Are people brands?
The jury is still out on that, but we believe that famous people could be (and are) presented as brands. If they stand for a promise, or perhaps as a personification of a product, a service, an organisation or a belief, individuals can move from being people to brands.
People have personalities, they possess character and they stand for something. The trick is to find that one authentic trait that can transform a person into a brand. Marketing 101 – branding is the process of managing an identity and perception. And the role of the brand manager is to showcase the positive and sometimes not-so-positive traits to help the brand get an advantage in the marketplace.
There are a host of people who have branded themselves well. We’ve chosen the 7 most influential people who have built powerful reputations in the industry, and today are brands by themselves.
Let’s open the list with Michelle Obama, a name most popular with people from across the world. Even though she came into the spotlight as the wife of Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, she is a well-known personality in her own right. She might have left the White House two years back, but she continues to be a person of influence even today. Her memoir, Becoming, sold 3 million copies by early December and it topped the bestseller list within 15 days of its release. In a poll conducted by Gallop last year, she was selected as the most admired woman in the United States.
If you’ve still not read the book, you can get a snippet here.
Just the fact the he is the founder of Microsoft gives Bill Gates a permanent spot on the list of influential people. However, the reason we picked him here today is because of his philanthropic side. He and his wife, Melinda Gates have started the Bill & Melinda Foundation that is believed to be the world’s largest private foundation and it holds US$50.7M in assets. That is a lot of funds to help reach the goals of the foundation, which are to reduce poverty and improve healthcare across the world. In the US, the foundation aims to expand educational opportunities and grant greater access to information technology.
Influence isn’t all serious business. And definitely not when you have pop icons like Rihanna on the scene. This Barbados-born artist has 356k followers on Instagram alone and over 59 million on Facebook, and is easily the world’s most influential pop idol. Her success, however, is not limited to her musical prowess. She has also extended her popularity into business and has launched highly successful cosmetics and lingerie brands. Fenty Beauty, that caters to women of colour, has 40 unheard-of shades. The brand promotes diversity not just in offering, but also in its advertising that reminds every woman of colour that she comes from royalty.
Who doesn’t know Rami Malek today! The actor started out with television where he won an Emmy for his lead role in the psychological drama, Mr. Robot. His international acclaim, however, came with his portrayal of Freddie Mercury, the frontman of the hit 1970s band, Queen. Rami Malek has quite a fan following, with numbers racking up to 600k+ followers on Twitter, nearly 480k on Facebook and a whopping 1m on Instagram. Talk about being influential.
Jeff Bezos has already disrupted the retail industry when he founded the e-commerce company Amazon. But that is old news. Today, he is also making waves in the media world. He purchased the well-respected Washington Post in 2013. The newspaper was on a decline and the world watched with bated breath to see what would happen next. In less than 3 years, the newspaper bounced back and its readership exploded. The reason was simple – its content was more suitable for the digital world and covered the technology sector extensively.
Oprah Winfrey has always held considerable influence. A successful businesswoman and talk show host, she manages to get more done than we can ever imagine. An actress, a film producer, a philanthropist, and an activist, rumours abound of her intent to run for the presidential election in 2020. If the number of her followers (16m on Instagram alone) is anything to go by, we’d say she has a mighty good chance of being successful there too.
This list cannot be complete without including the dashing, enterprising CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk. He is admired not just for his billions, but it is his incredible vision and engineering that has got him his, hold your breath, 17.1m Twitter followers! And he also owns SpaceX, a rocket and spacecraft company. Come on, that’s a hands-down winner in our books. Then there is Tesla, his electric car and energy company. And did you know that he has shared the patents for his electric cars with the whole world because he believes these solutions must be available to all to save the planet. Wow!
If we had the space, the list would actually be much longer. We could have spoken about Michael B Jordan, the actor who played Erik Killmonger in ‘Black Panther’, or Lady Gaga, who has more than 77 million followers on Twitter and Greta Gerwig, an actress/director who is making waves in a male-dominated industry.
The list of people who are brands is pretty long. But why don’t you tell us your favourite. And why.