Branding

5 personal branding lessons from the rich and famous

- March 7, 2023 3 MIN READ
Prince Harry, Rihanna, Elon Musk

Celebrities are experts at building their personal brands. Or at least, they’re experts in hiring the right people for the job – they would not be where they are if they weren’t. Yet, some celeb stories are also excellent cautionary tales of what not to do when it comes to personal branding, writes PR pro, Samantha Dybac.

I’m not overly fussed when it comes to celebrities but I do enjoy observing people in the media spotlight. I love to take note of where they started, how they have built their brands over time, how they interact with the media, their fans, the press, and what value they place on the influence they have (a key topic that I always ask guests at the end of my podcast, Influence Unlocked).

After 20+ years in brand building, marketing and public relations, I have learned that it pays to keep your eyes peeled; to look beyond your everyday at how others are leveraging personal brand to build businesses, promote products, or attract investors or ambassador deals.

While many celebrities can be great examples of how to do this well, they can also teach us ‘what not to do’. You don’t need to like them, or even believe what they have to say. But there are valuable lessons to learn from anyone in the public eye about how personal brand feeds into business success.

Let’s take a look at five people in the public eye who can teach us a thing or two about personal branding.

1. Elon Musk

Elon Musk is a divisive figure, something he knows and constantly plays to his advantage. His public persona is controversial, sharp, informed (mostly), and he maintains a laser focus on the future tech industry.

Musk’s investment in Twitter and its vast potential as a data mine wasn’t surprising. It’s totally on-brand! Likewise, when he fired employees at Twitter there was global outrage, but given his track record in shock value, were we really surprised?

Lesson: Be consistent in your voice and approach and make bold decisions with conviction.

2. Rihanna

Rihanna’s 2023 Superbowl half time show was a stunning exhibition of the singer’s trademark understated glam. Beyond her string of countless musical hits, though, Rihanna has amassed her $1.7 billion fortune by leveraging personal brand to build a global pop culture movement.

She keeps things personal and real; her makeup brand Fenty is, literally, her surname, and produces makeup for all skin tones. Her clothing range celebrates inclusivity and diversity. And she has no qualms using her massive influence to springboard new projects off existing ones.

Lesson: Be authentically you. Know and create for your market, and the customers will follow.

3. Michael Clarke

Most Australians would be aware of the former Australian cricket captain’s personal life playing out in the media recently. Prior to this, in retirement, Clarke built a reputation as a pretty wholesome guy, commentator, doting father, and so on.

The viral fracas that occurred, then, totally contradicted the squeaky-clean personal brand he has sold to sponsors and employers. As a result, he’s not only lost face in the public’s eyes, he’s also lost work.

Lesson: A public profile equals a commitment to others. You have a responsibility to fulfil your personal brand’s ‘promise’ to them.

4. Prince Harry

Harry grew up under intense media scrutiny and more pressure than most of us will have to deal with in a lifetime. Following Princess Diana’s death, as a teenager and young adult, he was captured partying and acting out, as do most young people.

Over time, Harry built a public profile as a charming larrikin, authentically himself. People loved it. But his marriage to Meghan Markle and subsequent ‘baring all’ and estrangement from his family has left many of us wondering ‘Who is Harry?’. Is his personal brand strong enough to maintain the devotion of his fans and followers around the world? Time will tell.

Lesson: Stand up for your beliefs, even if that means having to redefine your brand and market.

5. Jane Lu

Jane Lu, founder and CEO of women’s online fashion retailer, Showpo, copped some flack this summer after holding a warehouse sale that left thousands of people queueing for bargains outside in 40-degree heat and taking their frustrations out online.

Lu was quick to act, jumping onto social media, where she has built the bulk of her public personality as a super-savvy young entrepreneur, to:

  • Acknowledge people’s frustrations.
  • Apologise.
  • Publicly commit to doing it better/differently next time.

Lesson: We’re all human. Be humble and learn from your mistakes.

Above all, keep it real. Be authentic and stay true to your values so that when you do stuff up or change tack, whether or not people stand by you (something you ultimately have no control over), they’ll respect you for it. And you might just gain some new followers in the process.


This article was first published on Kochie’s Business Builders, read the original here.

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