Can Personal Branding Titles Hurt Your Personal Brand?

I've read a lot of Tom Peters and understand the concept of standing out from the crowd, but whenever someone claims that they are a "Visionary Entrepreneur", "Media Maverick" or a "Disruptive Innovator", my 1st reaction is not one of curiosity, but rather, what is it they actually do, and why is this person so full of themselves?

Mind you, I didn't come to this way of thinking without a few personal branding exercises of my own. A designer by training, futurist by thought, inventive and entrepreneurial by nature I also struggled with what to call myself to stand out from the crowd. I'm sure I appeared no less pompous and delusional when I've called myself "Meaning Architect", "Visioneer" or "Revolutionist"....the last one I was particularly fond of since I work with startups I really believe can lead to revolutionary change :(

I think what's missing here is that these personal branding titles are like the taglines from your favorite brands that you'll never remember even if your life depended on them! It the common delusion that you define your brand, and not your audience.

Think about it. Seth Godin calls himself a "Change Agent", but when you think of Seth (for those of you who dig his blog like me), you mostly remember that is a prolific and insightful marketing thinker who is one of the most popular blogger/business authors online. In other words, "Change Agent" is an exercise for Seth himself, but the fact that he's a blogger is a derivative of my (and yours) specific experience with his "brand".

So as the question is "Can personal branding titles hurt your brand?", maybe the real question is have your built one based on real experiences with an audience first? Calling yourself something cool without proving yourself worthy of the expectation is no different than any other hype (i.e, the annoying infomercial guy above).

....and as to what do I call myself? Well, I hope I can build a reputable enough brand for myself so that you, my readers, friends and colleagues can offer some suggestions :)

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