In Branding: Multiple Personality = Fractured Identity

Posted By on September 22, 2011

multiple personality branding image

Branding failure starts with having too many personalities. Photo 2012 © Cynthia Hartwig

Most people join the online conversation knowing they need personal branding. But why do so many people fail to create a singular identity?

Remember the story of Sybil, the woman who battled sixteen different personalities? In 1973, the novel Sybil was an overnight sensation, making the term “multiple personality” a household word. (In fact, Sybil’s story may have been largely fiction; the novel was based on the case of a real psychiatric patient, but many of the details may have been fabricated or changed.)

Multiple personas cause branding fractures and failures.
Most people who fail at Branding 101 fail by trying to say too much. Think of all the people on the Web who feel compelled to tell you everything there is to know about themselves. I found the following examples on Twitter in a five-minute search.

Dominica Myers @mydominica
Seattle, WA
Seattle based Communications Professional, Actress, Playwright, Songstress, Interview/Audition Consultant, Non-Profit Enthusiast, Country Music Fan, Jack’s Mom.

Jenny Zenner @jennyzenner
Seattle, WA
Healthy people, profits & planet-vinyasa instructor, meditator, triathlete, marketer, sustainable farm girl, MoM of multiples mindfully navigating twinsanity!

Ric Frazier @ricfrazier
Creating Globally. LA based
Papa de trois et husband, photographer, director, skateboarder, traveler, scuba, SUIT UP!

Clark Kokich @clarkkokich
Razorfish chairman, bad guitarist, proud father, mediocre husband, aging baby boomer

Here’s a Branding Assignment to Fix the Fails.

Pick just one person from the list above and tell me how many things you remember (and remember, you’re trying!). I picked Clark Kokich, someone I know, and I confess, the thing I remembered most from his current list was “mediocre husband.” Hmmmm. Who does that say more about? Me? Or Clark?

I’m betting that if you were diligent, you probably remembered, at best, one or two things about this person you don’t know.

Here’s the next part of the test: what do you remember about your pick that makes you want to check him or her out? Nada? Here’s the dirty secret of the branding laundry list: a random list is an enemy of memory. That’s why it’s called a list—it has to be carried around in our pockets, because it won’t stick in our heads.

If you’re everything, you’re nothing in branding.

Look at the five laundry lists above, and pretend that you know more about branding than they do. Pick two things that interest you, and yoke them together into a brand. (Don’t read the rest of this post till you finish.)
Here’s what I did:

Clark Kokich. Razorfish chairman, bad guitarist. (Now that’s fun and memorable. Of course, I also like “Razorfish chairman, mediocre husband,” but that’s just me.)

Ric Frazier. Papa de trois et husband. (We’ve created a French family man. I don’t know if it’ll get Ric a job, but at least it makes him look like he’s got his priorities in the right place.)

Jenny Zenner. Healthy people, healthy profits. (This brand says she specializes in health and likes to make money. Hmmmm. Maybe we ought to give Jenny another try.)

Jenny Zenner 2.0. Healthy people, healthy planet. This tagline could be consistent with her URL at I don’t know if it’s the brand Jenny would pick, but somebody has to do the dirty work.

Avoid splitting your personality by picking the self that keeps you sane.

For great examples of singular identities, look to the people you remember best. There’s a reason we all know their names. They’ve chosen subjects they’re passionate about, and they keep exploring them. Follow their example and pick an identity that keeps you interested for the long run.

    Michael Pollan = responsible food consumption


    Maria Popova/Brainpicker = brainy ideas


    Maud Newton = book maven


    Andy Borowitz = topical comedy

The goal in therapy for multiple personality disorder is to knit the fractured self into one. So it is, too, in establishing a memorable brand. Isn’t life crazy enough with only one personality to manage?