Personal Branding: Learn From The Best

Richard Branson. Donald Trump. Steve Jobs. Oprah. For most of us, just seeing or hearing one of those names will instantly conjure up a collection of thoughts and emotions. You may not love Oprah, but you know who she is and what she stands for. Donald Trump isn’t the most popular man in America right now, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard of him. The same goes for Richard Branson and Steve Jobs. Each have plenty of detractors, but just about everyone knows who they are and what they stand for. And it’s not just because they are rich and successful—how many of you would recognize Brian Moynihan or Jamie Dimon? A very small percentage, I’m sure, despite the fact that they are the CEO’s of Bank of America and JPMorgan, respectively.

It’s not success that makes an individual memorable. What else do Richard Branson, Donald Trump, Steve Jobs, and Oprah Winfrey have in common? You guessed it—they have incredible personal brands. What do they know that the rest of us don’t? Below are several lessons we can learn from these giants in the world of personal branding:

1) Don’t be afraid to turn heads. Richard Branson, the founder of the massive Virgin brand, has made headlines for a variety of outlandish stunts over the years. From attempting to break the speed record for an Atlantic Ocean crossing to skydiving and bungee jumping, Richard Branson has found plenty of ways to grab headlines and receive massive amounts of free publicity over the years. Now, obviously bungee jumping isn’t for everyone—but the point is that attracting attention for yourself and your business is a great way to build your brand. Just remember to stay true to your brand.

2) Turn your name into an icon. Trump. Oprah. These names stand for something. You may never have millions of fans or your own TV show, but wouldn’t it be great if your name become synonymous with expertise in your field? Many professionals that I’ve spoken to are used to branding their company—but aren’t sure that they are comfortable branding themselves. In some circumstances that may be the right decision, but in general it is much easier for your market to connect with an individual than with a company. By establishing yourself as the dynamic face of your organization, you become a valuable marketing tool for your business.

3) Hard work and focus pays off. In the 1980s and the 1990s, Steve Jobs and his company, Apple, lost the operating system battle with Microsoft. While many people would have been discouraged and moved on, Steve Jobs believed in his vision. He reinvented himself and his company, and in the last decade Apple has become the dominant player in the consumer electronics market. Just recently, in fact, Apple was named the most powerful brand in the world by BrandZ (,2817,2385069,00.asp.) By staying committed to his vision, Steve Jobs was able to turn himself and his company into a global icon.

Most of us will never have as much money as Donald Trump, and we probably won’t have our own TV network, as Oprah does. But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from their successes.

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