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Personal Branding While Black: Cultural Perception vs. Business Realities

Snoop Dogg, the official “smokesman" of Solo Stove (Credit: Solo Stove)
Snoop Dogg, the official “smokesman" of Solo Stove (Credit: Solo Stove)

Folx always gotta blame someone for their bullshit. After Snoop Dogg broke the internet with his, "I'm giving up smoke" line, folx marked him as irresponsible. He didn't say smoking but everyone made assumptions. Now everyone wants to take a GREAT ad and turn it into negative influence. Calvin capitalized on his personal brand as Snoop Dogg, an unapologetic weed fend, to promote a promote a product. I'm here for it.

There's a movie coming out titled, American Fiction, where a black author switches up his writing style. He reduces himself to a gangsta stereotype in order to sell books. Once he does that, white folx are breaking their necks to promote his work. My question, is what took y'all so long? Perception in personal branding is a bitch. Yet and still folx will forego reality for perception in order to get paid. Cue the code-switching music. As the Ghetto Country Brandmother®, it's not lost on me that I don't fit the mold of someone who specializes in personal branding. It's also not lost on me that folx would be more comfortable if I stayed in the lane of the stereotype. Because of this, I stayed low-key for years to avoid confrontation about who I am and what I'm about. No one would believe I have a degree in business, investment properties, a stock portfolio, and built a multi-million dollar business.

Nevertheless, I'm not here to debate why people are attracted or repelled by me. That's because, this perception is not my reality. However, it impacts how personal branding for non-whites is often overlooked. Whenever examples and discussion of personal branding come up, folx trot out the same ultra-rich white boys. There only claim to fame being that they'e ultra-rich and now have social media accounts. The thinking behind this is limited and doesn't reflect the diversity that exist in personal brands.

Personal branding moved from climbing the corporate ladder to social media influencer. One of my favorite books, Known, by Mark W. Schaefer, emphasizes the importance of becoming know in today's market. I agree that becoming known is of vital importance. Where I start to diverge is in thinking that being known is the same as having a personal brand. Merely being popular or a public figured doesn't automatically translate to personal branding in my book.

Let's turn the page for a minute. I follow Lola Bakare on LinkedIn, who's an advocate of responsible marketing. She is considered a top voice on the platform. She constantly speaks up about inclusion across all facets of humanity. Nevertheless, when haters show up, as they sometimes do, they dismiss her with passive aggressive attempts at her blackness. It doesn't matter that she's a respected voice in the marketing industry. Folx can't see beyond their stereotypical perception. There term uppity nigger comes to mind. Getting uncomfortable yet? Doesn't matter, cause I got more. I know I seldom explicitly talk about Black culture in my content. But don't get it twisted because I don't disavow myself of it. I'm keenly aware of my Blackness, lest someone remind me. Choosing to be the Ghetto Country Brandmother is a salute to those we want to bring authenticity to the forefront as well as a kiss my ass declaration to those who would rather I stay in the shadows.

Assumptions and judgements are often pre-made about personal brands with a non-white ethnic twist, based solely on appearance and style. White folx who are suited, booted and recruited for personal brands aren't subject to the same scrutiny and assumptions. There's an unspoken bias that's assumed even without engagement that there articulation and assimilation to "professionalism" is acceptable. And for the purposes of this blog, I'm not excluding myself.

This bias extends to the appropriation of black culture. The recent fight for black hair in its natural state to be acceptable still rages. But since it seems we were winning, white folx decided they needed to capitalize on "protective styles" and braid extensions. That just shows me that cultural elements of blackness are acceptable as long as white folx can have some. You can take that back to Snoop say'n, "it ain't no fun if my homies can't have none" mentality. That's branding for the bottom line.

The ghetto country of my personal brand isn't solely about embracing cultural aspects of my life. It's about valuing business in spite of it. It's about closing the wealth gap in spite of it. It comes with expertise, experience, and education. It's a commitment to not losing my identity for the sake of a dollar. Irrespective of the vernacular of my personal brand with its bourbon infused influence and smoky get down. It's about leveraging strengths and knowledge to sell a service, not relying on shock value

Remember, your personal brand isn't defined by the perception of others, it's a reflection of how you want to be remembered, valued, and impactful within your industry and market.


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