When people ask me for advice on how to brand themselves, I sometimes suggest they watch reality TV. I know… odd right? But a show like Married at First Sight makes it easy to illustrate a few points because I’ve found this show to be more open and authentic than other reality TV shows. If you’re in the process of building your own brand, this exercise can help.
Instead of focusing on what’s working or not with your own brand, detach a bit and pretend you’ve been asked to craft a new brand for one or two of the people you see on the show. After watching about 3-4 episodes and reading through the #MarriedAtFirstSight Twitter feed, ask yourself a few questions about the people you’ve seen:
- Of all the people I’ve seen on the show, which ones really intrigue me and why?
- What are they most passionate about?
- How would I like to interact with them? TV, Internet, Radio, Print, Podcast, Blog, Live Interaction, Talk Show?
- Do you find this person to be natural, friendly and open in front of the camera?
- Can you get a sense of who they really are?
- When are they the most open? The most guarded?
- When do they light up?
- I get a sense that they know a lot about ______.
- What other companies would I pair them up with?
- Who would I continue to follow on social media after the show ends?
- Who really causes me to have a strong reaction, whether angry, sad, happy, thoughtful, etc.?
By simply watching the show and asking these types of questions, you can really predict who has an exciting brand waiting to unfold, and who might fade into the background after a few interviews. But that’s not all – the answers to questions like the ones above have far-reaching impact. Using questions like these, I have developed:
- new marketing and sales goals
- eCommerce sites
- media kits and outreach plans
- product launches
- compelling show concepts
- speakers platforms
- intriguing blog, webisode, workshop/classroom and book content
- image and style blueprints
- studio/set designs
- identification and contact strategies for the best networks and partner brands/companies
- brand clarification strategies
- networking opportunities, etc.
So… now let’s get back to your brand…
This mini-exercise provides a few things to get your brain moving – but admittedly it’s sometimes difficult to do a proper for your own brand. Here’s where I’d suggest getting an outside party or focus group together to do an evaluation for you using whatever content or concept you’ve created so far. I think it’s important to have a new perspective, so finding a professional or unbiased analyst is ideal. If you have some followers, use your Twitter, Google or Facebook analytics data to get a sense of which content you produce that people resonate with.
I am in the process of scaling back my consumption of Reality TV while I ramp up my intake of news stories I’m researching for this project. I have to tell you that whenever I find myself taking in too much negativity I must find balance somewhere.
Enter HGTV – my largely positive and favorite special interest channel.
One of my favorite shows – Fixer Upper revolves around Chip and Joanna Gaines. They are a super-cute and very talented couple that create wonderful new spaces in older homes for families in the Waco TX area. They are awesome at the transformation process.
Chip and Joanna are engaging, funny and have very good energy. Their out-takes are everything. Their expertise, along with Chip’s really funny (and sometimes really gross) antics, will pull you in. Even if you’re not a fan of her specific design style I’m going to predict that before long you will Google them and… you will discover that they have their own website featuring their work with local real estate, a silo project, and an online retail component Magnolia Market.
They are in demand. Social media shows that they people want them to be cloned because they don’t want to move to Waco, but instead come to them to build and design their personal projects.
Here’s a quick peek at what their website is doing as of today:
My Quick Insights and Analysis:
- They are ranking pretty high in comparison to their local competition, no doubt due to HGTV’s influence.
- I’m not surprised to see that people are searching for Joanna, but I am surprised to see that Chip isn’t ranking on that keyword list. Chip has an opportunity to strengthen his part of the brand.
- Perhaps their e-commerce component is the weakest link? Recently, their shop was temporarily lagging behind in delivery times which suggests (though I can’t be certain) that with their current team they can’t keep up with the amount of traffic that HGTV is pushing their way.
- It’s a pretty intense undertaking to scale e-commerce when you consider all the details like buying, customer service, technical support, shipping and logistics, returns, etc. And that’s without all the other ongoing business ventures. This is why DIY e-tailing is not my first choice especially when you have a large media following or smaller budget. But, if they wanted to stick with product sales, I would choose to license their brand, and negotiate the outsourcing of the whole retail enterprise to someone who has the infrastructure to handle everything really well.
- Given all this – they might want to explore other less personally resource-intensive revenue streams. My long-term choices for Chip and Joanna would probably be paid licensing, public speaking gigs, classes and/or workshops and a series of lifestyle books that incorporate the energy they bring to their show each episode. Specifically for Chip, I would suggest doing his books on transforming old homes and building new ones, with his insights on how to be a great husband to a great wife.
- There are a few takeaway’s on Sarah Susanka’s brand expansion in this building/design area.
I hope they capture and hold onto their raving fans and consider their long range plans while they dance with a medium that is always changing (I remember Susie Coelho, do you?)
Wishing them much joy, great adventures, ever expanding circles and time to do more of what they really love.
In my unofficial poll of the people in my circle more than three-quarters have made a negative remark about Reality TV. Which suggests that not only should the Reality TV stars be concerned about their brand and image, but so should the people producing these shows.
I actually watch very little TV, so it’s surprising to some that when I do turn it on, that I actually choose Reality TV as part of the lineup. I’m fascinated by it all because I learn so much by studying people. But I also watch with a pragmatic eye. I’m aware that it’s mostly about business. And while I do see many opportunities for improvement; by wholly condemning the medium we end up throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Sherri Shepard from The View said recently on Twitter…
Sherri raises a valid point but I think it’s important to take it for what it is – Reality TV is a medium which will always attract some viewers through drama, nonsense, violence and tragedy. Maybe some producers think that is the only way they will get us to watch. There is another side however.
The discerning can glean the positive aspects of Reality TV. Not just for branding and launching new ventures for which I take special note – but topics around relationships, communication, health and wellness, friendship, family ties, and tenacity of spirit. I acknowledge the value in all of these things and remain hopeful that Reality TV isn’t tempted to sink to the negative depths of the nightly news.
Let’s tell a better story.
Yesterday I was in the presence of a visionary. We began talking about one subject and found ourselves 2+ hours later in an altogether different place – with many stops along on the way. I enjoyed our conversation immensely. It’s what makes my line of work so interesting in fact – following a person’s train of thought and then distilling their ideas into a tangible product, brand or service.
That’s the key though – the distillation process. Where visionaries sometimes find frustration is in their attempts to create a website or a branding statement is when they attempt to include all of their ideas in one place. Sometimes this does work if it’s branded under a particular personality or larger entity. But what often ends up happening is that most people don’t follow, give up and move along. And that’s a shame – because there is so much to be learned by working with someone with an extraordinary vision.
If you are a person with many ideas and you don’t want to pick just one – here are a couple of quick insights to share with you:
- I was reminded yesterday by Ms. Toni that all of your ideas don’t have to be thrust upon someone during a conversation all at once. If people follow and remain intrigued then by all means go forward with the conversation. If not, back off until they have reached common ground once again. I loved her insight (and her home-grown tea)!
- This second issue comes up over and over with my clients – don’t let a single website be the place to dump every idea you’ve ever had without a clear delineation of your brand concept. Because even the best of us with the capacity to follow along a winding trail of thought will wonder what the heck you’re talking about. Instead consider your audience and then add another URL or sales page to detail and elaborate on your next idea. In this way you can capture the specific audience you want and then ask them to take the next step with you.
That’s it for now…