Business guru Tom Peters is credited with popularizing the idea of being your own brand 15 years ago. "We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc.," he wrote.  "To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called you.... You're not defined by your job title and you're not confined by your job description. Starting today, you are a brand."

On a whim, I just Googled "personal branding" and got 7,300,000 results. On Amazon, I found 18,915 books listed under "Brand You." That's a lot of chatter. But I believe I have something new to add to the conversation.

Your brand is not your current job or title. It is not your skills and experiences, although of course these things matter. It is not, as many people suggest, one particular attribute with which you "differentiate yourself." It is not your reputation, which is fragile and depends on what others say about you.

"Brand you" is the sum of your innate strengths and preferences that are locked into your genes and etched into your brain. It is the way you think and the habits you have, the way your mind processes information and the manner in which you explain your ideas. In the language of my company, it is your "thinking and behavioral attributes," how you see and interact with the world. These attributes generally do not change over time, and always can be depended upon, by you and others.

As author Maureen Johnson describes in her blog: "A personal brand is a little package you make of yourself so you can put yourself on the shelf in the marketplace and people will know what to expect or look for when they come to buy you. For example, Coke is a brand. When you see Coke, you expect a dark brown effervescent sweet drink that is always going to taste like . . . Coke."

If you have a conceptual mind, you probably are now feeling disdain for "brand you". You like being different, and the idea of being categorized into a little box is anathema to you. However, take heart: the fact that you consistently have original and unpredictable ideas is your brand.

Here are more ways you might opt to "brand you":

  • If you are highly expressive, people know you will bring energy and enthusiasm to the task and happily share information.
  • If you are reserved, people realize that when you finally speak, you will say something succinct and well-considered.
  • If you are driving and assertive, you are likely very persuasive and can be depended upon to get things done in a timely manner.
  • If you are a peacekeeper, people know you will bring a calm presence and amiable attitude to the conversation.
  • If you favor being flexible, you are probably known for being open-minded and even-tempered. Changes, interruptions, and distractions do not rattle you.
  • If you are a focused person, others will expect you to have a strong personal agenda. You are either a formidable adversary or a terrific ally.
  • If you think analytically, you can be counted on to give a reasoned, logical response based on accurate research.
  • If you're a structural thinker, people know you will meet deadlines and offer ideas that are do-able and cover all the details.
  • If you're highly social, you will consistently look out for the welfare of others and give each person a fair shot.
  • If you're conceptual by nature, you typically have an original outlook and an innovative point to share. You can be depended upon to think about the big picture, global view, or long-term consequences.

I suggest no matter what your job that you let your employees and customers know which thinking and behavioral attributes best describe you so they understand what they can expect from you, and how to best use you as a resource. You can also demonstrate your innate "brand you" strengths via social media, and turn your self-knowledge into the ultimate marketing tool.