Personal Branding. Brought to you by American Idol

They each have a distinct brand.

Idol contestants. They each have a distinct brand.

Guilty pleasure admission – I watch American Idol. There, I’ve got that out in the open. I feel better (with flashes of shame). But I’ve learned a few things by watching that show, other than how to hit that high C. American Idol gives us a couple of important lessons on personal branding.

The One Who…

When talking about American Idol contestants, we typically don’t remember their names, so we describe them in other ways: She’s the hippie girl; he’s the one that sounds like Sinatra; she’s the homeless girl; she’s the cute single mother; he’s the funny one. We’re defining the contestants by a certain set of characteristics – some physical, some behavioral. But, we are defining their brand. They are capturing a distinct position in our minds and hearts. This is a brand. How do people describe you when they talk about you? “He’s the one who is really focused on ROI, with a super-fun approach.” “She’s the mobile phone expert.” “She’s an over-bearing know-it-all.” 

And, you can’t have two cute, young, country singers. We only want one. You can’t have three hippie dudes. Our minds only want one brand to occupy that position. So it is with your personal brand. For example, you simply can’t be that guy who knows a lot about websites. Too many other people can occupy that same brand. Specialize the hell out of it. Be the guy who knows everything about SEO. Or even more, be the guy that knows everything about linking strategy for SEO. Or even better, be the guy who knows everything about SEO, and does instructional podcasts weekly, and always incorporates images of 80s TV stars. I don’t know – that’s a goofy example – but you occupy a clear brand position, at least. Be unique. Stand out. Just know that you will be described as something – what will it be? How will you be described?

Embracing Your Brand…

The other major lesson learned from American Idol is embracing your own brand. Ultimately, the contestants that succeed are the ones who decide who they are, and embrace it, whole-heartedly, in everything they do. You must embrace your brand. You simply cannot occupy more than one brand position. So, embrace what you are and pump it up. If you are the nerdy one – embrace that. If you are a bleeding heart, embrace that. Being true to your brand will ultimately be more powerful than trying to occupy a brand position that you could never own. Again – stand out and be unique. But don’t deny your brand – embrace it. 

And I’ll accept that the only place I’m a star singer is in my shower.

American Idol Cheerleaders


3 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    […] @MikeMcDowell sent me a link via Twitter the other day that identified what American Idol can teach you about personal branding. […]

  2. 2

    Pete Kistler said,

    Hey Mike,

    I’m a fan of your blog (as evidenced by our blog post about your blog post).

    Are you on Twitter?

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