Today, it can seem that we're flooded with experts—thought leaders are around every corner, and there's enough content out there to swamp us. So, in this content-crazed climate, how do we get our voices heard?
Whilst the idea of a personal brand isn't a new one, we're approaching it from a new angle—an angle fit for the Age of Authenticity that we live in. One that seeks to be personal, organic, and, most of all, real. To do this, we've taken advice from the industry where verisimilitude—coupled with entertainment—is everything: game design.
And, to help us along our journey (and with inspiration from our favourite game at the moment: Wordle) we've created an acronym to follow: SPICE. Here are our top 5 game design takeaways for creatives to spice up their personal branding.
The what and why of personal branding for creatives
What is personal branding?
Your personal brand is the message that you share about yourself—who you are, what's important to you and the way that people perceive that message. You may be known as a creative risk-taker, always on the forefront of new developments or as a data-driven creative, leveraging information to provide consistent, rational takes. It's all up to you. Your personal brand is your signpost that says, "this is me".
Why is personal branding important?
Having a strong personal brand means that you instantly conjure up a vivid image of yourself—to both those who know you, and those who freshly discover you—and, best of all, it's an image of your choosing. It allows you to become a visible character within your field—helping to attract new clients and collaborators.
With the overwhelming amount of experts (and expert content) in the world, a strong personal brand is a way of standing out from the crowd and carving a niche (more on that later).
What has this got to do with game design?
In the video game industry, engagement is everything—game design is focused on grabbing attention and holding it. Most of all, though, it wants to do this in a natural way—if a game feels too artificial, well, it just won't be fun. The same applies to our personal branding—if our persona, or our messaging, feels forced and artificial, it won't be engaging (and may well be off-putting, instead.) Key to this is the concept of "nudging"—a communication and game design technique designed to convey information, intent, and story in a subconscious way.
We can leverage these nudging techniques to craft our personal brand in a way that intrigues, clearly communicates our message, and does it without seeming disingenuous.
5 tips from game design theory
Starting off our spice mix, signposting is a "nudging" technique used in game design to encourage certain decisions or interactions, whilst maintaining the open-ended (or self-determinate) feel of a game, namely by employing colour, lighting and form to push the player in certain directions.
In terms of personal branding, signposting can be used to imply things about ourselves, and our personal image, without saying them outright—which runs the risk of seeming artificial or forced. We can also use this technique to encourage possible contacts and collaborators to get in contact with us!
What better way to cement yourself as an expert than to write a book? This eBook—produced by Always Andri—presents her expertise in a natural (and informative!) way, without explicitly saying it. It's also extremely relevant to her chosen niche, providing a springboard for our next tip: participation.
Video games manage to draw enormous audiences through their collaboration and crossover events—Fortnite's in-game Marshmello concert is just one example of this. They manage to bridge multiple communities to create unique, one of a kind events and we can do the same thing with our personal branding, if only we allow our audience, and colleagues, to participate.
Bringing participation to the forefront of her personal brand is Jesiah with her collaborative Spotify playlist. She encourages her peers and her audience to add to the playlist—not only creating an interesting and valuable collaborative resource but using the opportunity to expand into new niches and open conversations with new people. It's this two-way act of participation that helps Jesiah to draw closer to her audience, establishing her personal brand as a truly authentic one.
Games are the ultimate form of interactive media, so why not use some of those techniques for personal branding? Interactivity helps to create a closer, more personal connection—both with media and with people. Whilst in game design, the goal of interactivity is to engage and entertain, we can use the same techniques to create personal connections with people—establishing ourselves as experts in our field and sparking conversations.
Laura Gao provides an excellent example of how interactivity can be used to level up your personal branding. Laura Gao—an author herself—utilises Twitter Spaces to create public speaking events with other similar authors and creatives that are open to her community. This provides her with an opportunity to put their thoughts forward, establish her as an expert in her chosen niche, and even interact directly with her community via Q&A's or adding them as speakers to the event.
(C): Challenge your audience
Challenge is the essence of video games—overcoming challenges, especially with the help of other players, is a hugely rewarding experience, and a whole lot of fun. Whilst we traditionally associate brands with social media challenges, with the advent of TikTok and other hyper-personalised social media technology, they can be an incredible tool for personal branding, too.
This Instagram challenge by Valeria Vasi combined participation, interactivity and challenge to create an event that strengthened her personal brand. She ran a competition where fellow creatives could pitch proposals, and her audience would vote on the winners. The prize? One of her hand-designed vases. Not only did this competition solidify her personal brand as that of an incredible creative (and one open to collaboration), it also forged connections with creatives in adjacent realms.
Whilst knowing your audience is critical for any endeavour, in-game design, it's everything. Game designers know their audiences inside and out—more than that, game designers know the genre and category of the game that they're designing just as well. They're immersed in similar products to theirs, and they fully embrace their audience—meaning that they can not only see the do's and don'ts of their genre, but they also get a first-hand view of what works and what doesn't.
We can apply this same technique to personal branding. It is imperative that you fully embrace your industry, and your audience. Doing so enables you to take part in relevant conversations, offer your unique insights on trending topics, and, most importantly, allows you to carve out a niche for yourself.
Through her podcast, Kinsey Ranee ensures that she is fully in sync with her audience. Often featuring guests, Kinsey's podcast allows her to consistently cover, and learn more about, topics that are important to her audience. Her focus on having guest co-hosts keeps her informed about developments in her—and adjacent—industries. More than this, though, Kinsey's podcast is personal and authentic—it fosters a deeper connection with her audience, encouraging a mutually beneficial relationship of sharing thoughts, feelings and ideas wholeheartedly. Kinsey takes embracing her audience to a whole new level.
Create your own spice mix
Ultimately, crafting your personal brand is a unique experience and the exact flavour of your spice mix (more puns!) is down to you. Whether you're hosting interactive live streams or challenging your audience to build relationships—these game design techniques are sure to keep your brand authentic and personable (not to mention flavourful!)