Fans And Brands

As anyone may have guessed, I'm a fan of the whole personal branding thing.  I'm no Dan Schawbel (hey, who IS except, well, Dan Schawbel), but I feel it's overall a positive thing -it's about establishing and communicating identity and building a presence. Sometimes it can get overdone (especially when one treats it like PRODUCT branding), but I feel it's a good thing overall – it makes people aware of themselves and how they present themselves.

And if you're a fanboy, fangirl, geek, nerd, etc. guess what, you are probably FAR better at it than you realize, because fandom socializing in the online days has massive elements of personal branding.

So guess what – you're probably pretty good at it.

Estalbishing a fan identity is often a big thing in fandom.  People cultivate given images – game experts, writers of fanfic, fan artists, etc.

Stop for a moment and ask yourself all the times you've identified yourself as "something" – gamer, fanartist, etc.  Take a look at websites and see how people apply terms to themselves to define themselves and what they do.  Look at all the slang terms people use for themselves – "Otaku", "Fanartist", "Fighting Game Fan", etc.  Even Naruto fans reclaimed the insult Narutard and use it as a badge of honor – and fans of "Avatar" now call themselves "Avatards", both self-mocking and affectionate.

If you're a fan, you've probably been branding yourself all along.

Fans also build online identities as part of their fan identities, and leveraging the tools online to do it almost unconsciously.  Consider just a few of these things you'll see:

  • Handles in chat reflecting people's favorite couples, characters, or games.
  • Avatars that hint at a person's interests and identities.
  • Journal icons of people's favorite characters used to express certain emotions.
  • Profile pages at certain fan-sites may identify them as fans, or be used to identify them.
  • Listings of interests in profiles – an obvious form of self-branding.
  • The terms people use in their profiles, handles, fanfic closures and credits, etc.

Many fan-related sites and social media sites virtually ask you to brand yourself with descriptions, interests, etc.  Yes, that's self-branding even if you don't realize it – because people will see those entries and get an idea of who you are.

Finally, fans also propigate their identities further.  They hang out in specific online groups, attend specific cons, do specific panels.  They'll list a convention calendar on their page – which tells people about their interests, location, etc.  They will post in role-playing activities online, which tells people they like that hobby, etc.

Fans in many ways are always telling each other what they're doing – and thus who they are.

All of the above may seem odd, but personal branding is a VITAL part of fandom, geekdom, and nerd-dom.  People identify with such activities and interests and like to communicate it to others – because it increases contacts, builds reputation, shares interests, etc.  Active fans are personal branders – they don't always put it in that terms.

So, congrats.  As a fan you may have more personal branding experience than you've realized, and may be incredibly good at it.  Now that you know how good you are at personal branding, go ramp up your game and brand yourself for your career and life as well – and may your career, geekiness, and life be something well-unified.

As an exercise, try this:
Sit down with a notebook and write down all the ways you "brand" yourself as a fan – communicating who you are to the world (and what you want the world to know of you).  When done, ask yourself what tools you've used – and techniques you used – can be expanded into your career and life to establish an identity and personal brand."

– Steven Savage