The biggest trend in branding this year appears to be one of the oldest trends — signature models. From shoes to guitars, old-school brands are flooding the market with products stamped with a creator’s personal brand.
A “brand” is just a “reputation.” The bigger you get as a company, the less control you have over your reputation. Employees are unpredictable and every interaction they have with a customer reflects on the company and affects its reputation.
Good companies know this and focus on hiring the best and most trustworthy employees. Some companies don’t.
But most big companies find it useful to layer a personal brand on top of their own to build trust. This is because people don’t trust big, faceless companies or organizations. They never did. But, traditionally, they never had a choice.
The typical size of a human tribe throughout history was somewhere between 30-2500 people, depending on which expert you believe (most believe it was toward the lower end). Could this also be the limit of the implicit trust humans have for any kind of organization?
Since the industrial age, large organizations have been a requirement for getting products made and distributed at scale. But, this hasn’t been true for a long time, and is becoming less true by the year — especially for creators.
As our networks continue to expand abilities and size, without the same amount of focus, real names are becoming the more trustworthy than brand names.
This year’s NAMM show revealed that music product companies are going all-in on personal brands. Some of the biggest selling guitars at well-known guitar brands are now signature models — dwarfing the sales of previously-reliable, bestselling models.
The brands themselves were doing well, and have used signature models in the past to boost sales with a few premium models for fans of big artists. But, in the 2020s, these companies found that stamping even moderately successful, but trusted, artists’ names on guitars became very profitable, even as prices surged beyond the reach of most buyers.
This is why I haven’t given up on personal websites, blogs, and newsletters. The trustworthiness of a real person, using their real name, will always be valuable to the reader, consumer, or partner.
When you create on social media, it’s like you’re creating signature-series content. As long as it makes sense for your goals, have at it. But beware of the value of the reputation you’re lending to the social media company. Their brand is likely less trustworthy than yours.
The personal site, blog, and newsletter is 100% you, though. It’s where you build that reputation.
Be everywhere. Automations exist to make distribution possible wherever your audience is, with as little or as much personal involvement and customization as you like.
But be your best here. Own piece of the internet, under your own name and on your own terms.
Their brands will come and go, but yours is for a lifetime. Treat it well.