Branding, by definition, ‘is the process involved in creating a unique name and image for a product in the consumer’s mind’ (Business Dictionary, 2016). The process of creating a brand aims, therefore, in creating a truthful and durable relationship between the product and the public.
The commodities that surround our lives inadvertently contribute in shaping our identities. Moreover, the concept that lays behind branding is in fact really similar to the one of identity. Thus, the Cambridge Dictionary refers to the term as a ‘condition of being a certain person or thing; the set of characteristics by which a person or a thing is definitely recognisable’. Identity, as well as brands and consumption, exist only in relation to others, and is the result of a negotiation between ourselves and what surrounds us. ‘Successful brands create narratives for one’s self; they help us make sense of ourselves in the inchoate flux of society and culture by anchoring our personalities in consumer good’ (Gabriel, 2013).
The relationship between brands and identity has grown since the start of consumerism, so that we can refer to this phenomenon as ‘the commodification of self’. As the Joseph E. Davis argues, two are the meanings by which this concept can be interpreted: the first, as a process of self-understanding which happens to be mediated by consuming goods and images; the second, as a ‘reorganisation of our personal lives and relationships on the model of market responses’ (Davis, 2003).
In a society based on mass consumerism, finding our own identity has become more difficult than ever before. People look for a continuous social recognition during their process of building an identity which is often constructed on patterns of consumption. More so, the need of belonging to a specific community lead us in identifying ourselves through our, and other people’s, choices.
The process of self-formation, as explained by Davis, has been focused more on the outer-self rather than on the inner-self. Likewise a product, people started to self-branding themselves by advertising their personality on social networks.
Personal branding is a practice that has developed around charismatic personalities who started a business and decided to present it to the media as an extension of their persona. This specific kind of branding aims, in fact, to a personal identification with the product. People will be therefore attracted not only to the product but to the personality behind that, whose aim is to appear as a role model the public have to tend to.
Through social media, personal branding has become really popular, and the phenomena of ‘bloggers’ and ‘youtubers’ is exactly based on this process. From being a common individual, who where at the time also experimenting with their identity, these internet names and personalities has been transformed into brands people look up to. It is not an accident, therefore, that the audience these new kinds of celebrity reach is made of young people still in the process of strengthening their identity.
Chiara Ferragni, for example, who, by just creating a blog, The Blond Salad, in which she uploaded for fun pictures of her outfits, became one of the most famous fashion blogger of the globe. The Blond Salad has become much more than just a blog and today the young woman collaborates with the major fashion brands and has become itself a brand with its own collection. The blogger, and today also entrepreneur, with more than 30 millions followers all around the world, has become an icon for young generations, whose name not only refers to a charismatic person but also to a product of consumption.