Thoughts on Personal Brand as a Moat

In Cedric Chin’s piece, Personal Brand as Moat, Personal Brand as Soft Landing, he argues the validity of a personal brand as a moat. One of the main takeaways of the article can be summarized as:

Careers last a full four decades, on average. I think it’s worth it to evaluate people along this timescale. If you know people with huge personal brands today, ask yourself: are their personal brands going to last a decade or more? And are they staking their reputation on market dynamics that will change beyond a decade? The people with the longest lasting and best performing personal brands — investors like Warren Buffett and Howard Marks; chefs like Wolfgang Puck, Alice Waters, Michael Romano and Danny Meyer — took a long time to build their skills, and usually staked their reputations on something that is unchanging and universally valuable (equity investing, distressed debt, and restauranting, in that order).

There’s the old adage that says do impressive things and tell people about it. Telling people about it - building a social media following and a personal brand - can be gamed. There are many How to Grow a Twitter Following” guides out there.

Doing impressive things is not gameable. It’s much harder to do. While I do think there’s a lot of merit to Cedric’s point that the people with the best personal brands such as Warren Buffet and Wolfgang Puck spent decades acquiring rare and valuable skills and perhaps the first 2 decades of one’s career is better spent doing impressive things. The tech industry does seem to be an industry where personal branding leads to materially better outcomes. Additionally, in the age of social media and the metaverse, I’d argue that navigating the internet and being an internet citizen leads to relationships and opportunities that benefit someone beyond their career.

December 31, 2021

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