any business. How you are perceived directly impacts your company. Just as my friendship with Shashi, creates positive karma for Network Solutions, or President Obama’s personal brand has transformed Democratic politics.

Personal brand is not dead. It is very much alive.

Photo Credit: [MarcoPako via Flickr]

Aaron Brazell

Aaron Brazell is a Baltimore, MD-based WordPress developer, a co-founder at WP Engine, WordPress core contributor and author. He wrote the book WordPress Bible and has been publishing on the web since 2000. You can follow him on Twitter, on his personal blog and view his photography at The Aperture Filter.

7 thoughts on “Who Said Personal Brand Isn't Important?

  1. Do you want to know what’s most interesting about this “scandal?” It’s not going to hurt his reputation amongst the people who already love him — the college kids and college girls. So, if Speedo were going to pull his endorsement, they would be shooting themselves in the foot. You have to make your investors happy, but you need to make your customers happy first.

  2. A personal brand, like you noted with Phelps above, can be built and leveraged for a variety of things, such as speaking engagements or consulting gigs. The stronger your brand is the more money you can demand because you have more respect and a better portfolio of previous work.

  3. I guess it depends on your profession. As an amateur sports player, endorsements are the only way Phelps can make money (besides sending his medals into Cash4Gold I suppose), so of course his personal brand matters most here! I – littlemisscontractor nobody – on the other hand, can just hope that I add to the brand of my company, or the U.S. Army, or make my friends’ and family’s day on a smaller scale.

    On the other hand, I do like to keep my image coordinated on the blogosphere with my global avatar matching my Twitter avatar matching my GChat avatar…etc…and I tout my own horn on my Web site and resume, so their is definitely some “branding” going on there. I tend to want my actions speak louder than my branding, though.

    Side note: poor Michael. Doesn’t he deserve a break? And doesn’t he deserve trustworthy friends who aren’t going to be dumb and take pictures of illegal activity? Hmm.

  4. I agree that personal brand or coprorate brand means a lot. In fact, there are a ton of statistics out there that the younger generations buy goods and services based on the CSR of a particular company. Those same statistics also determine who those folks go to work for too. I can admit that I tend to do a lot of research on a company before I would take a job – and hope that their corporate values line up with my own.

    Luckily for Phelps, I think his being 23 will be a blessing. People will forget about this infraction, I mean at 23 (or perhaps younger), who didn’t do something similar? (Come on, own up to it!) He will be able to rebuild his brand in the same way he did after the DUI – which as an attest to his ability – I had forgotten all about.

    The rest of us should monitor our personal brands out there. Google ourselves, not for ego, but to make sure there’s nothing incriminating or not quite in line with the brand we’d like to show publicly out there. And if there is, correct it.

    Companies should do the same. Much of the “bad branding” companies face starts with the blogosphere and twitter – if they ignore it, they lost touch with consumers, and allow word-of mouth, especially that which is negative to be the brand. Perception is reality.

    This is a really good point Aaron, and one that companies and people shouldn’t ignore. Thanks for bringing it up.

  5. Phelps is fortunate in that his brand is built on his performance, not on some other well known attribute. As long as he can perform, he’ll still be OK. While this certainly hurts, it’s not a killer. Think of Kobe Bryant? After the Colorado incident, you’d think his personal brand would be dead… but it’s not. His brand is connected to his performance and he dropped 61 on the Knicks at MSG, his brand is still strong. Endorsements will fall in the short term but if he can perform (Phelps and Kobe), they’ll come back.

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