In a digitally-driven era where markets are dynamic and ever-evolving, some people will ask: Is personal branding dead? For years now, commentators and specialists have been declaring the death of the personal brand due to oversharing, privacy and generational issues, but for others, the significance of personal branding for leaders remains as crucial as ever.

That is the case of Maria Wade, General Manager of Sköna Europe, a B2B creative agency based between San Francisco and Stockholm specializing in marketing, branding, and design for innovative tech companies, who thinks the amalgamation of professional journey and personal growth intertwine seamlessly in the narrative of today’s most respected leaders.  

We sat down with Maria to expound upon her career trajectory, emphasizing the evolving landscape of personal branding and its interplay within today’s challenging environment, as well as how to navigate the aftermath of constrained marketing budgets in 2023 for B2B brands.

Maria Wade’s journey traverses the realms of marketing, going from the initial stages of social media to major roles in sales across various media entities. Not so long ago, an unexpected message got her a position at LinkedIn, where she delved into the dynamics of engaging business professionals, a pivotal juncture shaping her perspective on branding and leadership.

As a parenthesis, we have to say that LinkedIn has been one of the few social media platforms that haven’t lost its touch, even if that means they have experienced a little bit of cringe in the process. On the contrary, it has been growing non-stop and now they are experimenting with AI to help users tell their stories.

Image: LinkedIn

Reflecting on her transition from LinkedIn to Sköna, Maria underscores the prevalent gap between a company’s self-perception and its communication of identity, a void she endeavors to bridge in her current role.

“Throughout my experience in marketing, the common challenge persists, the disconnect between a company’s identity and its external communication. At Sköna, my role involves strategic discussions to align brand strategy with client perceptions,” she says about what she has brought to the Silicon Valley-born Swedish agency.

Reflections on her LinkedIn experience

One thing is true for Maria: Her tenure at LinkedIn profoundly influenced her perspective on branding within the creative industry and leadership. In that sense, she highlights the evolution from an emphasis on content production to the essential role of establishing a unique voice that resonates on platforms like LinkedIn.

“The entities thriving on LinkedIn exhibit a consistent tone of voice, setting them apart in a crowded space. Defining one’s voice is crucial in effectively engaging the desired audience,” Maria notes, underscoring the platform’s transformation from a CV-centric hub to a robust B2B marketing tool.

Navigating the aftermath of constrained marketing budgets in 2023, Maria delves into the strategic approach for B2B brands in resource allocation. She stresses the need for reassessment and fortifying brand foundations before delving deeper into lead generation strategies.

“Companies need to explore new avenues to bring fresh leads, akin to venturing into new fishing grounds. This involves fortifying our brand foundation and reinvigorating lead generation efforts,” Maria emphasizes.

Discussing long-term metrics for B2B companies, Maria advocates for a comprehensive understanding of brand essence internally, fostering a seamless external brand message.

“Long-term evaluations, internal alignment, and reinforcing foundational aspects internally are crucial. Without a solid internal foundation, conveying a consistent brand message externally becomes challenging,” she asserts.

The online presence in 2024

Looking forward to 2024, Maria highlights the importance of engaging the 95% of potential customers not actively in the market. She stresses the significance of sustaining an online presence and nurturing prolonged engagement.

“Patience is key in engaging potential customers over an extended period. Focusing solely on the 5% currently in the market isn’t sufficient; sustained engagement with the wider audience is essential,” Maria advises.

Strategically leveraging platforms like LinkedIn is indispensable for enhancing personal branding efforts. Maria emphasizes the role of management as the voice of a company, underscoring the need for authenticity and personality in projecting a persona externally.

“In my experience, a brand ambassador program empowered senior executives to find their unique communication style on LinkedIn, establishing a corporate presence and sharing industry insights,” Maria recalls.

Regarding the future trajectory of platforms like LinkedIn, Maria envisions a landscape where professionals seek valuable insights and information crucial for their growth, thanks in no small part to  published content.

As regards her new role at Sköna, Maria expressed enthusiasm for the continuous learning experience and engagement with a creative team. She aims to immerse herself in diverse projects, contributing to clients’ brand development journeys from inception to ongoing progress.

Going back to the question at the beginning of this article, Maria Wade reflects on her journey to exemplify the enduring importance of personal branding for leaders in navigating the complexities of today’s business landscape. As markets evolve, she has no doubt about the value of strategic vision, authentic communication, and sustained engagement in building resilient brands.