I live and work in Los Angeles, the capital of “The Star System”.
Yes, it’s true – the method of creating and promoting stars in Hollywood used to be known “The Star System”.   It started with the movie studios in the 1920s and 30s.  Studios would select talented actors and create roles for them, complete with new names and new backgrounds. The Star System had ‘rules’ for the behavior of stars (the women couldn’t go out without makeup; the male stars had to act like gentlemen…), and, in fact the “Star System” actually became quite controversial by the 1960s, when stars and celebrities wanted to take more control over their own celebrity brands.

Brands of  “The Star System”

Cary Grant (born Archie Leach), Joan Crawford (born Lucille Fay LeSueur), and Rock Hudson (born Roy Harold Scherer Jr.) and many others went through the  star system.  Today’s stars like  Miley Cyrus or the Jonas Brothers may not go through a formal star system per se, but Hollywood is still number 1 at knowing how to create, market, and monetize a brand.

At first blush, this doesn’t mesh with the authenticity of personal brand building of today. With the social web, 24-hour news cycle, etc., the idea of calculating and creating a Star (or brand) doesn’t feel right.

And yet, is it that much different from personal or corporate branding today? Think about your own brand.  You have a Personal Branding marketing plan for you, your products and your company.  You have an action plan for when and where you brand appears, what the message is, the positioning, etc., correct?

Here’s something to think about with celebrity branding:  the public gets emotionally involved. This is not an accident. This doesn’t just ‘happen’.

The old Star System of yesterday and the Hollywood publicists and public relations folks work hard to get you emotionally involved for a reason. Savvy marketers know that when people have an emotional involvement in your brand they will be loyal, passionate, forgiving; they will advocate for your brand, they will champion your cause, they will put themselves on the line. Who doesn’t want an audience or customer base emotionally involved? Imagine the word of mouth marketing this audience generates for a brand it’s emotionally involved in! Celebrity brands live and die by this fact.

Is it possible there are best practices from Hollywood marketing we should pay attention to as we develop our personal brands? I say YES. Start with this question, “Is your audience emotionally involved with your brand?”

Star gaze your personal brand

Spend the next week observing the celebrity PR machine as an object lesson and learn from Hollywood what you can apply to your own branding plan. It’s not as strange as it sounds.

1. Word-of-mouth marketing is extremely powerful. This is especially true as you build your personal brand today. Your marketing plan needs to keep your brand top of mind among your audience. When the buzz dies out, the brand fades, too.

2. Stay true to your brand message and image. This especially resonates today. You cannot afford to send mixed messages to your audience or they will turn their backs on you.

3. Bad press doesn’t have to destroy a brand. I talked about this last week with so many CEOs and others in crisis. A good personal branding campaign (otherwise known as the good ol’ PR spin machine in Hollywood) can wipe up just about any mess. Celebrities (and sometimes politicians) do this better than anyone.

4. Your audience is always watching. Just like the paparazzi is always following celebrities to feed consumers’ desires for more information about them, your audience is always watching you and your personal brand, too. Always put your best foot forward and make sure your messages support your overall brand. Especially because authenticity is so valued today, people want to feel comfortable that you are what your brand says you are.

5. The audience can be fickle. Your brand might be the most popular one day, but the next, your brand could be at the bottom of the barrel. Consumers are always looking for the next great thing. Think of this in terms of social media – where’s Friendstr today? Or MySpace? True, everyone loves a comeback, but it’s easier to keep your brand on top with  consistent and persistent messaging than to try to climb up again.

After your observations for a week, be open to applying strategies and tactics that you think might work in your personal branding efforts.  Apply what you think works, and be on the lookout for what doesn’t work. There’s certainly plenty to work with… the antics of celebrities are seldom dull!


Beverly Macy is the Managing Partner of Y&M Partners and teaches a social media class at the UCLA Extension.  She also co-hosts Gravity Summit events.