Who can take your ordinary brand, and suddenly make it stand out?
Well it's you [insert name], and you should know it.
Self-advertising is comparable to setting up an OkCupid profile. You want people to choose you. Better yet, you want the right people to choose you. You want to be the next hot thing everyone can’t get enough of. So, the best way to brand yourself is to know yourself and what you want. You wouldn’t date someone who’s having an identity crisis, would you? Okay, maybe you would, but that’s not the point.
My parents are real estate agents. Growing up, the main topic of our dinner conversations was how they could step up their game, marketing-wise, so that they’d stand out in a sea of blazer-wearing colleagues. Keep in mind this was the 90s, so social media was off the plate. Branding consisted of bombarding the neighbourhood with flyers featuring their beaming faces. The more successful real estate agent would have a local billboard with his ginormous grin on it, with some cliché tagline like, “Your dream home is just an open house away.” Did it work? Not really, because the cost would outweigh the results.
Fast-forward to today. As a copywriter, if it’s my job to sell brands, then I can certainly think of how to successfully sell myself. Unfortunately, real-estate agents and other self-selling professionals (psychologists, dentists, etc.) usually fall short of the mark, because branding isn’t their area of expertise. They usually do what everyone else is doing out of fear of taking it too far. Their success no longer relies on how creatively they can stand out as individuals, but on how much money they have to buy the biggest advertising space.
Well, guess what, guys?
You don’t need tons of money to stand out. If you’re branding yourself, it’s better to be a little outrageous than to be like everyone else. Yes, large advertising space will get you noticed, but successful branding and image consistency can get you just as much notice for a longer period of time. Think of it as decorating yourself. Everything from your business cards to your website to how you dress needs to reflect the image you want people to hire.
It’s a lot like dating
You need to know what you want and what you don’t want to attract. You also don’t want to seem desperate. So find a balance by understanding your target audience and speaking to what they want while still staying true to you.
Take Arby’s, for example. They understand their target demographic – the ever ironic and dissatisfied millennial. The millennial is apt on social media and loves his regular dose of self-deprecating humour as much as he loves fast food. Arby’s charm is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously, or so it seems. With its on-point popular culture references, Arby’s knows exactly what it takes to make thousands of Generation Y-ers swoon on Twitter.
Figure out what your thing is
What’s your style, your shtick? Do you want to be the hip real estate agent who specializes in the up-and-coming neighbourhoods? Are you the eccentric hairdresser with lots of cats in his salon, piquing people’s curiosity? These details may sound minor, but they are what will make you memorable.
I can’t think of better example than Beyoncé. Beyoncé, as we know, started out with Destiny’s Child before moving on to a successful solo career. However, she was never considered the Queen of the pop world with other artists like Rihanna, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga overshadowing her. She was Lady Gaga’s featured artist on “Telephone”! Oh, how times have changed! How did they change, you may ask? If we look at Rihanna, Katy Perry, and Lady Gaga, they each had very distinctive personas – Rihanna was the bad girl, Katy Perry was cute and Harajuku-like, and Lady Gaga was an outrageous, pop-art machine. Beyoncé’s since upped her fierceness and has been embodying her Sasha Fierce persona at all times, both on stage and off. She owns the “Queen B” persona through her music and especially on social media. Move over Madonna, sorry Britney!
Don’t do what they’re doing.
See what your competitors are doing and do something completely different. If everyone’s sending out flyers and spending money on billboards, then don’t do that. Try a different medium and be clever about it. A lot of people underestimate the power of catchy business cards.
The most unique business card I’ve encountered came in the form of a cat. While walking down Duluth Street in Montreal one day, I noticed two beautiful Bengal cats at the window of a small, underwhelming hair salon. I’ve passed by this place so many times without giving it a second look, but that day, I stopped to gawk at the attractive, rare breeds. Within minutes, an unconventional man stepped out holding yet another cat, exclaiming, “Honey, you’ve been cat-vertised!” I have to say, I’ve never been cat-vertised before and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Surprise, surprise! After chatting up the hairdresser about his cats, a passion we both shared, I did return for a haircut.
That was the least expensive, simplistic form of advertising I’ve seen . He’s now a popular Montreal hairdresser known for his eight Bengal cats, residing in his salon. Is he the best hairdresser out there? No. But he knows how to market himself in a memorable way.
So the moral of my story is, if you’re starting out, your image’s magnetism is key. If you’ve got that figured out, then you’re gonna make it after all.
Have you ever received an e-mail from a company you subscribe to and thought to yourself: “Do they even know who I am?”
Four days in Manhattan on business… a would-be dream of mine when I was in my 20’s, and surprisingly still exciting in my forties.