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Personal Branding: Do You Need To Shift Your Focus?

By JW Dicks

As a small business owner or entrepreneur, the ability to find new ways to market yourself and develop your personal brand, can be the catalyst to unlimited success.

About 2 years ago, I became a proud grandfather! Other than the obvious joys that this brings into my life, I have also been reintroduced to one of America’s national treasures: Sesame Street. Yes, Sesame Street.

This American children's television series premiered on November 10, 1969 and is still a daily fixture in homes all across the country. Sesame Street is one of the longest running children's programs in television history. I can remember my girls watching this show when they were young, and now my granddaughter finds the show completely amusing!

Why am I writing about Sesame Street today? Because we can all learn a valuable lesson about personal branding from this quintessential American brand.

How has Sesame Street lasted so long? Two main reasons come to mind. First, their content - educating young children through a quickly paced fun format - is top notch and something that most parents welcome into their home. The producers of this show have created a formula that works – it educates effectively while successfully keeping the attention of the young ones. If you’ve ever tried to hold the attention of 3-year-old for more than 15 minutes, then you know why this is such a big deal!

The second reason that this brand has been able to enjoy incredible longevity is through its creative and unique characters. Much like Disney, Sesame Street has developed their brand through the use of fun and interesting personalities. In the seventies and eighties, it was hard to find anything involving Sesame Street that didn’t feature the loveable character Big Bird. From movies to lunchboxes, Big Bird was the superstar of children’s television.

Then something (or someone) interesting happened. Elmo.

In the last 15 years or so, Elmo, the little red 3½-year-old Muppet who often refers to himself in the third person, has become the new face of Sesame Street. Big Bird has not gone away – but he is no longer the focus. You would now be hard pressed to find any promotional materials or product line for Sesame Street that doesn’t have Elmo’s smiling face in the forefront. Elmo has starred in two full-length motion pictures and has appeared on The West Wing, Emeril Live and The View, among many others. He’s an international superstar!

There’s nothing wrong with Big Bird, of course. He is still one of the main characters on the show. But Elmo has clearly become the new focus of the show. The core purpose and theme of the show (and their brand) has not changed at all – it has merely shifted focus.

So what can we learn about personal branding from this change in focus?

Sesame Street is a business just like any of ours. Even when we think that we have developed the perfect personal brand, there may always be an opportunity to change the focus of that brand. I’m not advocating changing the things that have made your business brand a success, just finding a way to re-focus your brand to a new audience that will not alienate those who have come to trust and respect your brand the way it is.

Is your personal brand built on being wholesome? Traditional or cutting edge? Is your brand and reputation built on customer service? Reliability?

These things do not need to change (and shouldn’t for that matter.) These traits are ones that will be relevant to generation after generation. However, the next time you are thinking about how your personal brand can last for generations, think about what each generation finds the most appealing.

Try to think of ways you can re-focus your personal brand that appeals to the new generation – without sacrificing the traits that made your brand the success that it is!