Daytime television hostess, Food Network celebrity chef, and best-selling author – Rachael Ray’s career has many lessons to teach those interested in achieving personal branding success from zero to 60 in less than a decade.
In less than 10 years, Rachael Ray’s personal brand has taken her from an Albany, NY, grocery store to multiple streams of income from television, books, magazines, and product endorsements.
And, like many other successfully branded personalities, Rachael Ray hasn’t strayed far from the original 30-Minute Meals book and brand that launched her career from upstate New York to her break-out spot on the nationally televised Today show, and all that has happened since.
The origins of Rachael Ray’s brand
Rachael Ray didn’t “invent” her 30-Minute Meals brand, but she was savvy enough to recognize the havoc that Domino’s Pizza’s heavily-promoted delivery in 30-minutes, or it’s free! offer was having on the sales of the upscale gourmet market where she was a buyer.
To combat the market erosion created by Domino’s Pizza, she began teaching Wednesday evening 30-minute meal cooking classes that became quite popular, attracting a broad cross-section of attendees to the store where she worked. This lead to a weekly segment on the local television station’s news, providing her with an opportunity to develop her television “voice.”
In response to customer comments that her 30-minute recipes were not all available in one place, she published the first edition of her employer-subsidized 30-Minute Meals recipe collection in 1999.
The initial print run of 10,000 copies sold out in 3 months, leading to more promotional opportunities, including Public Radio, and – eventually – a last-minute invitation to appear on the Today show, which was the turning point in her career.
In 2001, she signed her first Food Network contract for the first season of her syndicated 30-Minute Meals show.
Since then, she’s published nearly a dozen additional 30-Minute Meal recipe books. In 2005, she signed a contract for a daytime TV interview program with King World Productions, Oprah’s production company. Also, in 2005, she began to publish a magazine, Every Day with Rachael Ray, published in partnership with the Reader’s Digest.
Lessons from Rachael Ray’s personal branding success
Rachael Ray’s path to personal branding success contains numerous lessons, including:
- Looking, listening, and doing. As buyer for an upscale market, Rachel Ray’s success was based on her analysis of current trends, listening to her customers, and creating a position that leveraged a competitor’s 30-minute delivery claim into a healthier and more family-friendly alternative.
- Perseverance. As she described to Donny Deutsch, during an interview on his Big Idea show, the Today Show approached her during one of the Northeast’s biggest snowstorms and asked her to immediately leave home and travel the 150 miles from Albany to New York City. With the help of her mother, she made the trip, and the rest is history. But, where would her career be now, if she declined the invitation?
- Consistence. Although she has expanded her presence to other Food Network shows, her 30-Minute Meals remains a continuing part of her brand.
- Personality. The “down home” qualities that endeared her to homemakers from every walk of life in her Albany cooking classes remains a part of her brand. She’s not a cooking diva, she’s not a gourmet cook, and she’s not a sex symbol. What she is, however, is a genuine, enthusiastic, human being that people can relate to. Unlike Martha Stewart, her shows aren’t “perfect,” sometimes there are glitches. In addition, she’s not overly well-dressed, and she usually wears jeans. But, she comes across as someone you wouldn’t mind sitting next to on a cross-country flight.
- Passions. In addition to grass-roots persona, she shares her passions. Her parents often appear on her shows, as does her husband. When she goes to Paris, she does it with a food budget of 40 dollars a day, one of her popular shows. As a dog lover, she’s help develop a line of healthy dog foods.
What about your personal branding success?
Here are some questions to ask yourself about your commitment to your personal branding success:
- Market intelligence. Are you constantly taking the market’s temperature, listening to your market, monitoring your competition, and analyzing not only who is taking business away from you, but coming up with counter-punches to regain lost business?
- Discipline. If producers from Today called you right now, in the middle of a blizzard, would you drive 148 miles to be at the studio at 5:30 AM?
- Commitment. Would you be able to balance a commitment to what brought you success with an open mind towards new opportunities?
- Personality. Do you have an approach to clients and prospects that sets you apart from the obvious experts in your field?
- Passion. Do you allow yourself to be defined by your passions and beliefs, and strive to incorporate them in your everyday decisions?
What do you think are the key building blocks and lessons you can learn from Rachael Ray’s path to personal branding success? Did I overlook something? Can you think of others who have created equally significant personal brand during the last 10 years? Do you think 10 years is too long, too short, or just about the right length of time to build a personal brand? What do you think lies ahead for Rachael Ray? Share your opinions and ideas, below, as comments!
Roger C. Parker shares ideas for planning, writing, promoting, & profiting from brand building books in his daily writing tips blog. His latest book is #BOOK TITLE Tweet: 140 Bite-Sized Ideas for Compelling Article, Book, & Event Titles.