Personal Branding (and Why You Might Have the Wizard of Oz Complex)

It’s interesting to me that for so many entrepreneurs marketing is an obligatory process. Instead of just talking to people about who they are and how they can help, business owners feel compelled to create a persona or motif that bears little resemblance to the human being running the show.

I say: why put on a show? What if you stepped out from behind the hype (or the hype some marketer has sold you) and let the world see who you are instead? Before and after you get the money?

If you create a persona that isn’t aligned with you are all day every day, eventually you’ll be outed.

What happens when a prospective customer gets you on the phone, meets you in person or otherwise transacts with your company and realizes that you’re not who your marketing said you were? It’s not that you’ve intentionally tried to deceive people, but those who come into contact with you end up feeling bothered and confused.

The other side of this coin: you don’t want to lie about who are are or what you can do, but you’re reluctant to reveal anything of substance either.

So you play it safe and say very little. In the name of “keeping it professional,” you bore the shit out of your audience. If you’re lucky, a few come calling anyway. At that point they’re pleasantly surprised to meet a real person with an imperfectly real but interesting personality.

Entrepreneurs in either situation are getting business and making money in spite of themselves. Literally. And it’s not sustainable.

You Might Have a “Wizard of Oz” Complex

The Wizard of Oz is the only movie I watched multiple times as a child. I’m not a big fan of the fantasy movie genre, but the honesty of that script enthralled me. Each character was so fully in character all of the time, but without becoming an annoying caricature of the intended persona.

Ironically, the only character who hid from his authenticity was the Wizard himself.

At the end of the movie, Dorothy and her sidekicks arrive at the Wizard’s castle, breathless, fearful of the Wizard’s wrath, but hoping he’ll offer Dorothy a way back home to Kansas. In the castle there is a large curtain, and during negotiations with the ominous Wizard, Dorothy’s dog Toto pulls on the cord. Dorothy and her friends are shocked. Behind the curtain is a stout little old man turning wheels and cranking gears. He’s even speaking into a microphone to make his voice louder and more dramatic.

Turns out “The Wizard of Oz” is nothing but a special effects show.

The man is mortified that his secret has been revealed. Yet when Dorothy begs him to help her find a way home anyway, he tells her she’s had the ability to return to Kansas all along, and then he gives her simple instructions to make it happen.

As she repeats the words, “There’s no place like home,” Dorothy clicks her ruby slippers together and finds herself back in Kansas, in her bed, with her loved ones at her side.

The old man’s advice worked.

Over the long run, maintaining a persona that’s a departure from your true self is a difficult and arduous journey. Yet as entrepreneurs we tend to believe wizardry is required to make things happen, to bring callers to our doorstep. This is despite the fact we have something more fundamentally authentic to offer once people come into direct contact with us. It’s hard work to maintain the facade, and doing so robs everyone of the substance and meaning we all crave so badly.

Dorothy may have sought out the help of a wizard, but she thanked a man.

I challenge you to do more than create a personal brand. Instead think about how you can be more personal.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *