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Burned Out on Your Personal Brand

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Younger workers embraced the idea of a personal brand as a way to get ahead, and carve out some power and security in their careers. But posting through it has its drawbacks.

Kahlil Greene’s father works as an accountant and his mother does something involving “administration,” though he doesn’t know the details. His parents rarely spoke about the goings-on of the office when he was growing up. His mother sat in a cubicle farm — he remembers this from “take your child to work day” — and then she or his father picked him up from the Boys & Girls Club and they talked about other topics, like “Judge Judy” or Serena Williams. Their work never bled into their personal lives.

That made it tricky for Mr. Greene, 22, to explain to his family why he had turned down a job offer from McKinsey to build his online brand as “the Gen Z historian.” He has drawn over 500,000 followers on TikTok, LinkedIn and Instagram to his posts about history and politics; his money comes from brand deals and public speaking. To Mr. Greene, it seems natural for his source of income to be something all consuming, something he thinks about while falling asleep and talks about nonstop with friends.

“There’s no clear delineation between my work life and my personal life,” he said. “Sometimes it can be exhausting.”

Mr. Greene, in other words, finds his job and self inextricable. Like many other millennial and Gen Z workers, he is his brand. This can feel freeing. It can also feel grueling.

Kahlil Greene
Kahlil GreeneCredit…Elianel Clinton for The New York Times
Kahlil Greene

In interviews with more than a dozen people who have built lucrative personal brands, they shared that nothing made the benefits and drawbacks of it clear like the pandemic did.

Since 2020, many workers have had the chance to redefine their expectations of employers. More than 40 million Americans quit their jobs last year; most hopped or swapped roles, seeking higher pay. Remote work helped some to prioritize their needs outside the office, while a tight labor market allowed many to assert bolder workplace demands. For many people, leverage meant the ability to create emotional distance from their employers, to draw stricter lines between who they are and what they do.

That also meant a new set of challenges for those who work for themselves: It’s tough to find boundaries when employed by “Me Inc.”

For the millions of people who monetize their online presence in some form, the downsides of this type of work are becoming more clear, especially in a moment when so many are rethinking their careers. Building a personal brand blurs the divide between an identity and a job. It puts pressure on families. It demands that every intimate experience is mined for professional content.

“It’s very hard to disconnect when you are building something that is personal and also a necessary component of your economic life,” said Katie Sullivan, associate professor of communications at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. “It’s ‘I will co-opt my own self in service of this labor.’”

Jesse Israel, for example, an entrepreneur in Los Angeles, has a mindfulness brand. Mr. Israel, 37, ran a record label for years, which took off with MGMT, before the stress drove him toward meditation. He realized he had a knack for leading guided sessions and he began to cultivate a public profile, drawing thousands of people to community meet-ups that he called the Big Quiet. His soothing, emotive persona landed him on tour with Oprah. Then personal life interrupted his personal brand: During the pandemic, Mr. Israel began to suffer from debilitating depression.

“I’m sitting at the dining room table with my mom, crying,” he recalled, describing a period of loneliness, illness and career instability. “I’m like, ‘Mom, people think of me as a mindfulness expert and I feel like I’ve lost my mind.”

Mr. Israel, whose mental health has now recovered, experienced a challenge unique to the upside-down working world of the 21st century: His work relied on his personality. When his sense of self lurched, his work went with it.

Unlike other professional phenomena, personal branding announced its formation loudly and clearly (on brand). Tom Peters, a management writer, popularized the term in a 1997 Fast Company article, later linking the idea of brand building to the all-American entrepreneurial spirit of Benjamin Franklin and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Jesse Israel, a meditation influencer and founder of the Big Quiet.

“We are C.E.O.s of our own companies: Me Inc.,” Mr. Peters wrote 25 years ago. “To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.”

Mr. Peters, in a recent interview, said he had realized that with organizational bureaucracies disappearing, workers could no longer trust the prospect of a steady career ascension. “Slowly climbing the ladder by sucking up and then sucking up some more wasn’t going to work,” he said. “You were as good as your ability to get your boss to think you were the second coming.”

For decades, heightening business competition had prompted corporate brands to distinguish themselves by selling not just a product or aesthetic but a story. Apple’s “1984” television advertisement, inspired by George Orwell’s book, was about the freeing futuristic powers of a Mac computer; Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign positioned the beverage as community glue. Mr. Peters remembered that his own 1997 article was published in Fast Company with a chic advertisement for Procter & Gamble soap.

Then, as brands that sold warm and fuzzy stories went through rounds of layoffs, and shareholder-focused policies erased worker trust in their employers, belief in the power of branding began to shift from the company to the employee. Management gospel, like Mr. Peters’s, urged workers to cement their professional reputations by developing their own brands.

Dan Lair, an associate dean at the Metropolitan State University of Denver, studies the troubles of personal branding. His interest in the subject came from his experience being laid off. Mr. Lair, at age 25, got a job in corporate marketing. It wasn’t the most thrilling work in the world, but it was a way to make rent in Missoula where, he noted, “you can’t eat the scenery.” Mr. Lair was hired in the summer of 1999. By the winter of 2000, after the company’s acquisition by an East Coast-based firm, he was fired.

“I felt dumb,” he recalled. “This was a company that very much branded itself as a family. It was built around two dynamic founders. A couple months before we’d had this big retreat at a summer camp that I had been to as a kid. There was this sense of shock that this could actually happen.”

But he was equally disillusioned by the notion that workers should have to steel themselves for economic uncertainty by building personal brands that would make them indispensable. It felt to him like what the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman called an individualized solution to a social problem. And Mr. Lair did what many people do when they end up citing sociology to explain phenomena in their daily lives: He went to graduate school, and studied personal branding.

For some entrepreneurs, brand building at first is more dopamine than drudgery; there’s a thrill in the full exposure it demands.

Alexa Heller, a millennial who built a yoga teacher brand, used to feel it was important to be fully candid with her Instagram followers. She posted about making efforts to stay celibate, taking months off from sex and dating. She posted about insecurities bred by her acne. She attracted thousands of followers on Instagram, which she also used to boost her yoga classes, by treating her followers like close friends.

She felt the angst of compressing every strand of her personality, from the professional to the highly personal, into a single persona. Friends sometimes questioned whether various members of her online audience — relatives, business associates, potential suitors — might judge her ultra openness. “One of my girlfriends was like, ‘Well, if a guy reads your profile he’s going to be freaked out,’” she recalled.

When she switched career paths in 2020, from yoga to real estate, seeking more financial security, she realized that there was a different kind of rush in maintaining boundaries. She hid some of her old posts. She started to share online only about work. She still wrote down reflections on anxieties and ambitions — but now in her diary.

Modern interpretations of the “brand called you” present a trade-off of sorts. Workers are no longer reliant on the fecklessness of an employer that could at any moment pivot, downsize or cut wages. There are heaps of corporate data pointing to those possibilities: Over roughly the last four decades, typical hourly worker pay rose 17.5 percent while productivity rose by nearly 62 percent and C.E.O. compensation by 1,460 percent, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

But with personal branding, the line between who people are and what they do disappears. Everything is content; every like, follow and comment is a professional boost.

“It sort of shifted the responsibility for those kinds of disruptions from particular companies to the person themselves,” Mr. Lair said. “It’s sort of, ‘Now you are the one who’s supposed to solve this problem.’”

And many of the workers whose careers were shaped by the rise of personal branding are feeling its growing pains.

Kanchan Koya, 43, has seen the pressures that her brand breeds for her family, for example. Ms. Koya’s brand, Chief Spice Mama, which has over 230,000 Instagram followers, offers nutritional tips that draw from her history of gastrointestinal illness. She knows that her followers engage excitedly with her more intimate captions, so she mines some of her own experiences for content.

Kanchan Koya, the author and founder of the food blog “Spice Spice Baby.”
Kanchan Koya, the author and founder of the food blog “Spice Spice Baby.”Credit…Philip Vukelich for The New York Times
Kanchan Koya, the author and founder of the food blog “Spice Spice Baby.”

But recently she has begun to bristle at the responses that evokes. She received direct messages asking her why she is taking photos of her baby daughter instead of focusing on mothering. Her husband has asked her not to include him on her Instagram; he’s part of her personal life, but doesn’t want to be part of the public brand.

“I’ll be super honest right now, where I’m at with social media — if my business wasn’t intertwined with my social media presence, I would be on it 90 percent less,” Ms. Koya said. “I just don’t feel like it’s natural for us as humans to have so many people in our business.”

Plenty feel that public exposure isn’t worth the toll. Sadhbh O’Sullivan, 29, a British-Irish journalist, stopped using her Twitter. The chance to boost her writings didn’t justify the revulsion of selling her personal life, Carrie Bradshaw style, and she’s made peace with the twinge of envy she feels for friends trumpeting their talents to land flashy new jobs.

Sarai Atchison, 25, built a comedy social media brand during the pandemic after finding herself addicted to watching YouTube personalities like the movie commentator “Dylan Is in Trouble.” But in March she decided to take a job doing promotions for the Colorado Rockies. She found an unexpected relief in work that doesn’t draw on the emotional ups and downs of her own life, from heartbreak to social anxiety. The coming-of-age aches stay in her journal, without prompting worries that discretion is undermining her ambitions.

“Putting yourself out there is cool, and at the same time, in the back of your head you don’t know how somebody is going to take your brand,” Ms. Atchison said. “It’s hard not to take it personally because it’s you.”

And some are tempering their exposure by sharing with social media followers more thoughtfully. Maybe not every breakup and depressive episode warrants public translation. Mr. Israel, for example, has embraced an approach that his mentor called “sharing from the scar, not the wound.” When Mr. Israel’s feelings are raw, he waits before conveying them to his audience of tens of thousands.

“When work was directly tied to my identity and sense of self-worth, I would ride these crazy waves,” Mr. Israel said. “I started to realize how important it was to build my sense of self, my self-worth and an identity around things that made me special as Jesse and not my work.”

Even Mr. Peters, the original brand evangelist, is dismayed by the extremes to which people have taken his message. “Use social media,” he said. “But you have to have something to talk about.”

He recognizes that his own brand is outdated — or as he put it: “I’m talking as an incredibly old fart.”

If you are interested in original article by Emma Goldberg you can find it here

How designers can solve the nightmare of forever-changing brand guidelines

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It’s no secret that brand guidelines have become a major headache for graphic designers working today. With everything in constant flux, it’s difficult to keep up with the increasing demands of visual identities. Corebook is on a mission to help and wants to make PDF brand guidelines extinct by 2025. We sat down with Corebook’s Janis Verzemnieks and Raitis Velps to find out more.

In 2022, dealing with brand guidelines remains a clunky, frustrating process for many. First, you have to read through the cumbersome, long-winded and increasingly outdated PDF that someone drew up several years ago. Next, you might have to scour your emails or the company intranet for random changes your boss introduced on an ad-hoc basis (you’ve been promised an updated PDF, but it hasn’t yet been finalised).

Then you go looking for the official assets for, say, the logo – which could be anywhere on the system. And when you locate them, it’s still not super-clear whether they’re the latest version (the addition of ‘final.final.final.jpg’ to the filename doesn’t fill you with much confidence).

Still using static PDFs

Okay, it might not be that bad where you work. But too many internal design departments at big companies, and even some design agencies, still take a disorganised, outdated and hugely inefficient approach to managing their brand guidelines. And most strikingly, these are usually based around a fixed-format PDF.

That approach might have worked okay in the 1990s. But in an era when brands exist across multiple channels that are dynamic and forever-changing, it’s virtually prehistoric. As a result, most people don’t even look at the brand guidelines, and the amount of effort that’s gone into creating them is entirely wasted.

So what’s the solution?

How Corebook solves the problem

Corebook is software that allows designers to create online brand guidelines that can be easily updated in real-time and shared with whomever you like.

It’s already being used by well-known agencies, including Accept & Proceed, McCann London, The Partnership and M&C Saatchi. And its mission is quite simple – to make PDF brand guidelines extinct by 2025.

It does this by harnessing modern technology to make brand guidelines easy to access, share and collaborate on. With its user-friendly online platform, all your guidelines can be brought into one online home and – crucially – linked to all relevant brand assets, so they’re easily accessible.

Because Corebook is built by designers, for designers, its interface has the uncanny knack of knowing exactly what you need and delivering it in a way that makes sense for your own workflow. It’s such a simple and elegant solution. In fact, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it.

When it comes to pricing, there are two options: one for enterprises and one for agencies. Enterprise customers can begin with Corebook with a 14-day free trial, and if you decide to keep going, plans start at just $99 a month. When you consider the time and energy you’ll save as a result, that seems like a real bargain.

Freelancers and agencies, meanwhile, may prefer the new Corebook Studio, which boasts a greater range of collaboration features. Again, there’s a 14-day free trial offer, and prices start at just $39 a month on the Solo plan and $69 a month on the Teams plan.

To find out more about Corebook, we chatted with CEO Janis Verzemnieks and CMO Raitis Velps. They explain what inspired it, the problems it solves, and where they’re taking Corebook in the future.

What were you doing before you launched Corebook?

Janis Verzemnieks: I have 12 years of experience working in design and branding. I’ve always been entrepreneurial and founded my first business when I was 20 years old.

It was a design studio working with the music industry. I was the guy who was designing the album art for covers and posters, planning marketing campaigns for travelling musicians, and things like that. So basically, I learned about branding from rock and roll legends!

Raitis Velps: I’ve also been in the marketing and branding space for about more than seven years. Plus, I’m a lecturer on marketing and branding for local universities here in Riga, Latvia.

Where did the idea for Corebook come from?

Janis: Well, we are working in design agencies ourselves. And we noticed that the majority of brand guidelines were not being used in real life.

That was a huge amount of resources just being wasted. And it meant that brand guidelines were not doing the job of maintaining consistency and collaboration in this fast-moving world of InstaStories and TikTok.

At the same, design and branding were becoming more important than ever before across organisations of all kinds. Modern companies were hiring people with titles like chief branding officer, brand guardian, and brand experience designer.

So every company was trying to build its brand… but they weren’t doing it efficiently. And the right people were not talking to each other across the organisation.

How does Corebook solve that problem?

Janis: We’re basically doing two things. Firstly, we’re introducing a new global standard for living, online brand guidelines, which will never get outdated.

Secondly, we’re introducing a better brand management system by disrupting how modern teams give each other context around brand assets and guidelines. And the more people who can access brand guidelines, the more people can give feedback on them at the right time.

In short, our mission is to connect people who haven’t been connected before. That’s the core idea behind the Corebook universe.

Are you putting a lot of work into updating Corebook itself?

Janis: You can’t imagine: it’s a neverending process. We love to iterate and change a little bit every day. And most importantly, listen to our customers.

Raitis: That’s the key thing for us, actually. Whenever we think about the product, we always think about the client first. What is going to be their experience? What are the features? What are the things that matter to them? Since we’re all coming from the creative side, we already have an understanding of those things.

As well as actively listening to our clients, we’re also always on the lookout for what’s going on in the market and what’s going on in the industry. So that mix of two things really helps.

You started Corebook in 2020. Do you think lockdown influenced takeup?

Raitis: I think working from home meant brands were looking for ways to communicate their brand guidelines better to teams. It’s very easy when everybody is in an office, right? Everybody can just ask each other, ‘What’s going on here?’ But when you’re all at home, it becomes critical to have an easy way to communicate and one source of truth for everybody.

There are others in this space, though, right?

Raitis: Yeah, we’re definitely not the first. But in my humble opinion, we are the first to focus on allowing our clients total and utter creative freedom in creating and sharing their brand guidelines. And we’re also thinking about how to change the asset management system in a new way.

Let’s talk about like PDFs, for example. If you’re sharing them on Dropbox, say, then the user has to go into two separate environments: go look for a paragraph in the guidelines, and then go ahead and look for those assets somewhere else. And that can be a whole day spent just looking for a single version of a logo.

With Corebook, we’re almost forcing our users to think about how they can integrate those assets into brand guidelines. Because whenever people see a logo, they, of course, want to directly download all of the logo versions from the same place.

Janis: With Corebook, we want to be the centre point of all your brand assets by replacing the Dropbox folder. And then connecting all the stakeholders with all the hip digital tools they’re already using, like integrations with Figma, Slack, Miro, Adobe, etc. In other words, we’re all about making collaboration easier.

Raitis: Brands are ever-evolving, so it’s crucial that online brand guidelines are always being updated. With Corebook, you’re always in control of who has access to what and who has sharing possibilities. So for the first time, you truly are the owner of your brand. And you can access and update your brand guidelines wherever you are in the world.

What’s your vision for the future of Corebook?

Janis: We want to build a Corebook universe for all things branding. Brand guidelines are just the beginning. So the grand vision is for Corebook to become the central point of every rebranding in the world for companies between 10 and 10,000 people.

Raitis: Our mission is that by the year 2025, PDF brand guidelines will be a thing of our past. It gives us such joy to see new and established brands join our mission by ditching their PDF and going digital and online. We want to shift that mindset of how brand guidelines are perceived, and we’re at a very good place to actually accomplish it.

If you are interested in original article by Tom May, you can find it here

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How Gen Z Relates to Brands

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Gen Z will soon become the most influential consumer segment, with the next generation of digital natives already influencing spending habits in a big way – and that’s only set to increase.

That’s also driving big changes in the business landscape, from realigning your marketing approach around new consumer behaviors, to updating your checkout process in order to cater to increased eCommerce demand.

If you’ve not considered these elements in your planning, you’re already behind, and as we move towards the next big tech shift, in the coming metaverse, you’ll need to pay more attention to the key trends among younger users to maximize your potential.

To provide more insight on this, the team from Rave Reviews (via Now Sourcing) recently put together this overview of key Gen Z consumption trends, and what they mean for marketing and ad planning.

The infographic lays out some key stats and insights, including:

  • Gen Z already is already powering $143 billion in annual spent, along with an additional $127 billion spent on their behalf by family members
  • 20% of Gen Z-ers identify as LGBT+, up more than 100% in comparison to previous generations, while Gen Z is also more racially diverse
  • Younger audiences are gradually shifting away from social media platforms in favor of engagement in other interactive apps, like Roblox, Fortnite and Twitch, which have also become key destinations for digital events

That last note points, once again, to the coming metaverse shift – as younger audiences who’ve grown up engaging in virtual worlds, look to the next stage, facilitating the same on a broader scale, and for wider purpose, makes a lot of sense.

If you are interested in original article by Andrew Hutchinson you can find it here

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