If at the onset of the new millennium someone had predicted that a Moldovan pop band would be selling over one million records in Japan and reaching the top ten in the charts of every major European country singing in its native tongue, he would have been accused of being an interested party, insanity… or worse. I am a Western European, and I must admit (to my shame) that I had practically never heard of Moldova (let alone heard its beautiful Romanian language) until O-Zone became an overnight international success story with its single ‘Dragostea Din Tei’. All thanks to the genius, sheer belief and the gutsy determination of Eurodance icon and personal branding hero Dan Balan.
So, Moldova anyone? For the ones of you not familiar with its geography or demographics, Moldova is a small country (slightly larger than the state of Maryland) with less than four million inhabitants and with close ties to big neighbor Romania (almost 20 million people), with whom she shares a language, history and strong economic and cultural ties. Born in 1979 to the Moldovan ambassador to Israel and a TV presenter at the Moldovan capital of Chisinau, Dan was determined from the start not only to make it in the music industry but also to make music that would make his country folk (and by that he meant neighboring Romania as well) proud.
“People in my country have forever had this mentality that anything coming from outside was better than the native produce. I wanted to change that.”
And change it he did: to such an extent that he made history by becoming the first ever Moldovan songwriter and performer to make it outside Eastern Europe. In order to achieve this incredible goal, Dan was clever enough first to leave Moldova to learn the ropes of the music business and later to surround himself with the talent of Arsenie and Radu to set up the trio O-Zone with which he would release hits such as ‘De ce plang kitarele’, ‘Despre Tine’ and finally ‘Dragostea Din Tei’. A brilliant songwriter and entertainer blessed with good looks and an irrepressible sense of fun, Dan continued with his solo career after O-Zone was disbanded in 2005 and he performs in big arenas in Eastern Europe and beyond to this day.
The recipient of numerous accolades, Dan – who currently lives in New York City – has also left his imprint in the US and was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2008 as a co-writer of Rihanna’s ‘Live Your Life’. It is noteworthy that Dan has remained especially careful of his personal brand and image from the start and that he revamped his looks at the onset of his solo career. His social media presence include a Facebook account with almost half a million fans, an official YouTube channel and a Twitter account all built and run according to personal branding principles, with a consistent image and reinforcing Dan’s new projects as a global producer and songwriter focused on the Russian and US markets.
Lessons for personal branders
– It does not matter where you come from, it only matters where you are going. Follow Dan Balan’s lead and don’t let your origins or background ever become an excuse for not thinking big
– History is made by those who dare. Someone will have to be the first in her family/peer group/country to do it: are you game?
– Some projects will always require a team effort: be wise to surround yourself with the best without in any way, shape or form diluting your personal brand
– Learn to adapt your brand to changing life and professional circumstances. Everything that is alive changes: don’t expect your personal brand to be any different
– In our globalized world, mobility is often a must. Where do you need to be at this moment in time to make a greater impact in your business or industry?
I invite you to join me next week when we’ll be discussing the biography and achievements of a woman who fought all kinds of prejudice to become one of the signature artists of her generation with an iconic personal brand who broke the mold. Until then, I hope you will be inspired by Dan’s example and I wish you a fantastic week.
Oscar Del Santo is a lecturer, consultant, key speaker, blogger and populariser of online reputation and inbound marketing in Spain. He has been extensively featured in the Spanish and Latin American media and is included in the ‘Top Social Media Influencers’ and ‘Best Marketing Tweeters in Spanish’ lists @OscarDS. He is the author of ‘Reputacion Online para Tod@s’ and the co-author of ‘Marketing de Atraccion 2.0’.