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What Ronald Reagan & Lady Gaga have in common March 10, 2010

Posted by David Dirks in personal branding.
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Let me show you a series of photos:

First, Reagan 1:

Then, Reagan 2:

Gaga 1:

Gaga 2:
What do these two have in common?  They are both excellent examples of what we call today, personal branding.  Of course, in President Reagan’s day, it wasn’t called personal branding.  What’s significant about both Reagan and Gaga is what they were able to accomplish over a period of time in the context of how people perceived them.

Reagan was able to move from his branded position as ‘actor’ to his next phase of branding, Governor, and then of course to his last phase, President of the United States (much to his detractors shock and awe).  Think about it.  Reagan, as an example for the rest of us, demonstrated that it was within the realm of possibility to move from ‘Bedtime for Bonzo’ to the Oval Office.  Reagan was able to change his position from what most people thought at the time was absolutely impossible (except for Reagan himself).  Going from movies and TV to the most powerful man in the world an amazing example in personal branding.

In the same context, Lady Gaga started her singing career looking and acting much different than she looks now.  Most people wouldn’t be able to recognize her from her earlier days to her latest branding phase of today.  Whatever you think of Lady Gaga, she’s another excellent example of moving from one branding position to entirely another.  Is it working?  Well, she has real talent and I’m sure her bankers would attest to her marketing power in selling songs and concerts too.

A couple of my takeaways (you may certainly have your own too):

1.  Personal branding is a long term process.  It took both President Reagan and Lady Gaga many years to evolve their brands.  Too often today, we’re led to believe that personal branding is simply a process of repositioning yourself in a few areas using a few tools and…zappo…the new you is born.  Not so.

2. Both President Reagan and Lady Gaga prove that you can clearly move from what your personal brand means today to an entirely different personal brand.  Personal branding can often look like a daunting task to those of us who are not used to looking at ourselves as an evolving personal brand.

3.  Talent still counts.  Both Reagan and Gaga had or have real, tangible talents and skills.  There’s no substitute for mediocrity.  No amount of work on a personal brand can overcome a lack of ability, talent, and skill.  You have to have the goods to deliver the results.

Personal branding is not something new.  It used to be called your ‘reputation’…what you stood for.  It still does. But it’s not just a simple process snapping your finger and making it happen.  It takes time to evolve a personal brand.  The best news is that you can move your personal brand from wherever it is right now to another completely different but genuine brand position.  Just not in one day.

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