I write about the things that matter to me. All opinions are my own.

Search This Blog

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Don’t Be Boring – Madonna and the #1 Rule of Personal Branding

You may think that you have to look like a U.S. president or the First
Spouse to get the job of CEO, but as we move forward into the 21st
century that will not be the case at all. Instead, people who look
like everybody else are going to be viewed as lacking in creativity.
Those who are speckled, feathered, covered in pink polka dots and
otherwise strange-looking are going to be the stars. And those who
change their speckles, feathers and dots on a regular basis to evolve
with the times are going to be the superstars.

Way before Tom Peters' landmark article in Fast Company, "The Brand
Called You," Madonna served as the "spokesperson" and absolute pioneer
of the be-yourself and even constantly-reinvent-yourself approach to
personal branding. See the 100th anniversary celebration magazine for
Women's Wear Daily (WWD) – suffer through it, if you aren't into
clothes. It's important because the growth of the fashion industry
over the past century is integrally related to the explosion in
branding and the "massification" of this formerly esoteric marketing
term.

In other words, not only do we have a million brands nowadays, but
people understand very well that they are brands too.

I have had a "love-hate" relationship with Madonna, I must say, as I
have observed her through the years. When she first appeared on the
scene in the early 80s, I thought she was totally cool. The bracelets,
the hair, the songs – they are still amazing to me. The songs "Get
Into The Groove," "Borderline," and "Material Girl" are still like
anthems.

Today, whenever I see anything in the news about Madonna I absolutely
must read it. I actually have read all the stuff about Lourdes growing
up, being a fashion plate, Madonna's "bizarre" mothering rules for all
her kids, etc. When Lourdes launched Material Girl clothes at Macy's I
was reading, listening, analyzing.

Yet I've hated a lot of Madonna's incarnations too. Basically
everything after the first album right up until the Kabbalah stuff,
actually. I like her new idea for a fitness center brand. Whatever, I
don't listen to her music anymore, but I think she's cool.

The reason I say she's the gold standard is that Madonna understands
that fundamental thing about branding that most people don't. The
popular conception is that a brand must stay the same all the time,
that it must be consistent, that it must never let go of that familiar
image that people recognize. That if you change, it's very slowly and
incrementally and that you shouldn't scare people. The recent
rebranding of Gap, and the quick retraction of the new logo when
people complained, is an excellent example of what NOT to do to
evolve.

Madonna understands that it's just the opposite. In the first place,
you have to get out there and be yourself. Be totally yourself. No
matter how weird, wacky, odd, or strange you seem to others, if it's
authentic to you, then be that. Kelly Cutrone (read her book, she has
the company The People's Revolution and she had a great Bravo show
about her event/PR firm for fashion shows) completely understands
that. And then, once you have fully and completely explored the
identity you've built—trash it. Go completely beyond. Try something
different. Play. And don't be afraid to emerge with a totally
different persona.

What Madonna understands is that it's not one persona in particular
that defines who you are as a brand. It is the amalgamation of those
personas, and the fact that you're willing to play with them and
explore different aspects of yourself as you evolve, that defines your
brand. And if you are completely and totally authentic as a human
being, your brand will be successful and your audience will find you.

Copyright 2010 by Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D.
All opinions my own. Originally posted to my blog at
http://thinkbrandfirst.blogspot.com. Permission granted to repost with
attribution.