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Charlie Sheen Mania: The Problems with YOU as a Brand

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While Charlie Sheen mania is certainly winding down a bit, it is by no means over…and this is the first major celebrity meltdown, at least that I can remember, that has deep roots in new media. Sheen is embracing Twitter, Facebook, Ustream, and other ways of connecting with supporters. Love him or hate him, the buzz he’s getting is impressive.

For the record, I’m on Team Sheen, but that’s an argument for another day, and one that, frankly, is getting a bit old (even I’m sick of hearing about it). What I want to talk about today is what we can learn about the Sheen blow-up in terms of personal branding.

Knee-Jerk Word Association

When someone says Charlie Sheen, what are the first words that come to mind? Winning? Tiger Blood? Crazy? Keep going – what are some knee-jerk reactions you have to his name? Outspoken. Angry. Humorous. Attention-Seeking. Eccentric. At least, those are some of the words that first come to mind when I hear his name.

I don’t think that any of those things are necessarily bad…at least for Sheen. It’s who he is – his brand.

So my first question is this: What words do you want people to associate with you?

And now, a follow up question: What words to people actually associate with you?

I did a little test for myself, using Twitter – and I recommend that you do the same. I want people to think things like “entertaining” and “smart” and (most of all) “passionate” when they hear my name. I tweeted to my followers: “What is one word that best describes me?”

Here are the responses I got:

@mmhemani: Morning energy!! :)

@cassie_wallace: creator!

@MustangSal27: From reading your tweets i’d say, Intelligent.

@jadecraven: Awesome. :-)

@JamesSmizek: Quirky

@maverika: upbeat

Overall, I think I’m doing pretty well -that’s in line with what I had hoped people would think of me. Do the test yourself – you might be pleasantly (or not-so-pleasantly) surprised by the results. Also, it should be noted, that these are three followers on Twitter that I don’t know very well – I only know them through tweets/blogging, not in real life. So, their impressions really do reflect my online brand.

Long-Term Branding

The problem comes with the fact that once someone starts to associate a certain word or emotion with you, that’s probably what they’ll think forever. First impressions are important, but can be changed. However, the impression someone forms over time doesn’t change very easily. Charlie Sheen will always be crazy in our minds, even if ten years from now he settles down and is a total family man who doesn’t want the limelight. Chris Brown will always be associated with domestic violence. OJ Simpson will always be associated with murder. Michael Vick will always be associated with dog fighting.

It isn’t just negative impressions that stick in our minds either. While negative impressions can override good associations we’ve held previously, this isn’t just about wanting to clear your name, so to speak. Sometimes, you just change, your life just takes a new turn.

For example, when I was in high school, I was the brainy kid who never had a boyfriend, wore jeans/sweatpants and a t-shirt to school every day, and attended my church’s youth group regularly. Things have changed. I still love learning, but I care about my appearance (and actually quite like the world of fashion), enjoy going out on dates, and am more of a free-thinker when it comes to religion. It’s hard for someone who knew me in high school to recognize these changes. They still associate me with the same words they associated me with ten years ago.

Let’s say that your brand today is edgy, rock-and-roll, middle finger. What if ten years from now, you’re passionate about parenting and want a more “wholesome” brand?

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t brand yourself now – just be aware of how you may change in the future. It’s okay to not 100% know who you are and to change who you are in the future. Part of the human experience is growing and evolving. If YOU are the brand, though, just be aware of the challenges ahead.

Branding Yourself vs. Branding Your Blog

You of course don’t have to brand yourself as heavily as you brand your blog. Most bloggers don’t blog anonymously, so there will be some name association there, but there’s a difference between Social Media Examiner and The Bloggess. Social Media Examiner is a branded blog, while The Bloggess is a personal brand explosion (in a good way – when I grow up, I want to be Jenny). If you’re a blogger, I think doing either is a valid branding choice. BlogWorld is a branded blog. There is no one person that is the voice of this blog. My own blog, After Graduation, is more personality-based in terms of branding. So, as a blogger, I can see both sides. There are definitely advantages to both.

Branding Yourself:

  • People more easily connect with a personality than a blog.
  • When you meet people in person, you can just be you, not a blog representative.
  • You have the ability to take your brand to new projects, even if they are unrelated to your original blog topic.

Branding Your Blog:

  • You can sell your blog if you want.
  • It’s easier to change your image if you want to do so in the future.
  • You can hire others to work on your blog.

Embrace Branding

No matter what you’re branding, you or your blog, embrace it. If Charlie Sheen mania has taught us nothing else, it’s that if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing 100%. If things change in the future? Sure, it will be a challenge, but that’s all part of your story. Bad boy turned daddy? Religious homebody turned rock star? Drug user turned police officer? Don’t run for it – just make it part of your brand!

Picture via Angela George, Wikicommons.

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