8 Personal Brand Experts to Learn From
Way back in 1997, management consultant Tom Peters came up with the term ‘personal brand.’ As he wrote in his article ‘The Brand Called You’:
“The good news is that everyone has a chance to stand out. Everyone has a chance to learn, improve, and build up their skills. Everyone has a chance to be a brand worthy of remark.”
Over the past 23 years, technology has completely shifted in our favor when it comes to promoting ourselves to the world.
Thanks to platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, and TikTok, there is a constant stream of interested people who you can share your life, your interests, your career, and anything else you think is worth watching.
Having worked with a lot of brands during the past ten years, we have tons of experience helping them to grow their exposure.
One thing is obvious: no two personal brands are the same. They are unique to each person and take time to grow in their own way.
Let’s look at some of the best examples of personal brands out there, and how we can use their lessons to our advantage.
Megan Crabbe – Bodyposipanda
Megan (or bodyposipanda) is an activist and voice for body positivity and feminism. While she is the face of her brand, she uses her platform to continuously speak on social justice and educate people on how everybody deserves acceptance and love, no matter their size or capabilities.
Through her own writings, published book, speaking events, and even traveling show, she helps women and men build confidence in themselves and help them learn to be kinder to others. Megan’s brand shows how activism can get personal to help share stories that genuinely impact a larger community.
The world of male modeling has always had an ironic stigma ever since Zoolander made fun of it. But despite the idea that looks are all that matter, David Gandy has made a name for himself as a fashion icon, a writer, a vintage motorsport enthusiast, and a spokesperson for pet shelters.
Starting in modeling at age 21, Gandy became most famous for Dolce and Gabanna’s ‘Light Blue’ fragrance campaign in 2007. Since 2011, Gandy has written a regular column for British Vogue. He covers topics such as fashion, culture, cars, antiques, and London life.
Today he has broadened his interests into restoring vintage automobiles, as well as leading charity efforts for pet shelters. His large online following has helped to further his causes, and grow his influence, both in his career and in popular culture.
Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson
Nobody in the world could predict the massive success and appeal that The Rock has gained through building his social media brand. Initially, he gained fame as a professional wrestler, and from 1996 to 2004, he built his cult celebrity status. In 2004, he moved into acting and slowly grew his film portfolio.
As of September 2019, he has the fourth-highest amount of Instagram followers in the world. This is not by accident, and although The Rock’s films don’t win Oscars, they do well financially. He has now branched out into movie production, as well as launching his own brand of tequila.
The key to the Rock’s social media success is his blend of sharing successes, new projects, personal moments with fans and his family, doing charitable acts, and making fun of himself. Interestingly The Rock has no personal website but instead uses Twitter and Instagram as his primary sources of communication with the public.
The core of The Rock’s appeal is that he is just plain enjoyable to follow, and his unique blend of success and humility keeps his fans engaged. His example of how to brand yourself is definitely one to watch.
Kristin Kieffer – Well Storied
Author of fantasy fiction and creative writing resources, Kristin Kieffer created Well Storied to help writers “build their very best writing lives.” Kristin essentially created her blog to follow her journey of learning and honing the writing craft. She writes articles that not only share her findings but provide valuable perspectives and tips.
While her brand is through her eyes and voice, the knowledge and inspiration is timeless. Kristin creates workbooks and articles that encourage and support every writer no matter where they are at and creates supportive spaces online, like a Facebook community “Your Write Dream” (with over 6k members!). Well Storied is a perfect example of sparking life into a traditional industry through personal stories and encouraging tones.
Mary Lawless Lee – Happily Grey
Mary Lawless Lee, also known as Happily Grey, initially created her personal blog under the name Happily Grey, talking about all things style in fashion, beauty, and interior. Her down to earth personality but classic contemporary aesthetic certainly gained a large following on Instagram.
By choosing Happily Grey as her brand name, Mary was not only able to be the face of her brand but create products, like home decor, and even opened a boutique store in Nashville. Mary even decided to make her username on Instagram her own name, deciding to keep the Happily Grey more about the products she helped create. This blogger shows how to pivot a personal brand into a company that can exist alongside her and beyond.
If there is a poster child for the value of social media marketing, it’s Gary Vaynerchuk. A self-styled anti-guru, Gary is obsessed with showing the world how to grow their success through modern marketing tools. Growing up in New Jersey, in 1998 began his career as a liquor store clerk, working for his father.
His ambitious nature helped grow the business into a multi-million dollar success. Building his social media following via youtube, he turned his experience in online attention into a business. In 2009 he started Vayner Media, a digital marketing and advertising agency that aimed to compete with the conventional ad agencies.
Since then, his following and influence online have grown dramatically. The keys to his growth are the incredible volume of content (he has a dedicated team at his agency just for his own social media channels) and the genuine desire he has to help others.
Gary is known for his brash attitudes and the ability to work incredibly hard for his goals. He frequently This has led him to success in the motivational speaking arena as well. He espouses the philosophy of documenting everything he does on video and making pieces of bite-sized and long-form content out of it.
Overall, Gary is an excellent example to follow in terms of content creation and giving value to your audience.
An icon in the world of media, Oprah Winfrey, has created possibly the world’s strongest personal brand. Starting as a newscaster, and moving into talk-show format, she grew a loyal following of fans before social media even existed.
Throughout the past three decades, she has grown her influence on politics as well as personal development.
The key to Oprah’s success is knowing her audience and presenting an incredibly personal version of herself to the public. Oprah is willing to cry and be authentic with her audience and share her personal struggles.
This authenticity has led to the creation of her own media empire, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), which produces its own shows, as well the Oprah magazine and her Super Soul Sundays podcast.
Aileen Xu – Lavendaire
Aileen created Lavendaire, a youtube channel, and brand to help individuals find inspiration and helpful tips to create their best creative lives.
While Aileen is currently the face of Lavendaire, the brand provides valuable information on self-growth, inspiring content, and helpful products (such as workbooks and courses) that extend beyond Aileen herself. This brand may be personal to Aileen but could stand the test of time for an audience that craves personal growth.
Modern Tools for Making a Difference
As you can see from this varied list of celebrities and influencers, there are a lot of different ways to make an impact.
What they all have in common is the desire to give back to their audiences in some way. Using their talents and consistently innovating also play a part in their success.
The tools available to grow a personal brand today are incredibly powerful when used correctly and consistently. Although you may not have ambitions to be world-famous (or maybe you do!), you can still make an impact in your business and community.
Whatever you want your personal brand to be about, the key is to choose something you care about and to find ways to make it meaningful for your audience.
Most of all, you must be patient and persistent. None of these influencers built a large following overnight. It takes years of hard work, trial, and error.