Enough of Personal Branding. Define your Personal Values instead

Ana Vargas Santos
Personal Branding
Published in
4 min readJul 10, 2017



MOLESKINE® is one of those brands that really set the standard for everyone else to follow: there’s their notebooks and then there’s those-notebooks-that-look-like-theirs.

And yet, when was the last time you came across one of their ads?

The brand’s ability to influence does not come so much from strong marketing initiatives as from a strong respect for its values: Culture, Imagination, Memory, Travel, Personal Identity.

Consider each of these values for just a second. Can you see them all represented in the brand?

Now consider them altogether. Could they be applied to any other brand?

This, in my opinion, is what makes this particular set of brand values so strong: not a single one sounds odd and, together, they indisputably represent what the brand stands for.

What’s more, you can apply them to each and every product that composes their portfolio. The company has been diversifying its range over the years and has smartly come to describe itself as “a family of nomadic objects”. This includes bags, a system to create and share digital notes, and even a café. Consistency does not mean inability to reinvent itself. It means that the brand will stay true to what it represents, even if it expands to other markets or territories.

In the last couple of years, the concept of Personal Branding has gained momentum as an attempt to help professionals promote their careers by emulating some of Marketing’s best practices. Nothing against the idea, I’m actually all in favor of transferring knowledge from different fields into personal development. I even wrote about it.

The only problem is, people tend to start from the end, focusing on the branding part without considering the personal side of the term. Most articles on the topic share tips on how to promote yourself and become a reference in your area of expertise without so much of a thought given into who you are promoting. It is very difficult to stay true to an identity that is not clearly defined.

Values ensure a brand’s consistent presence, and the same applies to people. It’s no coincidence that exercises designed to help young people figure out what they want to do with their lives all include tapping into one’s values.

At Harvard, for example, every year over 100 first-year students go through a seminar designed to help them define what they want to do at college. One of the exercises is called the Core Values Exercise. Students are asked to identify 5 words that best describe their core values and to discuss how they might deal with a situation where those values came into conflict with one another.

PwC designed a website intended to help soon-to-be graduates to discover what they want to do with their professional careers. It provides a series of exercises organized into 4 main steps: Assess, Maximize, Prepare and Present. One of the exercises contained in the first step is identifying your values profile and making an action plan to bring into focus those values that are not being practised upon.

James Clear, an author that mostly writes about human potential, takes this idea of living by his core values to the next level. Every year, he writes and publishes his Integrity report, which basically consists of identifying the core values that drive his life and work, understanding whether he is living up to them, and setting higher standards for the future.

Values are important because they represent what matters to us and they help us decide. They make sure we act consistently across situations, time and people. So, instead of branding yourself as something you may or may not be, it might be wiser to understand who you really are, and how you can stay true to yourself.

Whether you’re considering a career change or simply interested in pushing your potential further, here are a couple of steps that can help you initiate that process:

  1. Identify your 5 core values. You can check a list of common values here. Write down your own definitions for each value. It is very important to make sure that you are clear on what each value means to you.
  2. Chose an area of focus: it might be your life as a whole, your current job, your romantic relationship, your health, or any other area that is relevant to you.
  3. Check for consistency: try to assess whether you are living up to your core values in the area of focus you selected.
  4. If your values are being respected, how can you push yourself even further? James Clear’s process for setting higher standards can be a good reference.
  5. If you are not living up to your values, how can you get back on track? PwC’s exercise (particularly step 5) provides a good framework for setting up an action plan.

This process, more than a one time thing, can be your basis for regular check-ups on your personal progress or for making big decisions in your life. It will help you keep your identity consistent even when you are about to initiate a new chapter.

MOLESKINE® is a trademark registered by Moleskine SpA.

Moleskine SpA has no relation with any content published on this website.



Ana Vargas Santos
Personal Branding

HR Research Partner. I write about learning and career management.