It’s simple: branding is a success when you become memorable.
You may be overwhelmed wondering how to differentiate your personal brand. But the good news is, you don’t need to be the best in your field or have the biggest following to make an unforgettable impression.
One of the simplest and fastest ways to stand out is to define a signature look or style that becomes uniquely yours. This can be expressed in many ways, including how you dress or wear your hair. After all, there’s a reason they call it a fashion statement.
Unmistakable Personal Branding Examples from Your Favorite Celebrities
To drive this point home, here are some celebrities and famous leaders who have made consistent style choices that have become synonymous with their brand identity:
Ariana Grande’s High Ponytail
Without a doubt, Ariana’s incredible voice is what makes her a superstar, but she gets an extra PR boost any time she switches up her look. Her high pony is such a part of who she is, that any deviation from it becomes a major media story.
Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Steven Tyler’s Scarves
After one of his scarves tore off during a performance, Steven Tyler chose to tie it to his microphone stand for good luck. He now adorns all of his mic stands with ornate scarves as one of his trademarks.
According to an article by John Kehe, Michael Jackson was on a tour of a Hollywood production facility when he saw a film editor wearing a single white glove. (It was a common practice for film editors in the 1980s to keep of box of gloves on-hand.) The King of Pop asked the editor if he could spare one.
The glove made its television debut in 1983 during a performance of “Billy Jean”. MJ later bedazzled it in sequins, and it immediately became an iconic piece of pop culture history. You can find one of his gloves on display at the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles.
Photo: Beth A. Keiser / AFP/Getty Images
Steve Jobs’ Black Turtleneck
Late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs once said he owned over 100 of black mock turtlenecks. Designed by Issey Miyake, they reportedly cost $275 each. He’d typically pair them with jeans and sneakers. Fellow billionaire and tech mogul, Mark Zuckerberg, is also known for his casual looks.
Photo by Aaron Sorkin
Billie Eilish’s Green Roots
Her incredible voice isn’t the only thing that makes Billie Eilish stand out from other artists. She has her own style, from her green roots, to her baggy designer jumpsuits, all the way to her fingertips. Billie marches to the beat of her own drum, and we love her for it!
Photo: Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP
Chris Sacca’s Cowboy Shirts
I never thought that embroidered cowboy shirts were a good look, but Shark Tank guest star and billionaire venture capitalist, Chris Sacca, makes them work for his personal brand! He says the consistency in his wardrobe has given him the time to focus on more meaningful projects rather than wasting time deciding what to wear.
Photo by Megan Mack
Chance the Rapper’s 3 Hats
It’s safe to say that Chance the Rapper has one of his 3 hats in every color! According to an article in Entertainment Weekly, the number initially represented Chance’s third mixtape, Coloring Book. Now, he says the 3 has taken on other meanings pertaining to his family life.
Photo: Daniel Boczarski / Getty Images
KISS’s Painted Face Masks
You can’t think of KISS without envisioning their unmistakable face makeup. For nearly 10 years, there were no photos of them without makeup. This strategic decision gave them the opportunity to create intrigue amongst the media and their fans.
Photo by Getty
Camila Cabello’s Bows
Camila Cabello began her career competing on X Factor as a member of girl group, Fifth Harmony. With four other singers beside her at all times, it’s no wonder she wanted to stand out. In every performance, Camila wore a bow that quickly made her recognizable.
Since reaching superstar status as a solo artist, Camila has abandoned this accessory, but I can’t help but think it played a role in her fame.
Photo by PictureGroup / Rex Features
How to Apply a Signature Look to Your Brand Aesthetic
Ultimately, your brand will be known for something much bigger than its appearance. Your mission, products, services, and overall brand personality matter more. But in a sea of competitors and crowded industries, there’s no harm in finding a creative way to stand out.
If you’re a realtor, maybe you are known for wearing red heels.
If you’re a photographer, maybe you use a bedazzled camera (inspired by MJ!).
If you are hair stylist, maybe you always cut hair with bright pink scissors.
If you are a baker, maybe you only wear a denim apron covered in personalized patches.
If you are a food blogger, maybe you always photograph your food on a gold plate.
There are countless ways to make your personal brand more distinctive, but one thing is for certain: you can to make it true to your own style. Once you simply define it, you will be able to express it in a way that makes you unmistakable to your audience. Have fun with it!
Over ten seasons and 236 episodes, audiences around the world got to know and love every character of Friends, inside and out. They each were known for specific traits:
Monica was the competitive neat freak. Ross was the academic. Joey was the ladies man. Phoebe was the free spirit. Rachel was the beautiful fashionista.
And Chandler… Oh, Chandler. He was the funny one, yet always the butt of the joke.
But the writers were so good, that even the characters we saw for only a few episodes had depth.
From Ross and Monica’s parents, to Phoebe’s twin sister Ursula, and Gunther of Central Perk, it felt like they were in our own social circles.
However, there is one supporting character who outshined them all. In fact, she appeared in at least one episode of every season. Do you hear her name calling out to you, like a foghorn?
Yes, Janice Litman-Goralnik was cast in season one to play Chandler’s love interest, and we haven’t been able to look away ever since.
Janice as Personal Branding Inspiration
Although Janice wasn’t everyone’s favorite person to be around, one thing is for certain: she made her presence known.
I couldn’t help but notice that that is one of the main goals of personal branding. We all want to make our(online) presence known, and leave a lasting impression on our audience, just like Janice managed to do.
Here are some Janice-inspired tips to help you elevate your personal brand:
Have a catchphrase.
Okay, perhaps not a literal catchphrase like Janice’s iconic “Oh. My. GOD!” But, people expected to hear this every time she walked in a room.
When you write your own content, focus on a specific niche so people know what to expect from you. Over time, you will become known as a subject-matter expert, and people will recognize your writing almost instantly.
Define a consistent voice.
Here’s a test: can you hear this picture?
Janice’s unpleasant cackle and nasally voice could make our our ears bleed, but they became a recognizable part of her character.
Hopefully your brand voice is a lot less annoying, but when you define it, stick to it. You have the opportunity to make your content stand out simply by how you deliver it. Establish a voice that is true to your personality.
Think about presentation.
I know Rachel and Monica get all the credit for their fashion sense, but Janice’s looks are incredibly underrated. She most notably wears bold colors and a ton of animal print.
This may not be your style, but you should develop your own brand aesthetic like Janice did. From the formatting of your tweets, to the treatment of your photos, and the colors on your website, consider how your content is presented.
Throughout the series, it becomes a running joke that Janice always seems to show up unexpectedly.
P.S. this is one of my favorite Chandler lines in the entire show:
The lesson here is that if you want to people to discover you online and build your brand, you have to show up consistently. Post often, engage with others, and you’ll be heard.
Remember when Chandler is desperate to get rid of Janice, so he pretends that his job is relocating him to Yemen?
Nevertheless, she persisted.
Let me set the record straight: being persistent is not the same as being annoying (except maybe in Janice’s case).
If you really want something, go after it. Build your brand and chase opportunities that interest you.
So why not send a DM to someone you admire?
Why not pitch your writing to a publication?
Why not follow up on your job application until you can’t be ignored?
You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
What Would Janice Do?
Even though she wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, Janice was always unapologetically herself.
Follow her lead by leaning into your personality, rather conforming to what you think the Internet might want you to be.
Build your brand that is true to you, with all of your quirks, and you’ll undoubtedly leave your mark.
J.Lo had a series of hysterical sketches, but one that stood out was her spoof of the boutique fitness gym, Barry’s Bootcamp. The sketch mocks Barry’s over-the-top trainers and their lofty motivational speeches. Of course, my favorite part is at 3:38 when J.Lo quotes Britney Spe— oops, I mean, Mother Teresa.
But this isn’t the only time the gang at SNL have parodied a fitness brand. Back in October, they satirized SoulCycle’s intense instructor auditions.
My favorite parodies, however, are the ones that draw laughter in the midst of controversy. In an incredibly swift move, Ryan Reynolds poked fun at the Peloton ad backlash by recruiting “Peloton Wife” in a commercial for his company, Aviation Gin. She clearly needed to throw back a glass or two after an exhausting week of ridicule.
I had the chance to chat with Sean Hunter, the infamous “Peloton Husband”. Even he understands how important it is to to laugh things off:
I’ve been making light of it by cracking a few jokes (see my Instagram post about waiting up for Peloton wife!) and I’ve been receiving a lot of support and love. The parodies have been funny but with that people are still saying a few hurtful things! The most important thing is to stay confident in who you are and know what’s right! Just brush that negativity off your shoulder when people are trying to get a rise out of you for no reason!
Why Mockery is the Best Kind of Marketing
More often than not, if your brand is being mocked or parodied, you’re doing something right. In fact, I consider it to be a key indicator of brand marketing success.
Here is the upside to to your brand being the butt of the joke:
It boosts your brand awareness. Free media? Yes, please! A viral parody or branded meme is one of the best forms of earned media (and flattery!). From social media mentions to press coverage, brands should count their lucky stars for any impressions that don’t have to come out of your marketing budget.
It demonstrates strong brand equity. Your brand equity speaks to how your product is perceived by your audience. If you present a consistent brand over time, your audience will choose you over your competitors because they know what to expect. When your brand is parodied, you’ve established so much consistency that even outsiders can articulate (and sensationalize) what makes you, you. The humor aligns with the customer perceptions all over the world.
It unites your audience. If a parody really hits the mark, your audience will relate to it, and relatable content gets shared. Isn’t it way more fun to have a laugh over a piece of content that someone else understands than to cackle alone on your couch? A little friendly roasting spotlights your company culture while bringing your audience even closer to the brand.
So the next time SNL or Twitter trolls are throwing sticks and stones at your brand, take it in stride. Unless you have a serious scandal on your hands, it’s usually in good fun. Your sales numbers will prove it.
The past few years, I’ve gotten into a pretty established TV-watching routine. Like clockwork, every weekday night you can find me on my couch watching Jeopardy! Yes, I’ve officially become my grandmother.
Yet, on the other end of the spectrum, I have some guilty pleasures. Depending on the season, on Mondays I’ll watch The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, or Bachelor in Paradise. I also have a soft spot for Dancing with Stars: my grandmother’s true favorite.
But Tuesday nights are reserved for This Is Us.
Because I grew up worshipping all the teen queens like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Jessica Simpson, part of me wanted to watchThis Is Us to keep up with Mandy Moore. As you probably know, she plays one of the main characters, Rebecca Pearson.
Mandy captured my heart as an actress after seeing her in the 2002 film, A Walk To Remember, based on the Nicholas Sparks novel. Didn’t we all bawl our eyes out after that movie?
While on the subject of of crying, there’s something I wanted to address about This Is Us.
The show has been on for four seasons now, and through the years, it’s gotten a reputation as being depressing and sad. In fact, I’ve seen commentators at the Emmys or Golden Globes say they can’t even watch it because it makes them cry, which I kinda think is absurd.
Whether you heart can handle it or not, This Is Us is a work of art, especially since the writing is powerful enough to move people to tears.
In my opinion, it’s a phenomenon because of it’s deep and fearless storytelling. As marketers, we hear about how important storytelling is, and I think we can learn a lot about this from the success of This Is Us.
Every character, scene, and moment in This Is Us is part of a bigger story. It brilliantly takes us on a journey through the past and present, and tackles real life issues. I describe it as an emotional rollercoaster.
Here are some of the difficult topics that the show addresses:
The common theme about all of these topics is that they are uncomfortable, but they are REAL.
The #1 Mistake Brands Make When Storytelling
Too often, brands are afraid to take risks and talk about real stories. They hesitate because a topic may feel unpleasant or uncomfortable. Without this creative risk, their content ends up being mundane, unremarkable, and unmemorable.
If your messaging simply touts your product benefits or shares motivational platitudes, there’s no storyline to get behind. No character to root for through their challenge. No triumph to celebrate and applaud.
One of my favorite authors, Seth Godin says it best:
Being risky is safe, and being safe is risky.
As a company, person, or brand, don’t shy away from your stories, the good, the bad, and the ugly. They actually are your biggest opportunity.
The 4 Components of Great Storytelling
I just finished reading Stories That Stick by Kindra Hall. Kindra is a professional storyteller. and has made stories her life’s work. I’m so happy she wrote a book to share her wisdom with the world!
We always hear about how your brand should be doing storytelling, yet no one tells us how to do it right.
In my opinion, Kindra Hall is the first person to really add structure to storytelling. In her book, she shares a formula to help us get it right every time.
According to Kindra’s storytelling framework, a great story has these four components:
1. Identifiable Characters — Without characters, you’re just rambling on about products or services with no one for your audience to relate to
2. Authentic Emotions — This is what creates empathy between you as a brand and your listener. Kindra stresses that these emotions don’t have to be overly dramatic. It can simply be something like the daily frustration when deciding what to make for dinner, or nervousness about making the team.
3. A Significant Moment — Kindra says this is often where stories go wrong. Writers make the turning point of the story too broad, to the point where you can’t attach visuals to it.
For instance, speaking in general about the happiness a woman may feel from losing weight won’t stick. Instead paint a picture of her trying to lose weight for her high school reunion, and the euphoric moment when she tried on a smaller dress in a department store fitting room and it actually fit.
4. Specific Details — Details build connection. They go deeper into the story and help the audience resonate with the little things.
Perhaps the story about the woman in the example above mentions how she dances in front of the fitting room mirror, or how she gladly poses for a selfie in her dress to send to her best friend. These are small details, but they will charm your audience.
If you incorporate all of these elements in your stories, like the writers at This Is Us do, they will always hit the mark.
Yes, You Have Stories
A final reminder: stories are FREE. You, your company, and your customers inherently have stories.
So the next time you’re looking at where to allocate your marketing budget, don’t waste your time sending a mailer or placing an ad in the penny saver. Produce and tell a story. It will have a much bigger impact.
Be sure to check out Kindra Hall’s book, Stories That Stickfor more guidance on effective storytelling.
For once, Maury Povich isn’t the only one talking about DNA tests.
Unless you live under a rock, you’ve heard the anthem every woman has been singing all summer long: “Truth Hurts” by Lizzo. The song is so popular, it’s been sitting at #1 on the Billboard charts for three weeks in a row.
It’s everywhere — from sporting events, to commercials, to movies. “Truth Hurts” was even part of the opening scene for the Netflix original film, Someone Great. Yes, this is an accurate representation of how all women react when hearing it:
But “Truth Hurts” wasn’t an overnight success.
It turns out Lizzo dropped the single two years ago and it is just now being heard around the world. Here is one of her original tweets promoting it in September 2017:
I just took a DNA test Turns out, I'm 100% that Bitch Even when I'm cryin crazy Yeah I got boy problems, that's the human in me Bling Bling✨ then I solve em, that's the goddess in me 🗣YOU COULDA HAD A BAD BITCH– Non-committal Help u w/ ya career, just a lil U posta hold me do
If that’s not a reminder that hard work pays off, I don’t know what is!
As Lizzo continues to rise to superstar status, brands are joining the conversation and capitalizing on her hit single’s cultural relevance. Companies are filling in the blank to the notable lyrics,“I just took a DNA test turns out I’m 100% ________” on Twitter.
Everyone is taking DNA tests — from retail giants like Walmart and Target, to baseball teams, airlines, quick service restaurants, and more.
We just took a DNA test, turns out, we’re 100% that place you hung out at in high school.
Just took a DNA test It turns out we’re ✈️ ✈️ ✈️✈️ ✈️ ✈️✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️100%✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️✈️ ✈️✈️ ✈️ ✈️ An airport and you should check with your airline for flight information.
We know DNA as our genetic makeup — what makes us who we are. And while brands may not have chromosomes, they do have their own DNA. When brands define their DNA, it helps their audience understand them better.
Brand Purpose – WHY does the brand exist?
Brand Audience – WHO is the brand helping?
Vision – WHERE is your brand going?
Core Values – WHAT is important to the brand?
Brand Personality – HOW does the brand sound?
If you want your audience to love you, you have to understand what they love. And it turns out, right now, audiences everywhere love Lizzo.
When brands define who they are, develop their personality, and pinpoint a likable brand voice, they don’t need to sell, sell, sell. Simply becoming part of the conversation and having a pulse on pop culture, trends, and current events can win the hearts of your audience.
Your brand’s DNA will humanize your brand and bring your followers, fans, and customers closer.
In school, math was never really my thing (still isn’t!). I’ve always been the left-brained, creative type, which is how I got into content marketing. So don’t look to me to help you with the quadratic formula.
But one thing I did absorb about mathematical formulas is that they help you land on a desired outcome every time. They are tried and true, effective, proven. Formulas provide structure so you can plug and play until you get the right answer.
Creative endeavors, on the other hand, are not always black and white. When you’re writing, designing, or creating content for an audience, it’s subjective. There is no perfect formula.
Or is there?
Taking the Guesswork out of Content Marketing
In grade school, we’re taught that when we don’t know the answer, guess. I opted for that route countless times on standardized tests, but this didn’t add up for me in the real world.
As a content creator, I got tired of “guessing” what types of content would work. That’s a good way to waste time and money.
So, I looked for common denominators — things that I knew were 100% true when it comes to content marketing. What were the shared truths for both brands and their audiences?
Brands want awareness, recognition, and engagement.
Audiences want value.
That’s it. That’s all we know for certain, but it’s enough to apply a formula that results in content themes that are a win-win for both groups.
The Content Theme Formula
Content themes are the best way to add consistency to your content calendar. When you establish themes that reflect your brand, resonate with your audience, and align with your goals, all you have to do is post, and repeat. The repetitive theme, paired with tailored design elements, make your brand recognizable over time and keeps your audience coming back for more.
To create content themes on any marketing channel, follow this formula:
Content Bucket – This is the first part of the formula because your audience comes first. Your content bucket is how you will add value and ensure your content has a purpose that serves your fans.
As you develop content ideas, start by categorizing them into content buckets. When you approach your content with one of these buckets in mind, there’s always something in it for your audience.
Educational – teach me
Conversational – engage me
Promotional – entice me
Entertainment – captivate me
Inspirational – influence me
Connection – unite me with others
Content Type – What exactly will you be posting? Your content type speaks to the physical media you plan to publish. Media Types:
Blog or Article
Short-form text post
Ebook, Template, or Document
Brand Point of View: This part of the formula is the trickiest, but it’s also your secret ingredient. What special flare will you add to your content to differentiate it? This can speak to the visual aesthetic of the content, its story angle, how it sounds, how it’s structured, etc.
Your brand’s point of view is where you add an essential design rule or element that makes your content yours. And when it’s unique and repeated over time, you become unmistakable to your audience. You can implement this point of view as part of a seasonal campaign, or an everlasting brand staple.
The Content Marketing Formula in Action!
Of course, the best way to learn and retain something is to see it in practice. I’m sharing some examples from a brand that I think gets the content formula — SoulCycle. As shown by the content types I shared above, you can apply the content formula beyond social media, but I’m primarily focusing on SoulCycle’s Instagram posts.
Before we dive in, let’s establish SoulCycle’s color palette. They use white and yellow with touches of black and gray. They also use the timeless typeface, Helvetica, for all of their branding. You’ll notice how they extend these colors and font treatments to create refreshing content that still feels connected.
I love SoulCycle’s twist on inspirational posts with this content theme. Instead of posting overdone, motivational platitudes, they build community by sharing original quotes from their own instructors.
With this theme, SoulCycle found a refreshing way to inject humor and motivation into their feed. Rather than putting static text on a plain background, they delight their follows with eye-catching iPhone notification simulations.
There’s no better way to connect with your audience than to share content that is relatable. SoulCycle taps into this by leaning on authentic tweets and comments from their own members. Here is a content theme based on user-generated content (UGC).
Connection + Images + Heartfelt Letters from the CEO
SoulCycle has implemented many campaigns to unify their audience — I always look forward to their annual Pride campaign which champions diversity as one of their values. But SoulCycle also humanizes their brand by frequently sharing letters from their CEO, Melanie Whelan, on Instagram, their website, via email, etc. She writes to introduce campaigns, express gratitude for company milestones, celebrate holidays, and even address controversy.
Educational + Long-Form Blog Posts + 360 Degree Style
While you can definitely develop educational content on social media, a blog on your website is one of the most powerful ways to add value for your audience. SoulCycle’s blog is multi-dimensional with categories focused on inspiration, food, wellness, art, and style.
The SoulStyle section is my favorite, as they do not solely focus on promoting SoulCycle’s retail line. Rather than shouting promotions or push the hard sell, SoulCycle chooses to serve their audience. This blog category offers helpful advice on everything from seasonal fashion, skincare products, haircare, travel, and gift ideas.
Promotional + Short-Form Video + Animated New Studio Teasers
As SoulCycle expands, they build excitement on Instagram with animated teasers announcing their new studios coming soon. While they promote a new studio, they also serve as special shout-outs to cities and their residents and future members. These posts create camaraderie before they even open their doors.
A content marketing strategy is much easier to execute when you have a plan. Once you take the time to develop these themes using the content formula, they will become the gifts that keep on giving! They lay a foundation that fosters connection, brand awareness, and value, while also lending themselves to reinvention over time.
Start looking at brands you follow to see if you can identify their own application of the content formula. Then, try implementing it yourself!