By Mia Casey
The other day I stumbled across an article on Entrpreneur.com entitled ‘The 7 Key Elements of an Effective Personal Brand’ by Mark Orlic. Here, Orlic listed the factors around which “effective personal brands are built”: authenticity, packaging consistency, story, expertise, visibility, value proposition, and connections.
Naturally, my first thought after reading the post was: ‘Rihanna’.
While Rihanna was already a well-respected artist, her song ‘Umbrella’ in 2007 propelled her from the music scene into megastardom. In the years following, she has not only been a leader in the music industry, but also across pop culture, fashion, (and now) beauty. Throughout this rise, she has been praised for remaining true to brand, and not giving in to external media pressure.
So with her new makeup line, Fenty Beauty, being launched to wide acclaim, what can she teach us about online personal branding?
Regardless of what she puts her mind to, Rihanna has always seemed to follow her own path. From talking about education in Paris, to partying in New York, to starting her own makeup line, she has never been easily defined by societal norms or expectations.
Orlic’s article talks about authenticity stemming from ‘genuinely trying to help your audience’. You want to leave your mark in a way that shows you’re not just in it for yourself – you want to help people too!
Fenty Beauty is a perfect example of this. The main talking point surrounding the product launch has been the huge range of foundation shades on offer (40, to be exact). This breaks away from traditional brands that tend to tailor to the more mid-tone pale shades of makeup, leaving many unable to truly partake in the beauty industry.
Talking to reporters at the launch event, Rihanna mentioned this gap in the market, and her motivation for making Fenty:
“There needs to be something for a dark-skinned girl, there needs to be something for a really pale girl … you want people to appreciate the product and not feel like: ‘Aw, that’s cute, but it only looks good on her.’” (The Guardian)
What can we learn from Fenty Beauty’s realness? You need to know what motivates you, what you’re passionate about, what you have to offer others, and make sure your work (and brand) follow through.
This is important regardless of whether you’re worried about establishing an online professional profile through a portfolio or your LinkedIn account, or setting up your own business. Focus on what drives and excites you, and make sure how you present yourself reflects that.
Rihanna has been noted as bridging the gap between R&B and pop, producing music that appeals to the mainstream while still keeping an edge that sets her apart from other pop artists.
Fenty Beauty’s packaging reflects this ideology – the outer packaging plays to her rebel ideology, while the makeup packaging itself is clean, simple, and widely accessible. Likewise, the Fenty Beauty Instagram account follows a similar aesthetic that bridges that gap between relatable memes, fan photos, and highly polished images of the products. This curation creates a personality for the brand that is both high end and attainable to the average consumer.
For students and graduates looking to advance their own brand, this consistency is an important element to master. Regardless of what platform you’re on – whether you have your own website, LinkedIn profile, or other professional social media accounts – you want your passion and interests to show through on each.
For example, on LinkedIn, you want to connect with people in your dream industry, be sharing relevant content, and post articles or statuses that reflect your interest in the industry.
In a recent YouTube video posted to the Fenty Beauty By Rihanna account, Rihanna talks about how her love for makeup, that inspired her to create her own makeup line:
“My lifelong obsession with makeup started with watching my mum put her makeup on – you know, all the funny faces she was making in the mirror. I never understood that until I got older, and fell in love with makeup myself and really started becoming obsessed…” (YouTube)
This story carries through her personal brand to Fenty Beauty, adding authenticity and character to what is essentially a pure business venture.
This personalisation in the branding carries through to the line’s name as well; Fenty is Rihanna’s surname (her full name is Robyn Rihanna Fenty, for those wondering). “It’s only right that I call it something personal, from my perspective, which is my name.” (YouTube).
This level of stripped-back storytelling, and ties to her own identity add a believability to Fenty Beauty that makes it appealing to its consumers – it feels personal, right down to catering to a wide variety of skin tones. Because it’s personal to Rihanna, it’s personal to the audience.
So what can we learn from this? Adding a personal element to your brand can make you appear more personable and accessible to those interested in connecting. Basically, you need to know your origin story. What got you excited about this industry or business? Where did your dream begin? What prompted you to follow this path?
This is all info that’s good to put in your portfolio, your LinkedIn intro summary, or even in a caption if you’re sharing something you’ve created that personally ties in with your aspirations. You don’t need to shout about it every time you talk to someone, but having that story visible to those interested in what you do adds authenticity to your brand and can help you forge new connections.
Rihanna has a reputation as a leader in the fashion world; through what she wears to awards ceremonies, the work she does with Puma, the curation of her Instagram image - even down to the photos the media take of her in her day to day life. She also has a history of working and networking with a diverse range of people, being vocal about a broad range of issues, and remaining true to brand in the face of opposition.
As a cultural icon, there is an expectation to be on the cutting edge of what is popular, know what trends will take hold next, and take risks. These elements are essential if you want to remain relevant and maintain your status in the celebrity world. Rihanna does these things while making them look effortless. She has a clear aesthetic, a slight artistic flair, and a tendency to try and break the mould with the content she creates.
AND, her highlight is always on point.
These factors combine to make Fenty Beauty a logical next step in her upward trajectory, and establish Rihanna as someone to look to for style (and now beauty) expertise.
When you’re creating your personal brand, you need to show that you have the experience and knowledge needed to be good at what you want to do. Establishing expertise is all about knowing your strengths, and engaging with content or people in ways that allow you to utilise these skills. Write blog posts, go to events or conferences, or join discussions on social media. Getting your name out there and sharing information is a great way to highlight your expertise, while connecting with other people in your field!
Even prior to its launch, Rihanna advertised Fenty Beauty across her own personal social media accounts, encouraging her audience to follow the Fenty Beauty-specific accounts.
By leveraging her existing following to promote her new brand, she was able to very easily reach a wide pool of potential customers, who could then pass that info on to their friends, and so on.
Her reputation within the media also meant free press coverage, and the exclusive launch with Sephora (a large makeup retailer, particularly popular in the States and with beauty influencers worldwide) meant that Fenty Beauty was being talked about across the internet.
Unlike Rihanna, most of us don’t have 57.1 million Instagram followers to promote ourselves or our business to. Instead, it’s about keeping your current connections informed about your passions and ideas, and engaging in industry discussion, creating relevant content, or attending events that allow you to network and connect with new people. Like building your expertise, visibility is all about being involved, vocal, and making a space for yourself in your dream industry.
If you’re friends with other people in your industry, you can also try working on something collaborative together, and both sharing it with your connections. If you don’t have time for a new project, even going out for coffee to have a chat about your shared interests, taking a quick pic, and posting it to LinkedIn with both of you tagged is a great way to get your name out to an extended network. It can help your friend as well!
A value proposition is all about what you have to offer others. Fenty Beauty relies on the proposition that beauty should be accessible to everyone, regardless of race, gender, or culture. It aims to fill the gap in the market left by other beauty brands, where foundation colouring and product quality is exclusionary to many members of society, including people who need both darker and lighter shades. This has been widely successful, with the darker shades actually making news for how quickly they sold out:
“Darker shades of foundation went first, challenging the notion that the consumer market in those colors isn’t worth it to the bottom lines of beauty brands.” (Detroit news)
This highlights the value of understanding what you do well, and knowing how to communicate it.
If you’re not sure what your value proposition is, then try making a list of different types of work you enjoy doing, what you get great feedback on, and what skills you’re trained in. Then distil that list into one or two key talents that you enjoy and excel at, and that are core to what you’d like to be doing (or are already doing) and go from there!
Once you know your niche, speciality, or skill, then being able to describe that talent in a short sentence or two to remember when you meet new people, or present yourself online, is a great way to build your rep.
It’s no secret that Rihanna is well connected. With ties to the fashion world (Dior ambassador, collaborating with Manolo Blahnik, creative director at Puma), the film industry (including an upcoming role in Ocean’s Eight), and of course the music scene, it isn’t difficult to assume that Fenty Beauty will likely gain support from the celebrity world.
Plus, having celebrities attend launch events, using models (such as Slick Wood) who have their own following, and utilising advertising to prompt beauty influencers to review their products, will always help to raise a brand’s status.
For us, that means keeping track of what your mates are doing and maintaining positive relationships with people you haven’t seen in a while.
Maybe that guy from high school is in your dream industry, and has posted a pic of his work to Insta – comment and tell him how awesome it is. No follow up, no asking for a job - just be nice. It’s the same with previous colleagues – be friendly and encouraging, and keep that door open!
Just being a chill and positive person online (in combination with creating a strong personal brand, so people know what you’re interested in) will enamour others to you and make them more likely to want to work with you in the future.
Featured image courtesy of standard.co.uk
Resource used: ‘Rihanna: the pop star who became a fashion powerhouse‘ by Jess Cartner-Morley