I think there are three things happening here:
1. Brand production is a spontaneous cultural and psychological phenomenon. That phenomenon is much broader than “brands” in their more narrow definition. The collection and categorization of stimuli that characterizes cognition more generally. Naming stuff, basically.
2. Business kitsch narratives around “personal branding” are still the best explanation people outside of academia or marketing have for this phenomena.
3a. Even though the theory is kitsch and redundant it is revived by the (I would argue) nascent ability people have to actively shape their personal stimuli in mediated contexts i.e. the internet & art.
3b. The essential narcissism of much art is conducive to this.
Personal Branding, the much derided phenomena that wraps up so much of the angst and loathing towards the über-narcissism of the present age, succinctly explained. At least explained in terms of why we are talking about it.
Here’s the deal, you should think about how you present yourself to the world. Call it whatever you like, but with the ever growing exhaust of our online personas, you are in one way or the other creating a story of who you are to the world. Google yourself and see what comes up. You might be surprised at what you find. If you are online, you are creating a public image of yourself and in the process forming an image in the mind of others about yourself.
The moral is you do not have to be a navel gazing, self-absorbed narcissist to care about personal branding. It is being created for you regardless based on your online activity thanks to social media, check-ins, reviews, and other sources. Therefore invest some time to craft your story in a way that is still authentic and personal.