Andy Polaine
Andy Polaine
Oct 3, 2011 4 min read

Creative Personal Branding

Do you wonder what’s next? Your next job, the next big opportunity for your business, the next technological development that could change everything for you? Our economy is changing so rapidly, it’s unlikely any of us can count on long-term stability in our work. Developing and preparing for the next step is crucial.

Creative Personal Branding, based on author Jürgen Salenbacher’s workshops and lectures, applies the principles of branding to the individual. Companies and people are not as different as you might think. He describes brands as much more than a product’s physical characteristics: they must have an intangible quality, similar to a personality, and they must have the intelligence to guide a consumer’s decision-making process. Businesses must change and adapt to remain successful, so it makes sense that people should follow suit. He urges us to see change as an opportunity, not as a threat.

In the past twenty years, the development of the internet has greatly altered the way we work, consume, and communicate. As a result, competition is much more global. To keep up and thrive, Salenbacher encourages us to keep changing and progressing. As Charles Darwin said:

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

Six steps, each titled with a direct call to action (“Reframe! Create! Differentiate!"),  lead readers to a deeper understanding of themselves, their strengths, and the world around them. He instructs us to reflect and identify our worth. Our self-image often differs from how others see us, especially when it comes to our strengths and talents. Personality is key. We all have something unique to offer, and we should capitalize on that, rather than try to be like everyone else. Also, preparation is significant, and he writes that we should have a plan A and a plan B. Many of his points are common sense, but we probably all need to read this one once in a while:

“It is not a plan to increase your working hours. It is not sustainable to start working sixteen hours a day. It is not healthy, physically or mentally. You will not increase your performance. Time is against you: the curve will go down, faster and lower than you ever thought possible.”

Assignments throughout keep it engaging. These range from reflecting on changes in your industry, to writing a mission statement, to developing your own logo. As a graphic designer, I like that he sees the logo assignment as a beginning step, and suggests that a professional designer then be hired.

Barcelona-based Salenbacher has an MBA and has worked in branding, design and marketing throughout Europe for companies like Levi’s, Mattell, and Louis Vuitton, as well as for personalities like Muhammad Ali. He lectures, coaches, and runs workshops.

The book’s strong, clear design will appeal to those in creative fields. The typography is clean and considered. Chapter openers are accompanied by striking, abstract drawings. Bold, full-page pull quotes appear throughout the book, emphasizing key points and making the book easy to skim.

The writing is clear and accessible. Business books can often make my eyes glaze over, but Salenbacher puts everything in terms that those working in creative fields can grasp. There are too many exclamation points for my taste (“Grow!"). And, a pet peeve of mine appears frequently: the word “orientate.” From what I understand, though, this is more accepted in British English (so, I guess the “real” English) than it is in the U.S. version, so maybe I just need to get over that. I tend to be a little skeptical when it comes to business or self-help books. But, I teach a portfolio class to design students, and I see how people can struggle to find their way. Much of what Salenbacher writes is what I try to teach my students. With the big changes in the way we work now, we must regularly evaluate where we are, where we’d like to be, and the steps we need to take to get there. This book is a practical tool that can help to position us for new opportunities.

Creative Personal Branding is published by CPB-lab and you can purchase it from Amazon (US).

About the Reviewer

John Clifford is Creative Director at Think Studio, an award-winning graphic design firm in NYC focusing on brand identity, web sites, collateral, packaging, and books.