Branding Yourself: Don’t Be a Cliché

“The camera sees everything.”

“The camera is unforgiving.”

“Fame is fleeting.”

“He had his fifteen minutes of fame.”

“She’s yesterday’s news.”

No doubt, most of us have grown up with, or are at least familiar with, these clichés.  As phrases in the English language, clichés become clichés because nothing new underpins them; there is nothing innovative, nothing to capture one’s imagination, nothing to create excitement and sales.  It’s the same old, same old.  Unfortunately, in this society, people as well as phrases can and do become clichés.  Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the entertainment and sports industries.

As they age, sustain injuries, or otherwise fall out of grace with producers, managers, coaches, and a fickle public, actors, singers, dancers, musicians, and sports figures often undergo the confidence and finance zapping experience of “being kicked to the curb.” Waiting in the wings is always someone younger, stronger, prettier, thinner, or perkier, someone whose sports stats are more impressive, someone willing to work for less money, for the opportunity of climbing up that golden ladder of fame.  But by its very nature, that ladder is on shaky ground.

Many popular entertainers and professional athletes pulling down handsome salaries live life styles as if those salaries will never go away.  Let’s be honest: a good part of this is ego.  If you’re adored by millions of people, if your behind-the-scene support structures curry to your every whim, it’s human nature to think that you’re “all that” — and to assume that “all that” is never going to go away.

However, looks and youth fade; muscles and bones age and become injured.  Careers plummet.  Singers who once packed famed venues find themselves on the dreaded Catskill circuit.  Retired athletes who once lured throngs are sidelined in the real world.

If one is in the public eye, how does one avoid such pitfalls?

The honest answer is that, unless one is extremely — and we underline “extremely” — fortunate or connected, one usually does not.  But, there is a solution, and its name is branding.

Think of branding as a form of reinvention.  We said “a form” because branding does not seek to reinvent your wheel.  Rather, it focuses on those elements that have made you famous and then puts an innovative, yet logical spin upon them.  Branding markets you in new ways you to existing audiences and creates new customers.  Branding is a means of delivering a very viable source of revenue when those vital contracts have dried up.   In the right hands, branding becomes an ongoing source of income.

Case in point: Michael Jordan.  Renowned for his prowess on the basketball court, Michael parlayed that fame into a line of athletic footwear and apparel, Air Jordan®.  Wisely, he partnered with Nike® to do so.  Already enjoying extremely healthy sales from their own growing line of athletic footwear and clothing, Michael Jordan’s endorsement of his branded merchandise pumped serious capital into the Nike® corporation while doing the same for Michael’s portfolio.

Michael Jordan could have transitioned into another product line.  He may have negotiated with a manufacturer of, say, men’s suits to create a line that bore his name.  But Michael wasn’t known for his sartorial splendor; he was known for his precision footwork on the court.   He was known as a sports celebrity.  Therefore, it made sense to develop and promote the Nike®-manufactured sporting goods.  Every kid wants to be Michael Jordan, and let’s face it, so do a heck of a lot of adults.  The mental and emotional association between Air Jordan® and Michael’s abilities — and fame! — were strong enough to support an entire line of branded merchandise and the extremely lucrative sales that accompanied it.

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