The personal sadness so many felt last week, after learning that Jay Conrad Levinson had died, emphasize that an individual’s personal brand extends far beyond their accomplishments.

Few authors and advertising/marketing professionals have achieved as much brand-building success as Jay Conrad Levinson.

Before creating his own Guerrilla Marketing brand of best-selling marketing books and educational materials, Jay was a highly-successful brand-builder for his clients. Perhaps Jay’s best-known brand was his iconic Marlboro Man.

Jay’s personal brand

However, Jay Conrad Levinson’s marketing and publishing accomplishments are just part of the story.

More important part is the way that Jay’s loss was felt on a deeply personal level throughout the world, as described in Thank you, Jay blog posts, on Facebook, and hundreds of Tweets last Thursday.

Many, including myself, felt a sense of deep personal loss.

But, the loss wasn’t about his accomplishments or the encyclopedias of marketing and writing advice he shared.

The real loss was about the way Jay Conrad Levinson lived his life and, more important, the way he made others feel.

What stands out is the personal branding connection that resonates through the shared sentiments.

7 Personal branding lessons from Jay Conrad Levinson’s life

Here, from the perspective of reading and sharing his ideas for decades, and knowing him and working with him for over 10 years, are 7 of the elements of his personal brand that made him a personal adviser, mentor, and friend to so many:

  1. Hope. Jay’s books, speeches, and everyday conversation gave hope to entrepreneurs, marketers, and self-employed professionals looking for ways to succeed in spite of limited, or nonexistent, marketing budgets. At a time when most marketing books were backwards-looking case studies, Jay prescribed a positive approach–or attitude–that anyone could profit from.
  2. Humility. Jay was an incredibly well-connected, educated, and traveled individual. But, you’d never know it when you met him or spoke to him. This was because you’d probably find yourself talking about your accomplishments, goals, and dreams. Jay only “dropped names” when it was relevant to the information he was sharing. Jay was always more interested in others, their challenges, and how he could help.
  3. Accessibility. Jay spoke and wrote for everyone, for the family breadwinner trying to support themselves after downsizing, for never held back; he shared what he knew without preaching. More important, over the years, he responded quickly and personally to emails. Jay welcomed all. When I visited Jay with my youngest son, who was then in junior high, Jay instantly made Ryan feel at home and had him talking about his after-school job.
  4. Consistent. The core of Jay’s message remained consistent, but it never grew old. Jay was constantly adapting his Guerrilla Marketing message for new challenges, new markets, and new technologies.
  5. Sharing. Part of his ability to continually build and extend his brand was his willingness to work with others who wanted to co-author a book with him. Many new authors achieved their first personal branding breakthrough by co-authoring a book with Jay, simultaneously positioning themselves as well as expanding the Guerrilla Marketing brand.
  6. Agenda-free. Rare among marketers, Jay never had an agenda. He never held back the details, and he could never “up-sold” the next level of his services. He recognized the validity of the approach, and he often recommended it to others, but–in practice–there never was a “hold-back” in his books, conversations, or speeches. He was too busy empowering others, highlighting the accomplishments of others, but also communicating the details that turn aspirational writing into action.
  7. Energy. Perhaps the core of Jay’s personal brand was his enthusiasm and energy. Jay was endlessly curious and endlessly sharing experiences. Reading one of his books, listening to one of his audios, or simply exploring the Marin County shoreline, north of San Francisco, was energizing and eye-opening. There was always a detail worth exploring, an idea worth developing, or a person-to-person connection worth sharing.

In every media, every time, Jay left you both energized and prepared to act.

My experience with Jay

Jay made a profound difference. Jay was the first to see a positive in what I, and many others, saw as a negative. In an age of positioning and niche marketing, many “experts” told me that my 50-50 interest in both writing and graphic design personal was a limitation.

Jay didn’t agree. He encouraged me to turn that perceived “weakness” into a positive. He encouraged me to “walk taller” with what I had.

And, as a consummate wordsmith, he extemporaneously put it into a single sentence: “Roger was the minister at the marriage of words and design.”  

What about you?

If you’re one of the many who learned and prospered from Jay Conrad Levinson advice, share your experiences below, as comments. More important, How do you rate your developing personal brand in terms of the above?

When your accomplishments fade into the past, What do you think people are going to say about your personal brand? What do you want them to say?


Roger C. Parker can help you write your way to a personal brand with a free workbook, 99 Questions to Ask Before You Start to Write or Self-publish a Brand-building Book.