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Personal Brand Marketing Tips from 3 Influential Women

[Editor’s note: Happy Holidays! This week, the editorial team at Content Marketing Institute wanted to share some of the best content marketing blog posts we’ve seen from the CMI Online Training and Certification program’s roster of expert instructors. Today’s post originally appeared on the All Business Experts blog (and was republished on the Kotaw Content Marketing blog on November 18, 2013.]


marilyn monroe brandBefore social media turned practically everyone into a public figure, few CEOs included the word persona in their everyday vocabularies, much less hired publicists and marketing strategists to help them craft a personal brand.

But now that business owners are among the 72 percent of online adults who use social media, they are branding themselves with every tweet they post, every YouTube video they produce.

If you want to turn your personal brand marketing into a powerful part of your digital marketing strategy, spend some time studying the habits of your industry leaders. And take some lessons from three women: Marilyn Monroe, Madonna, and your mom.

Permanent imprint: Marilyn Monroe

Norma Jeane Mortenson carefully crafted the voice, walk, pout, and smile that became indelibly identified with Marilyn Monroe, the sex symbol whose posthumous celebrity has lived for more than a half century since the actress’s death in 1962.

Marilyn Monroe is an example of perfect personal branding. Her public image was so well rehearsed that, when Marilyn slipped back into her Norma Jeane mannerisms, she could go out in public without being noticed. As an actor, Marilyn grew to resent how well she perfected her bombshell image — she was repeatedly rejected for serious roles.

But for CEOs, there are numerous advantages to typecasting. Take the effort to secure a distinctive, memorable personal brand, and it’s locked in for life. You don’t have to keep proving yourself over and over again to your clients.

Here are three ways to take the Marilyn Monroe approach to personal brand marketing:

1. Create a visual gimmick

Marilyn Monroe is easy to picture: red lipstick, skin-tight, cleavage-baring dress, and platinum blonde hair.

Make yourself memorable. Always wear orange, carry a walking stick or hand out personalized M&Ms instead of business cards. Establish a memorable visual image — and reinforce it daily. 

2. Create a realistic personal brand

Marilyn’s brand was extraordinary, but it meshed with the dreams of Norma Jeane, who always wanted to become an actress. And she was a genuine beauty, as stunning with a bare face and messy hair as she was in artfully applied makeup.

Strive for a personal brand that is a better version of yourself, but don’t stray too far from the real you. Actors can leave their characters behind when they walk off a set, but you have to live your brand. So, keep it authentic. Because the truth will come out. Don’t pretend to love dogs, kids or apple pie if you hate them. But do strive to show respect for people whose views differ from your own. 

3. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse

Don’t go public with your personal brand until you’re confident you can pull off the image you seek. Just as it takes practice to prepare for a game and rehearsal to get ready for a stage production, it takes repeated effort to develop your personal brand. Marilyn studied the art of movement, reading books such as The Thinking Body in order to perfect her posture and walk.

If, for example, you want to present a more polished image in public, videotape yourself and critically examine your performance. Do you mumble or speak too loudly? Do you interrupt people or create awkward silences? Privately work on improving such issues before debuting the new you.

Perpetual change: Madonna

Not everyone wants things — including their personal brand — to stay the same. If the idea of sticking to the same script for 20 or 30 years bores you, create brand marketing that embraces change.

Madonna perfected this. The one constant in her image was change. Want to stay out of a personal branding rut? Practice these tips:

1. Rotate the tires

Think of your personal brand as if it were your car. Rotate your brand message frequently. Unless you have supreme self-confidence, it’s better to make minor changes often than dramatic changes every year. Don’t do the equivalent of wearing a cone bra to work if you typically wear a Brooks Brothers suit. To soften a stolid image, change the color of your shirt in the spring and go for a blazer, no-tie look in the fall. 

2. Admit mistakes and missteps

Madonna is not known for apologizing for what her critics call outrageous behavior. But she’s been open about her regrets. In Drowned World/Substitute for Love she admits, “I traded fame for love without a second thought… And now I find I’ve changed my mind.”

If you make a point of keeping your personal brand in a state of flux, you’re bound to make some gaffes along the way. Keep the mistakes from becoming a permanent part of your brand by quickly taking ownership of misbehavior or ill-considered comments.

The faster you get in front of personal branding problems the quicker you put them behind you. 

3. Don’t confuse change with chaos

The changes you make in your personal brand should have a purpose. An evolving personal brand is not the same as a revolving one. Your personal brand is strengthened when life experiences change your views. Parenthood and the early loss of her mother are among significant events that added new dimensions to Madonna’s image.

Your personal brand is harmed when change appears opportunistic or as if you’re simply latching on to a trend.

Moral compass: Mom

A good way to test — and protect — your personal brand is to ask yourself, “What would my mom say?

My mom warned me against acting on impulse, whether it was buying a new pair of shoes or lashing out in anger. I consider her “walk away” advice every time I’m tempted to take on a deep-pocketed client I don’t trust and before I send a hastily-composed email.

The mom test helps you align your personal brand marketing with your core values. So if you ever wonder whether your actions are helping or harming your brand, ask yourself whether your mom would approve.

Or ask her yourself. She’d probably love to hear from you. And being nice to your mom is good for your image. 

Have you implemented lessons from Marilyn, Madonna, or your mom into your personal brand? Who are your personal brand marketing role models? Let’s chat in the comments section below! 

Stay tuned for more details on the CMI Online Training and Development program. And if you are looking for more guidance on personal branding, read “Brandscaping: Unleashing the Power of Partnerships” by Andrew Davis. 

Cover image via Bigstock