I know Hello Kitty has fans. In fact, I have to admire Sanrio for creating a sort of Seinfeld of cuteness.; Hello Kitty really isn't about anything. Hello Kitty is sort of a brand of general adorable cuteness and pathological amounts of pink. It's just that when it comes to it, there's not a whole lot of "there" there. Hello Kitty just sort of is.
She's darling, as is her collection of friends, but she's not about anything.
Sanrio's success aside, you don't want to use her as a role model for personal branding. Even if you like Pink. A whole lot of Pink.
There are way, way to many individual "Hello Kitties" in the world of personal branding – people who create an image but that's all they create. They're people who have spent time on the right business cards, the right LinkedIn Profile, the right resume. They have all the right buzzwords.
The thing is there's nothing there but the marketing campaign. Even if they truly have something to give, to do, to stand out, it's ignored in favor of catchphrases, cool web page colors, and the usual self-marketing dross.
(If you've worked to hire people, posted want ads, etc. you are probably nodding to yourself. Or crying quietly under your desk).
So if you're going to get into personal branding – which I recommend – you want to make sure it's about showing who you truly are, what you do, what you are capable of. It has to be about substance, it has to be backed up with actual work, product, and achievements.
It comes down to Do's And Don'ts to avoid the Hello Kitty trap.
- Don't just say you're good at something. That means nothing. Instead, show it and demonstrate it in your resume, your portfolio, and your interviews.
- Don't just throw out buzzwords to describe yourself. Instead, pick the right words that describe you and make sure they're backed up. If you're dynamic show the initiative you took on your last job. If you're creative make sure that portfolio is up to snuff. If you can't find a way to justify whatever buzzword you're using to describe yourself, well . . . time to stop.
- Don't try to be someone you're not. Instead, play up the good points of who you are. If you're a total geek, play up your intelligence and knowledge of things. If you're a moody artistic type, show your creativity and depth of feeling.
- Show product. Show results. Show that portfolio, that website, that news article. This is where fandom is great to provide more, solid examples of who you are, what you do, and what you believe in.
- Have a story. Show your history in your resume, cover letter, and your interviews. A good story says who you are, why you are, and what you do. Think of great brands like Apple who have history.
- Have a sense of humor. If you worry constantly about image, you'll be tense and false.
Don't be a Hello Kitty of Personal Branding. It may work for a cute cartoon cat, but not for you, a regular human being. Instead make sure how you brand yourself is justified and backed up.
Unless you are disturbingly cute and bouncy. Then go for it.
– Steven Savage