What Do Famous People Think?

Mark ZuckerbergOn SNL last Saturday night, we had three Mark Zuckerbergs, only one of which is actually the FB/Social Network god/demon himself. The cinema Zuckerberg, Jesse Eisenberg and the SNL Zuckerberg, Andy Samberg landed on stage with Zuck himself.

Your brand extensions

So, there he stood with the least flattering versions of himself. Could you keep your composure if that happened to you? Does a $40 billion valuation take the sting out of it? Perhaps, but Zuckerberg is as human as you and me, so it must have made his heart pound (or his blood boil) just a bit.

It made me wonder how much control over your personal brand remains, the more important or famous you become. It made me clearer than ever that there is no privacy now (and that was before Zuck’s FB page was hacked), and that more and more people know you – and can interpret you, from the pastiche you put up all over Internet.

Do you control your brand?

How would it be if someone or several people played you? Maybe not exactly you, but the lampoon of you – or the dark side of you?

I bet you think no one knows the really dark side. Except that everyone has a really dark side, and because we have ours, we know you have yours.

Nearly everyone also believes that they will be “found out.” Don’t you have that feeling you are overreaching and underperforming, and it will be unmasked at some horrible moment when we’ll see you for who you really are? Are you afraid we will feel disappointed or infuriated or shocked? That despite your tailored suit, your underwear has holes in it?

Almost every great person I get to know in business and media is self-conscious about something. It ranges from not having graduated college to not making their first billion before they were twenty-five. Some believe that the whole house of cards upon which they built their career will collapse at some inopportune time.

I have to say that if there is a recurrent theme among highly visible people I know, it is these two inner demons. One: they have a dark side to hide, and two: they have a deep fear that they aren’t who we think they are. For example, a man recently found out he is not really the anchor and editor of a big news program. No, not Dan Rather, much more recent than that.

Our friend Keith Olbermann found out just minutes (or perhaps days) before, that Friday, January 21, 2011 was his last show on MSNBC. He waited until the end of the broadcast to let us know. Having scuffled with his network for years, this wasn’t a great surprise. But, the shock of no longer being who you are, is nonetheless a shock. Soon SNL will have someone play Olbermann, there might even be a movie, and there perhaps there will be Keith himself on stage with his doppelgangers. After Zuckerberg’s appearance perhaps that is a triumph. A mark of having really made it as a personal brand.

Keith has a dark side. He thinks about who is the worst person in the world each day, and has put up that day’s winner on his show, day and day. So what do those maligned people think now, now that Keith has been fired? Perhaps Keith thinks it was worth it. A trade for telling it like it is, being authentically who he is. Did he overreach – did he not have the clout or capital he leveraged to express his opinion? Did he get found out and put out? I don’t think so. The NBC corporate brand is changing with the new acquisition, and Keith’s bombastic and partisan personal brand really doesn’t sync up with the new normal.

Brand doppelgangers

We feel no pity for Zuckerberg and we don’t need to feel any for Olbermann. We know who they are, through not only our own eyes but also those who revile them or at least make fun of them – and they are each doing just fine. At least, that is what they will say.

Personal brands, anything that makes you self-conscious is not worth worrying about. Anything you think you are hiding, likely you are not. And, we will still like you, hire you, and even admire you (even more) when you will drop your guard and get human with us.

Perhaps the best thing we all could wish for you is this: see you on the big screen and the small one, too. Along with those who would seek to imitate you.

And yet for all the lookalikes: you be you. Remain inimitable, as you are when you are an authentic personal brand.

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