What JLo Can Teach You About Personal Branding
Jeetendr Sehdev | Forbes
Americans spent a staggering 10 billion dollars on plastic surgery within the last year alone; it’s undeniable we live in an image-obsessed society. That said, one of the most important keys to success in life, both personally and professionally, is crafting an alluring personal brand – and a closely corresponding brand image.
Celebrities are best-in-class examples of personal brand managers. They work tirelessly to manage their brands. Each time I work with a celebrity, his or her team of fashion stylists, make-up artists, personal trainers, dialect coaches, body movement and fragrance experts – yes, the list goes on – never fails to amaze me. So, who best to learn about personal branding from than superstar Jennifer Lopez: a modern-day showbiz phenomena – entertainer, singer, actress, model, philanthropist, entrepreneur and mother.
I had the pleasure of working with Jennifer and her brilliant manager Benny Medina to better understand her personal brand while positioning Viva Móvil, a recently announced and highly ambitious retail and online telecommunications partnership between Jennifer Lopez and Verizon. And while I’ve worked with many A-list celebrities over the years, I must admit that I have an added level of respect for Lola–not only for her work ethic and charming demeanor (yes, I said charming) but also for her sheer intelligence in strategically building and managing her brand. She’s everywhere– from cosmetics and automobiles, to catering and telecommunications. Over the past few years, JLo has grown into one of the most complex brands in the world.
Here are some key takeaways:
Remember your block. Among the sea of blond-haired and blue-eyed leading ladies of Hollywood, Jenny from the Block has never forgotten her roots as a Puerto Rican Latina from The Bronx. In fact, she’s actively supported her community to further define her personal brand, and in doing so has broken down some notoriously strong stereotypical racial barriers in the entertainment industry. Fellow actress Jessica Alba has claimed the entertainer “opened doors for ethnic girls like me,” while Latin pop singer DeLuna also acknowledged how JLo “paved the way” for Latinas. Most recently, JLo has openly supported rising Latina teen artist Becky G. The key takeaway? Acting as a weaker version of someone great will rarely pave a path to a powerful personal brand, so be confident and embrace your DNA. Just as there is only one JLo, there should be only one you.
Never underestimate the power of a plunging neckline. Who can forget the Versace dress with its risqué neckline that JLo wore to the 42nd Grammy Awards? The only thing more notable than that sexy chiffon number was the phenomenal worldwide media attention that it garnered, with over half a million images of Jennifer being downloaded within the first 24 hours of the event. It was a deliberate attempt by JLo to be daring and different, recasting herself as a sex symbol. And it worked.
A recent performance on “Britain’s Got Talent” led to JLo receiving criticism from British viewers for wearing a racy black body suit thought too sexy for family viewing. JLo simply stood her ground, claiming that she loved her body and that her outfits were no sexier than her female pop counterparts.
When it comes to building a strong personal brand, understand how you’re currently perceived and how you’d like to be perceived. While verbal messages are important, visual cues in today’s Instagram era are arguably even more critical. (Any skeptics out there should recall a certain Britney car-exiting image here. It didn’t matter what our ex Princess of Pop said after that blooper, did it?) Also, check out your competition and do something different. If everyone’s wearing jeans and a tee, make your signature piece a bold jacket. And if everyone’s wearing black to a formal event, wear green. Dare to shock and inspire.
Live it up. From posing nude for Playboy to dancing for dubious dictators for millions of dollars, celebrity brands are often polarizing in the way they behave, and JLo is no exception. The superstar was recently criticized by the Human Rights Watch for performing for Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, the controversial leader of Turkmenistan. JLo responded to the resulting outrage by explaining that she was genuinely unaware of the political situation when agreeing to the job.
Regardless of the truth of the matter, part of building a strong personal brand means kissing consensus goodbye. Not everyone is going to agree with your brand actions or value systems. Embrace the freedom and live it up.
Cross over to the darker side. Jennifer’s cross-over appeal is truly remarkable. From singing Latin ballads with ex-hubby Marc Anthony, to being the leading lady and wedding planner opposite Matthew McConaughey, JLo has demonstrated an uncanny ability to wear several hats and resonate with a variety of demographics and ethnicities. The secret to her success lies in tailoring her brand offering to appeal to both young and old, guys and girls alike.
Like Jennifer, start by assessing and understanding the person with whom you want to connect. This could be a job prospect, a date or even an acquaintance you’d like to build a friendship with. What’s important to your target audience? Where are similarities and differences between your personalities? Once you identify your audience and what makes them tick, you can strategically tailor your message and focus on commonalities for maximum effectiveness.
Jennifer has been involved in several brand partnerships over the years, some successful, others not so much. C’est la vie, I suppose. But the reason why her perfume Glow is such a success–sales of $100 million in its first year still makes it one of the most successful fragrance launches ever–is because it embodies Jennifer’s true brand values. Consumers view both brands as having desirable, fun and contemporary personalities. So, first define your brand DNA, how to relate to your audience and how to differentiate yourself from the competition – and then, shoulders back, throw an arm over that chair and glow, like JLo.