The correct identification of the image
Skills are made up of behaviors and language. Attitudes and values are divided into behaviors and language. Identity is divided into attributes (values). The image is also divided into attributes (values). Personal branding, as an area to be found where psychology and personal development and (especially) marketing interfere, aims at aligning identity with the image. In other words, on the one hand, it aims at bringing the client down to earth regarding how he is actually perceived and, on the other hand, bringing him his image as perceived by others closer to his identity, to whom he really is.
Combining for a client the psychometrical tests with the 360º evaluation with self-evaluation, a personal branding specialist can make an accurate scanning of the image and identity of a person, on the condition that those involved are sincere. Actually, an expert can make an objective evaluation even when the interviewed ones are lying through their teeth (but that’s another story…). Depending on the client’s field of activity, certain occupations may be easier to evaluate, and others, harder (it is only a matter of time and money: how much the client affords to linger or beat about the bush).
Things are more direct when it is about the image of an organization (not for nothing is the graphic trademark, a symbol, also called visual identity), but they are of course also more complex. Image and identity have the same structure. The problems in organizational branding and in personal branding occur however when an entity (natural or juridical) tries to seem what they are not, instead of seeming what they are. I have exemplified this in the article Why public relations are not marketing.
Ideally, the image must be a clear reflection, like the one in a mirror, of the identity. The mirror as a metaphor of identity also works through relating to consciousness and morality (which are lately called ethics and deontology in organizations), but also from another point of view. The mirror reflects all that it is around it to at 360º, but the image you get looking into a mirror depends on the angle from which you are looking in the mirror.
Actually, the 360º evaluation process provides a mirror effect because it offers an average of the subjectivity of others’ reflections. Each individual perceives the other through the similarities and differences that they show about themselves. In extremis, one can say that we like others because they are just as good as we are, and we despise them because they are either just as evil as we are, or because they are different from us.
A good job interview question is: “Which are three qualities and three defects of your best friend?”. The candidate answers actually providing a portrait of themselves. Remember that also the motes in one’s brothers’ eyes have different colors for each!
People are desperately searching for themselves in others but beyond this, they are searching for a virtual mirror of the absolute: a mirror that they would hang on the wall and look at from all angles, hoping to discover the beauty that they can’t manage to see themselves.
That’s why, in extremis, what some (only some) understand by love is only a hidden form of narcissism: “Mirror, mirror, tell me that I’m beautiful!”. Even if the self-image is broader than the image perceived by others, it still remains limited and it ultimately depends on the efforts that each makes to get to know themselves.
Copyright (C) Ana-Maria Iana
The traps of branding
Thus, branding is not necessarily defined ethically. After all, an image can be created starting either from identity, or from expectations/standards, or from hallucinations. An image shall be perceived similarly as an identity, with the following comment. If an image (of an individual or organization) is not real (compliant with reality), then maintaining that image requires tens as many efforts and money to be promoted.
In my opinion, organizational branding can be ethical and I encourage all to assimilate this perspective. Moreover, I consider branding to be a duty of those who consider that they have something valuable to convey to an audience. If you believe in something strongly enough, then you work to create an image as correct, visible, and attractive as possible for it. It is not an option. It is simply a necessity because that’s how things go. If you don’t create a brand for yourself, for your company, for your services/products/causes, then you are not in charge of your image but anybody else is.
Copyright © Marcus Victor Grant 2014-present Translation by Cristiana Brezeanu of the article “Imaginea sau brandul“ published initially by Marcus Victor Grant in Romanian on the 27th of May 2014 on Discerne. Copyright © Marcus Victor Grant, all rights reserved
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