A lot can be learned about personal branding from Winnie the Pooh & Friends:
Many years ago we had a family friend who believed she was able to simplify anyone she encountered into a character from Winnie the Pooh & Friends. He’s a real Tigger, so impulsive. She’s a Piglet, such a worry-wort. He’s so Rabbit, a regular self-proclaimed know-it-all. She is so curiously Roo! What a hard-working Gopher! She is as loyal a friend as Pooh. Could he be any more gloomy? Such an Eeyore! And on and on. By the way, as you may have guessed, she was a real Tigger, bouncy, impulsive, and more than a bit annoying, at times. Honestly, I don’t recall who she pegged me to be.
Anyway, I had totally forgotten these memories until I recently agreed to speak about Personal Branding and Trademarks at an Annual Paralegal Convention, where the overall convention theme was “Maximize Your Marketability,” and for some reason, they came rushing back to me.
Why? I suppose, because Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Roo, and Eeyore are not only copyrighted fictional characters, but they also are protectable trademarks (and at least Pooh, Tigger, and Roo are the subject of a pending trademark opposition proceeding between Disney and Stephen Slesinger, Inc.), and perhaps most importantly, they all represent personal branding caricatures too.
Now, I’m not one to believe in the existence of single-dimension people. Near as I can tell, most of us share multiple characteristics from multiple Pooh & Friends characters among many others. Having said that, for what its worth, my two cents on the subject of Personal Branding is that if you’re not careful, thoughtful, and intentional about building and cultivating a multi-dimensional personal brand, you run the risk of being unfairly reduced to a one-dimensional caricature with no reach or respect beyond your most dominant skill or personality trait.
In other words, if your sky is always falling with Piglet-style worries that never come true, it will be hard for anyone to take your concerns seriously, even when they are Christopher Robin legitimate. Perhaps Chicken Little is a distant Disney cousin and The Boy Who Cried Wolf a distant Aesop cousin of “a very small animal” named Piglet.
Now, when it comes to living human beings, it is hard not to think of Oprah Winfrey, Donald Trump, and Martha Stewart (this Martha image demonstrates the dynamic and elastic nature of a personal brand), when considering truly iconic personal brands that are also legally protected as trademarks: Oprah for a variety of housewares and personal care items, Donald Trump for fragrances, The Donald for prepared alcoholic cocktails, Donald J. Trump Signature Collection for a variety of personal care items, and Martha Stewart for all kinds of houseware items.
Having said all that, one might ask whether the notion of “personal branding” has been taken a bit too far when this past week, the passing of Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, and Ed McMahon, is referred to collectively as the “Death of Three Personal Brands.”
I suspect that forms of “personal branding” have been around for ages, but it only appears to have acquired the name a decade ago when it apparently was coined by author Tom Peters in 1997. By the way, Tom Peters will certainly want to keep his personal brand distinct from one-letter-away Tom Petters.
Over the last decade, Personal Branding has become quite the cottage industry for consultants. If you’re interested, you might check out: Dan Schawbel author of Me 2.0, Personal Branding Blog and Personal Branding Magazine; Jeffrey Scott Sherman’s White Paper entitled “Creating a Truly Money Making Asset the Art of Personal Branding“; Brenda Bence author of “How You are Like Shampoo“; William Arruda author of “Career Distinction: Stand Out By Building Your Brand“; and Colin Wright author of “Personal Branding: The Least You Need to Know.”
One of the universal truths about personal branding is that you don’t need to read about yourself in the tabloids or even own a federal trademark registration to possess a personal brand: You, me, Joe the Plumber, and even June the Trademark Paralegal, all have personal brands to build.
Indeed, a few recent trademark paralegal job postings have brought to vibrant life the critical importance of personal branding even to trademark types: Both the TTABlog and the Trademark Blog recently posted job openings for “rock star” and “fantastic” trademark paralegals. How long until we start to see cautions in these job listings like: Eeyores and Piglets need not apply?