Archive for the ‘Celebrity’ Category

Ten Commandments of Personal Branding – #9 Never Stop Learning: You Couldn’t If You Tried

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

LohanYou are what you watch, hear and engage in, by intention or accident. That should be a caution to you, if you’re reading this only because Project Runway is on a commercial break, or Perez Hilton still has up that photo of Lindsay Lohan in an orange bikini (made you look!).

If you own all the farm animals on Farmville, killed all the people on Mafia Wars and you’re typically the mayor of the burger joint you 4square from, it’s time for you to stop “learning” how to spend your time on things that make no sense being mixed up with your brand – and teaching the people who know you that you spend your time on nonsense. You don’t have an endless amount of attention units and neither do we when it comes to our schema of you. Our brains’ respective RAMs get filled up in 30-second increments. Or, if you’re a goldfish, 7 seconds. In any case, brains get full pretty quick, so be careful what you’re focusing on. Be careful how you use the time you get with other people.

Better to sit addicted to Twitter, if you follow people in your industry or experts on subjects of huge value, including social media itself. Click on the links and get smart. Bring your own perspective and experience to bear on what you learn. Share original thoughts (if you can). Retweet if you can’t. Try to ignore anything that quotes Donald Trump. Sometimes, I can’t restrain myself because I’m on earth to propound the truth that the only things dumber than Donald Trump are people who quote him.

PhonePersonal branding is a function of your learning, given that what comes into your head comes out of your mouth or fingertips (or just your thumbs if you’re on a smart phone).

So, subscribe to newsletters that edify, unsubscribe to the ones that are redundant or waste your time. Set up Google Alerts for keywords that are central to your area of expertise and command. Spend your free time in bookstores, libraries, museums, strange neighborhoods, conferences where you meet interesting people, and the gym because you need to build some real muscle after fake farming all last year.

Your personal brand is a reflection of what you are learning. Do it by intention, and you’ll become the person you choose to be. Otherwise remember: accidents happen. We could call that misbranding, or just a dong a Lohan.

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What Sex Can and Can’t Sell

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

Sex is the core of many celebrities’ personal brands. These popsugar people make a living being hot. They play out their lives with others who are just as hot. Megan, Brian, Scarlett, Ryan, Brad, Angelina, Gisele, Tom and the phalanx of usual suspects dance among their own kind. Their brand

Sexy Sells

Sexy Sells

images are not just the output of stylists and press agents. Sex is the brand born out by these celebs’ behavior. It works because, like the core elements of all successful personal brands, sex isn’t just aped by these lookers. Sex is embedded in their characters, it’s authentically embodied and it’s relentlessly, consistently and clearly communicated, with well chosen co-branding partners.

Sex isn’t the same as “sex appeal,” which was a quaint notion that some people have a kind of “X” factor. Paul Newman projected that intense, undeniable magnetism. At the same time, he was a devoted married man for 50 years. Newman and his wife, the very elegant Joanne Woodward, enjoyed a very un-Hollywood life in Connecticut. In a then timely but now quaint simile, Newman told a too-inquiring member of the press that he didn’t need to eat hamburger out of town because he had steak at home.

Sex still sells

By contrast, today’s celebrity X-factor pretty much means X-rated, with proof of concept. We watch Kendra Wilkinson jump off The Girls Next Door to move on down the aisle with her baby bump to wed pro athlete Hank Baskett. If you haven’t seen enough Kardashians, more’s on the way as Kourtney sports a bump as the result of off-again, on-again relations with Scott Disick, or so says People magazine.

Good for them? Yes. As marketers and civilians alike know: sex sells. That’s why sex is such a powerful personal brand element. It sells movies, magazines, music and more.

Sex goes wrong

So how can a great personal branding technique as old as sex go horribly wrong?

This week another married man from Connecticut came forward to tell us he’s a victim of his sexiness. That unlikely man is David Letterman. Apparently, untold numbers of young assistants throughout the years find sex with him consensually impossible to resist.

Apparently, he regularly hires small armies of young women assistants, and in his public words has “creepy” sex with some of them. Letterman’s utter lack of contrition and just plain conscience about the lives he tainted, evoked the mindset of a plantation owner. The master knew whomever he choose to serve the family in the plantation house got a better job than most, and it was a job worth doing what it took to keep. Kind of like serving a production company owner and talk show star, and occasionally looking after his son.

When the story broke, I watched a clip featuring Letterman and one of his “favored” assistants. They were playing Letterman’s signature bit “know your cuts of meat. It was a rude simile, given the situation.

In the bit, Letterman’s assistant, lucky to get that camera time, was cast in the role of trying to guess the piece of meat, as she looked at pictures of meat flashed on the screen. She played the ditz, got it wrong and everyone laughed. He asked her if she wanted to play again. Playing the patsy, she did. She never did get one right.


Is it acceptable?

Some things are just really hard to watch.

This isn’t the dance of equals, like Brad and Angelina meeting on the set of Mr. and Mrs. Smith and leaving Jennifer to be America’s aging sweetheart. This isn’t watching Julia Roberts get serially engaged to one leading man after another until she finds settles on Danny for her happily ever after. This isn’t Tom making babies with Bridget and Gisele.

This isn’t even a reality show where people sign up to exploit their bodies and bad habits.

It took a celebrity to prove that sex can’t sell everything. Maybe even another season of the Late Show with David Letterman.

Nance Rosen is the author of Speak Up! & Succeed. She speaks to business audiences around the world and is a resource for press, including print, broadcast and online journalists and bloggers covering social media and careers.

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Celebrity Branding Wars – This May Be Too Disgusting to Read!

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Last week on Oprah, MacKenzie Phillips launched her new personal brand. She is the self-dubbed, new face of “consensual incest,” according to Sunday’s New York Times.

I won’t guess what reaction you’re having to MacPhil’s latest attempt to spin a lifetime of addiction and dereliction into an Oprah book bestseller (featured for ratings, not endorsed for your book club). At least consider the effort a stroke of branding genius.

3948115145_43c4479600-300x200First, she set up her defense team’s argument for TV cameras being permitted in the courtroom for the trial on her latest drug arrest. As a public service, her situation could be framed as a “teachable moment” for parents and children who have gone way beyond breaching the missive that parents should be parents and not friends (especially not friends with benefits).

Because I am a former marketing executive with the world’s #1 brand, I’m particularly taken with La Phillip’s hoary “reinvention” brand strategy. Thank aging heavyweights Madonna and Cher for pioneering a century of superb repackaging and unintentional self-lampooning. Sum up the years of the careers of these spackled and taut divas with their astonishing trophies of tiny bottoms spandexed onto fishnet hose peek-a-booing relentlessly dancing legs, and 100 years doesn’t actually cover their long and winding if withered clutch on international fame.

Your market place

Of course, for personal and real brands, the pervasive challenge is to define a unique position in a developed market place. Almost no “space” is vacant and lying fallow these days, leaving room for a new brand to gain the first mover advantage. Yet, the benefits of first mover advantage are inarguable, if expensive and transitory. Think of some of the first mover icons in real and personal brands: Microsoft, Eva Peron, Apple and Sarah Palin.

In personal brands, even the celebrity “mean girl” space is cluttered, as it is in every high school, proving that art imitates life.  Heidi, Lindsay, whomever Lindsay breaks up with and Perez Hilton are among about 25 top contestants for icon of that brand personality. By contrast, Natalie Portman holds steady with her promise as educated, beautiful and the least celebrated of all celebrity personal brand promises: civilized.

First mover advantage

299283777_5a706dd515-300x200For the same reason that Snapple cramps the style of Sweet Leaf Tea, competition from a current brand in the category is the reason why Mackenzie has to settle for being the “new” face of consensual incest.

Unfortunately for her, the same Sunday New York Times article points out that another woman already owns the first mover advantage in the category. That would be the author Kathryn Harrison, who broke ground in her 1997 memoir, “The Kiss,” detailing her own dance with the “devil as my father.”

The potential for Mackenzie’s differentiation is that Harrsion’s father lived to voice his “outrage” and Harrison enjoys a real but also storybook ending with a loving husband and children living happily ever after with her. There’s also a reunification with her complicit mother who becomes beloved to the author! If that’s not enough yuck factor for you, read the book. There’s plenty more including scenes with her gynecologist, so have soda crackers ready to settle your stomach.

By contrast in Phillips family, dad is dead and stepmothers stay storybook wicked. A bevy of Phillips wives claw over each other to say the man they all bedded “would never.” And, not one to miss a co-branding opportunity: savvy half-sister Chynna gives the round to Mackenzie, and surprise-surprise boasts the good fortune of timing the release of her new CD with her sibling’s confessional accusation. There’s even room in the brand blowout for Bijou, who is approaching actress hump day at 29 with a project to be announced for sure.

Celebrity branding wars?

3750735183_6a80f1f975-199x300Celebrity branding for mindshare looks a bit like the cola wars this year. Ever so often the blue challenger competes against the real thing and makes some noise before fading back.

Right now, as the Phillips family of brands grabs the stage, it slightly dims the light on Michael Jackson’s family, as they all race to make money on perverse and tragedy-based iconography.

As the new LA Personal Brand Examiner, I may not have a lock on celebrity brands just yet. But, my money is on the Jacksons. After all, they own half the Beatles publishing catalog. At the end of the week, does anyone care who owns Monday, Monday?

Nance Rosen is the author of Speak Up! & Succeed. She speaks to business audiences around the world and is a resource for press, including print, broadcast and online journalists and bloggers covering social media and careers.

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