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Five Personal Branding Lessons from the Grammy Awards

Earlier this month I had the privilege of attending the Grammy awards at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. As always it was an exciting and entertaining event (this was my 4th time attending live). As I watched the show, I was again reminded of the importance of personal branding to the entertainment world. Here are five personal branding lessons I took away from the 2011 Grammy awards:

1) Social media is more important than ever. Whether or not you’re a fan of Justin Bieber, the story of his rise to fame is an excellent example of the power of social media. Bieber’s chances of success certainly seemed bleak early in his childhood, as he was raised in low-income housing in Ontario, Canada—hardly an ideal situation to launch a career in the entertainment world. It was through YouTube that he was first discovered by talent scouts, and his rise to fame began. Twenty years ago, the Justin Bieber story could never have happened.

2) Whatever you stand for, don’t be bland. Lady Gaga showed up in an egg. Yes, an egg. Now, I can’t in good faith recommend that you show up at the office that way, but the point still stands: it’s better to stand for something, even if it’s outrageous, than to stand for nothing. What unique talents, opinions, or attributes do you have that can make you stand out?

3) It’s never too late. A couple of weeks before the Grammys, Christina Aguilera was nationally ridiculed for tripping over the lyrics of the national anthem before the Super Bowl. At the time, some “experts” predicted that the mistake would kill her career. Instead, Aguilera performed a stellar rendition of Aretha Franklin’s “Ain’t No Way” that quickly made everyone forget about her Super Bowl disaster. The lesson? When you get knocked down, get back up. Branding is an ongoing process—it’s never too late to fix a previous mistake.

4) Always be prepared. The most common reaction to Esperanza Spalding’s upset of Justin Bieber to win the Grammy for Best New Artist was “Who the heck is Esperanza Spalding??” Barely anyone, probably not even Ms. Spalding herself, gave her a chance to win. But she did, and was rapidly thrust into the spotlight. Will she seize the opportunity to establish herself as a household name? That remains to be seen—but the point is this: you never know when opportunity may arise. Be ready to make the most out of every branding opportunity that comes your way.

5) You can be a celebrity. Possibly the strangest revelation that comes with meeting celebrities face to face is the realization that they are regular people too. Lady Gaga may have a great persona, but how many thousands of similarly, or ever more talented women never make it in the business? Usher is certainly a talented performer, but there are plenty of non-celebrities that could give him a run for his money. Celebrities aren’t more talented than everyone else. But they do make a concerted effort to brand themselves in a way that makes them stand out from the crowd. You may not be the very best accountant, the most creative graphic artist, or the brightest lawyer in the world—but that doesn’t mean you can’t establish yourself as a “celebrity” in your world!