13 personal branding insights from Kelly Cutrone

If you want to read a straight-talking overview on why you need to think seriously about your personal brand, you should grab yourself a copy of Kelly Cutrone’s book If You Have to Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You

Cutrone is one of fashion’s most successful publicist whose business People’s Revolution has offices in New York, LA and Paris. Known for her renegade, ballsy and honest approach in an industry full of falsity, her reputation is unparalleled. Her book reveals her journey from small-town US school girl to NY PR maven told in a reverent, funny shooting-from-the-hip kind of way.

But that’s enough of the intro. The reason I’m sharing this with you is because she has dedicated a whole chapter to personal branding “YOU are the brand: normal gets you nowhere”. Her insights and stories should be enough to persuade anyone who needs to earn money that personal branding is here to stay and should be taken seriously. What happens if you don’t take it seriously? Well… you go nowhere, fast.

But there are some of you out there who would prefer the shortcut right? And, as someone who loves giving everyone else shortcuts, here is my list of personal branding insights as shared by the wonderfully inspiring Kelly Cutrone.

1. Personal branding is about figuring out who you are and what turns you on then monetising it.

2. The people who are actually making a difference in the world are people who are not like everyone else.

3. People become successful because what they’re selling is authentic and consistent. They found jobs that aligned with their skills and passions, and they brought their true selves – idiosyncrasies and all – to work every day.

4. Everyone is selling something these days, and if you don’t have a clear point of differentiation – something that makes you special, unique, effective – you won’t get far in fashion, or any other creative industry, and you certainly won’t succeed as an entrepreneur.

5. It’s time to figure out what you are selling and how you are going to make people want to buy it…. Consider your whole self, and don’t be afraid to embrace everything that makes you unique.

6. Your point of differentiation does not need to be edgy or groundbreaking, it just needs to be different, and it just needs to be you.

7. Follow you inner voice away from what feels wrong and towards what feels right.

8. When you find something that feels right…. commit to it. Doing one thing well will open doors for you. A plant won’t grow as high if it’s reaching toward five or six suns.

9. Successful people, and brands, are usually highly specialised. They do one thing, and they do it in a better or more interesting way than anyone else.

10. Every successful brand has a message, and that message must be painstakingly driven home, in both appearance and substance.

11. Good brands are authentic, consistent and focused.

12. Be careful not to let your personal brand overwhelm your expressed desire to learn. The point is, after all, to make people want to work with you.

13. Don’t think that creating and promoting your brand is a 6-month programme. I’m forty-four years old and I continue to build my brand… and it is much more powerful than it was when I started.

Nothing there I’ve not already said, but it’s always nice to hear it from someone else, don’t you think?

2 Comments

King - A Branding Genius?

shaving bond home pageYou would have been hard pressed to get through the weekend papers without escaping any reference to the King. And, I’m not talking about Michael Jackson. Instead, I’m referring to Will King, founder and CEO of King of Shaves. The reason for this is that last week, he launched the Shaving Bond. This is a corporate bond that aims to attract funds for their marketing war chest in their fight against Gillette.

This brand building idea is ingenious on so many levels. So many levels that I’m not quite sure where to start, so in no real order…

A brand you can trust

In the current climate of dishonest and untrustworthy politicians and banks, choosing where to put your money is tricky business. And yet, here is an opportunity to put your money behind one of the fastest growing brands around. Not only that, but Will King is proven when it comes to building assets. After all, he knows how to manage money as he’s built a hugely successful business over the last 16 years. Politicians and banks can’t claim that one very easily. So, in terms of trust, he’s got that one nailed. That’s no mean feat; give the guy some credit.

It’s a win-win!

Will King is predicting that his business will double in the next year. For those of you that struggle with percentages, that’s +100%. So, to offer a +6% return on an investment means that he is going to be quids in. But so are the investors. The majority of investors out there would be hard pressed to find a better return than 6%. Especially one that comes with free King of Shaves products. The free product bit is so neat. For KoS, giving away free product is nothing, but the perceived value to the consumer is massive. Consumers love a bit of FREE.

willI saw King speak recently at the British Library and he was asked how he measured his marketing spend on advertising. The response quite simply was “Sales! We sell loads of product”. King knows that lack of awareness is their biggest barrier. He calls it their “biggest competitor”. So, King knows that if he could just spend more on advertising, then sales will follow. The problem is, he needs to the cash. So, what are his options?

Get your customers to pay for it!

Well why not? Most brands pay for their marketing through their premium prices. Taking this route allows King of Shaves to keep their prices competitive during these “tough times” while offering consumers a return in more ways than one. I also think that the transparency is going to be respected. They’re quite blatant in telling us that they’ll spend the money on marketing and advertising. And so, consumers get to choose as to whether they take part in this. You don’t get that choice with many other brands. You pay or go elsewhere.

Now, back to the lack of awareness issue. What better way round this than to get your name out there? Mmmm… now let’s think, how could he do this. Well, you could try and pull a big PR stunt that gets you into all the papers.

A PR stunt?

the-sun-230609The press coverage for the Shaving Bond has been pretty impressive. Oh sure, it helps that they’ve been spending a little cash on advertising, but nonetheless. To secure coverage in wide ranging publications like The Sun, The Times, Brand Republic, Management Today and Marketing Week makes for a great PR stunt. The value of the PR alone will make this exercise worth it, even if no-one signs up. But, the reach achieved with this coverage would probably surpass anything they could hope to pull off with any ad campaign. And that coverage was despite the other “King” that hit the news this week.

Consistency of message

I can’t help admire the PR aspect of this initiative. Having worked on PR stunt campaigns, I know how hard it can be to ensure that when your story gets out there, the journalists are saying the right thing, consistently. After all, you have no editorial control. But, for this campaign, the message that keeps coming through is “It’s not just a better way to shave, it’s a better way to save”. And that comes straight from King himself. Great brands are built on consistency, and these guys clearly know what they’re doing.

And finally…

What a great name!

This name is a marketer’s dream. It’s just so perfect! I won’t go on as Shaving Bond speaks for itself.

2 Comments

Another secret formula to a great brand

In an article today, it was announced that the chairman of Irn Bru, Robin Barr, will be stepping down after 48 years at the helm. And, why should this story be so interesting? Well, 3 things come to mind….

1. Great brand story
First of all is the great brand story that I learnt upon reading the article. Not being a consumer of fizzy drinks, I’m a bit behind on these things. So to keep you updated on what I have learnt:

“Mr Barr is one of only two people in the world who knows the secret recipe for the best-selling Irn Bru drink and the two never travel on the same plane.

Once a month the essences for the drink are personally mixed by Robin Barr in a sealed room at the company’s headquarters in Cumbernauld.

The 32 different ingredients are combined in a huge vat, which mixes 8,000 litres at a time.

The recipe was discovered by Robin Barr’s great grandfather in 1901 and has not changed in 108 years.

Only one other unnamed person shares the secret but the formula has been written down and is stored in a bank vault somewhere in Scotland.”

Wow! What heritage! The idea that someone is preparing the mixture personally for a fizzy drink really sounds quite heart-warming. And not only that, but it’s the grandson of the inventor of the recipe. In my head, these sugary drinks are all prepared in huge vats and mixed by a computer, watched over by a food chemist. But to have the chairman personally stirring up the essences sounds lovely! I’m sure he uses a very large wooden spoon. The drink almost sounds like it’s home made.

You couldn’t buy this sort of branding. It’s priceless. A cynic somewhere might be wondering if it’s all true, but we’ll ignore them for now.

And this sort of takes me onto my next point.

2. Bang on brand message
For branding to succeed, the brand message has to be applied consistently across all touch points. And, this is what these guys have clearly been doing. So, at this juncture I would like to applaud their PR team. The article above mentions all the key points of the brand story as shared on the brand website. There is only one discrepancy. Can you spot it? (answer at the end):

“How would you describe the essence of a flavour that only two people in the world know? One that is such a closely guarded secret that it is held under lock and key in a vault in Switzerland? A taste so precious, so unique that it is our chairman Robin Barr, and he alone, who blends the unique combination of 32 flavours that can be savoured in every sip? There is only one word to describe it.

Phenomenal

And if you didn’t get that right you’ve clearly been drinking something else. So go and de-tox your mouth with a can of IRN-BRU immediately.”

When using PR as part of your brand building strategy, the trick is to ensure that the brand message is understood clearly by the media and repeated word for word. Of course, in the real world, this can be tricky. Journalists and editors like to trim down press releases, or they may pick a more newsworthy angle that in not entirely appropriate for the brand. And, as a brand, you only find out once you get to read the finished piece.

But here, the PR team have clearly done a good job. They probably have great relationships with the media they’re dealing with and have no doubt furnished them with incredulous amounts of Irn Bru.

My final point doesn’t quite link on so smoothly I’m afraid. But it is an important one.

3.  The secret recipe
How many brands have secret recipes? I bet if you talked to any big food brand, they would tell you that their recipe is secret. And yet, what steps are being taken to protect these recipes? If these recipes were compromised what would the impact on the brand be?

Imagine this. You’re a big international food brand. Your sales are doing so well that you’re over capacity in your manufacturing plants. The majority of your new sales are coming from the Middle East, but you don’t have a factory there. But you get approached by an Indian manufacturer who says that they have spare capacity and would love to make your product for you. Great! They’re going to need the recipe. Hmmm. Stop!

At this point, the brand owner needs to stop and ask questions. Lot of questions.

  • How will they protect the recipe?
  • Can they demonstrate that they’re protecting it, really?
  • Who’s going to have access to the recipe?
  • Can they be trusted?
  • Who’s job is it to ask the questions? Do they know what questions to ask?

But let us for a moment imagine what could happen…

  • Recipe is not stored safely and is compromised. The product is made using a different recipe and the resulting product lets the brand down. FAIL!
  • The recipe is leaked. Competitors get their hands on it and offer the same product at a discount. FAIL!

Ouch! Either way, the result will cost, if not in sales then in brand reputation or brand value.

Managing and protecting a brand is so much bigger than the marketing department. It should permeate the whole business from finance and HR to legal and operations. Potential brand damage can come from any quarter so everyone needs to be clear as to what their part is in protecting the brand and its value to the business.

Fortunately at Irn Bru, they understand that one. They even have a decoy - we don’t really know whether the original formula is stored in Scotland or Switzerland.

No Comments

Essential ingredients of a successful re-launch part 3

The final part of our article on what it takes for a successful re-launch.

Click to continue reading “Essential ingredients of a successful re-launch part 3″

1 Comment