If you like to use the term personal branding, stop reading now. I don’t care how trendy the phrase has become or how many millions of dollars have been made selling personal branding books, you’re wrong to use it. Tweet and comment in protest all day long – you’re still wrong.

Branding has become a big money-maker in the marketing and public relations world. Companies invest millions in logo research and design, developing color palettes, messaging, etc., so they can position themselves to appeal to their target market. But it’s a facade in many cases. Did the Gap or J.C. Penny really change the way they did business after their so-called branding changes? Nope. Just new logos that frankly puzzled their market.

We’ve discussed the tenets of organizational branding previously. It’s not too terribly different for individuals – perhaps even more restrictive. The bottom line is by the time you’re old enough to do basic math, your personality has stabilized. That is, you are who you are. And who you are will unwaveringly extend itself into every other aspect of your life – for you entrepreneurs, that includes the company you run.

To me, the extension of branding into the “personal” realm isn’t as surprising as the fact that so many smart people have fallen for it – as if you could read a book or make changes to your LinkedIn profile to alter your “personal brand” and position yourself better. The concept itself originated in the 1930s, but didn’t carry the trendy name nor the weight it does now.

Is there such a thing as personal branding? I suppose. But there is a perfectly good, existing word that describes it: R-E-P-U-T-A-T-I-O-N. How you carry yourself, how you do business with others, your attention to detail, and so many other factors that you have developed over the years. Your reputation is how others see you. And perhaps more importantly, how they convey that reputation to other people: She’s conscientious… He’s hard-working… She gets the job done… Or perhaps: She’s flakey… He’s a jerk… He’s a poor manager…

For the most part, who you are now and how you act is how you’ve always been and more than likely how you will always be. No self-help book is going to fix it or change it. You can try, and perhaps in the short-term one can affect the facade of change, but in the end, who you are at the core will come out.

It’s kind of like what Ron White says, “You can’t fix stupid.”