5 things celebrities can teach us about branding

In late September I attended Brand ManageCamp in Las Vegas where 400-plus marketers gathered to discuss branding best practices. Aside from picking up tips from the lineup of keynote speakers, I also popped across the street for a visit of Madame Tussauds wax attraction. Celebrities are masters of personal branding, so much so that some of them only need to go by one name, and among the 100 wax celebrity figures I discovered some branding lessons to share.

Define your brand’s style

Who would Prince be without his purple? Johnny Cash was known as “the man in black.” Would Elvis still be considered king without his bedazzled jumpsuits? Just as celebrities carefully craft their personal style identities, brands must also define their look through use of a style guide. A proper style guide gives your brand a definition through its logo, color palette, fonts, photography choices, and voice.

Your brand is always “on stage”

Although celebrities would like to escape the spotlight and live a regular life when they are not working, with the paparazzi and proliferation of cellphones they can never really get out of the public eye. A consequence of this is the need to be conscious that you are always “on stage.”

Similarly, brands are living in a 24/7/365 world and what your employee says on social media can end up being a tweet heard round the world if it’s not managed carefully. Be sure to have a brand-monitoring process in place.

Quality matters

When it comes to a celebrity’s appearance for red carpet events, nothing but the best will do. That’s why they turn to fashion, makeup, jewelry, and hair experts to ensure their style is on point.

Companies also need to be careful whose hands they put their brand into for delivery of their marketing messages. A poorly executed campaign by an underskilled vendor can come back to make the brand look bad. Be sure you are working with experts in their craft.

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Craft a memorable tagline

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson built his wrestling/acting career with a stellar tagline — “Do you smell what The Rock is cooking?” Matthew McConaughey launched to stardom with his first movie role catchphrase of “Alright, alright, alright.” Brands should not underestimate the power of a catchy turn of phrase that resonates with the audience, as it can result in a lifetime of marketing gold.

Be unique

Many celebrities rely on shock value to gain attention and sales. While your brand may not want or need to go to the lengths of Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, or Madonna, there is still value in being unique and taking some risks. If the marketing among you and your competitors is starting to look homogeneous, why not try something radically different to stand out?

Celebrities who cultivate a powerful personal brand end up making far more money than those who fail to do so. Tell me marketers, what branding lessons have you learned from your favorite stars?

Karen M. Wenning serves in marketing and sales for Madison-based printer and marketing services provider Suttle-Straus.

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