What It Takes To Build An Influential Personal Brand
In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interview Laura Bull. Laura is a bestselling author and brand strategist who specializes in transforming people into competitive and sustainable business brands. Her latest book is — From Individual to Empire: A Guide to Building an Authentic and Powerful Brand.
Laura Bull spent ten years with Sony Music Entertainment and spearheaded artist development including Carrie Underwood, Brad Paisley, and Johnny Cash.
Now she’s helping entrepreneurs discover and leverage their authentic and competitive brands. In this episode, we dive into how to build a personal brand, why she’s working to redefine the term “influencer”, and how to transform entrepreneurs into viable brands.
Questions I ask Laura Bull:
- [1:40] The branding of the music industry has changed dramatically — hasn’t it?
- [4:27] What’s one of the wackiest stories from working with artists in the music industry that you want to share or who’s somebody that came on the scene and didn’t develop like you thought they should have?
- [6:05] Could you talk about where we’re at today with personal branding and how influencer branding is a very different thing?
- [8:06] What are your thoughts on the idea that it isn’t about putting your name on all kinds of stuff and people who do a great job with influencer marketing have a point of view about what they’re trying to accomplish?
- [11:40] What’s the difference in your view of narrative versus storytelling?
- [13:56] Could you share a little about your five-part framework of an influencer — specifically if I’m a brand and I want to increase my influencer, what are the things I need to start thinking about doing first?
- [18:02] Could you unpack your brand matrix for us?
- [20:33] Where can people find out more about you and your work?
More About Laura Bull:
- Her latest book is — From Individual to Empire: A Guide to Building an Authentic and Powerful Brand.
Learn More About The Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network:
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John Jantsch (00:48): Hello, and welcome to another episode of the duct tape marketing podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Laura Bull she's best selling author and brand strategists who specializes in transforming people into competitive sustainable business brand. She's also the author of, from individual to empire, a guide to building the, an authentic and powerful brand. So Laura, welcome to the show.
Laura Bull (01:15): Thanks for having me. It's the long title, isn't it?
John Jantsch (01:18): You know, it's fun, not the longest I've seen that's for
Laura Bull (01:22): That's true.
John Jantsch (01:23): My publishers love to get a bunch of, uh, stuff in there.
Laura Bull (01:26): Yes they do.
John Jantsch (01:28): We were talking off air and it's in your bio, but I didn't read it, uh, that you spent 10 years with Sony music entertainment in artist development, working with brands like Carrie Underwood, Brad Paisley, Johnny Cash. And I, and it's interesting when I was growing up, people wrote good songs, recorded them and then went on tour to sell albums. The three artists that you named, or that, that I named in, in, in your bio, you know, are really more of a package. Aren't they? I mean, it's that the industry, or just even the branding of the industry has changed dramatically, hasn't it?
Laura Bull (02:00): Well, I think people are starting to understand that they have to become a brand. A, the industry has changed in the sense of nobody's really selling the products that they're making. Right? The albums have become basically obsolete because of retailer. I iTunes decided that they were gonna, you know, charge 99 cents, basically, right? When, you know, the record labels, who is the manufac of the music, they actually were putting in millions of dollars and needed that $20 return on investment for each sale. So when that kind of started getting a little wonky, you know, and people, listen, Johnny Cash has been around and he's been doing it for much longer than iTunes, right? Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Um, so he, you know, he knew it had to be a package deal. He did the television, he did merchandise. He did sponsorships. I mean, that's kind of, I think now newer artists are realizing that they really have to start out with all of those different revenue streams in order to even state a chance. And so I think that, you know, in the Johnny Cash days, I think that the brand kind of developed over time and in our, what I call the narrative age, you know, PA post the internet age. Now we're in the narrative age where there's just so many narratives coming at us daily. And minute by minute, you know, I think everybody is realizing that they have to really figure out that brand at the very beginning or they don't stay at a chance.
John Jantsch (03:20): Right. And, and I think the parallel there is for business brands as well, right. I mean, it's not a hundred percent, yes. We don't just make a product and get, hire a sales team and send them out there to tell the world about it. Right. I mean, it's so many channels and avenues
Laura Bull (03:33): Well, and a lot when you're dealing with people, a lot of the time and, and record labels used to do this all the time and kind of still do, they'll just throw out a song to radio and if it sticks and they'll throw out a few and then if it doesn't work, then they'll just drop 'em and make their millions on another artist. Right. You know, that's true in so many different industries publishing in
John Jantsch (03:52): Politics, book,
Laura Bull (03:53): Publish publishing book, right time a person is the product that they're selling as a business. You know, a, I find in my experience that these people aren't actually treating themselves as businesses do. Right. Uh, they don't have a mission statement, you know, like things like that are just so commonplace in a business scenario when you're developing staff and, you know, corporate environment, you know, people aren't realizing that they need to do that as well.
John Jantsch (04:21): All right. We're gonna move off the music, but I gotta, I I'd be remiss if I didn't at least invite you to tell me. What's like one of the wackiest stories that came out of I'll give you two avenues to go here. Oh, what's one of the wackiest stories that you wanna share or who's somebody that came on the scene and didn't develop like flamed out. Like they should have, should have gone big and didn't
Laura Bull (04:44): Oh gosh, I have so many friends that should have gone big. And didn't I, and I didn't, I can't even, I wouldn't give you those names cuz it's not fair to them. So a wacky story. I mean, I've had some pretty wacky stories. I have a cool story. I'll tell you we were doing the Johnny Cash. I think it was Johnny Cash. No, it was the, it was one of the CMA awards or something. And I was a lowly intern and I was like a, I was working a stage hand. This was, I won't tell you the year. It was a very long time ago. And the, the crew all had their like meals together in the Opry house, next door to the, the, or whatever, where all the production and the television production was going on. And I sat down one time and OU Harris was sitting with the crew, having the meals with us. And it was like, everybody else was hold up in their dressing rooms, having their minions, bring them food. You know what I mean? And she was the most senior person there and didn't really say anything. She was just chill. She was just hanging out. I was just like, okay, hi.
John Jantsch (05:49): Well, well I'm a huge fan. So that goes right on what my perception of her brand is too. So
Laura Bull (05:54): Yeah. Very chill. Very cool. Yeah. I won't tell you all the I'll save all the wacky, the, the insane stories that you would not ever believe unless, you know, so that I can save myself from lawsuits.
John Jantsch (06:05): Well, that's all right. Let's talk about, uh, the topic of the hand, personal branding is something that's been with us like a decade. I don't know. Tom Peters came out with brand me, which was an awesome book probably 15 years, years ago. And feel like that was sort of the launch of it. But I know from your book, you're saying that like we've moved on from that. And that influencer branding is a very different thing. So I'll let you just kinda set that up.
Laura Bull (06:29): I'm so glad you said that. Cuz I feel like, you know, everything, all buzzword get a little stale, right? So authenticity, I get it's in the title of my a book, but you know, that's one of these words right now that is just like so overdone, because nine times outta the out of 10, it's actually used in an incorrect way. And there is a whole study of personal branding. But when it comes to what I call influencer branding, first off, I'm trying to redefine the term influencer because influencer is just not online. Only, you
John Jantsch (06:59): Know, it's not TikTok. I don't have to just
Laura Bull (07:01): Start at TikTok. It's not TikTok. You may have to start a TikTok. I'm not saying you can't, but you know, there are on, there are offline influencers that are just as powerful and, and for 2000 years, this IST something new, right. You know, influencers are influencers. So that's the first thing I'm trying to do. But then secondly, in it's really about these people who are products, how do they figure out all the crazy things and all the unique things that make them unique and authentic and real and people, but then they have to whittle it down. Then they have to whittle it down, uh, to something that is as focused as like a Nike shoot. Right? So I think that is where influencer branding comes in because it's taking that personal brand and then turning it into something that is competitive in the marketplace, but also focused enough to be a business brand.
John Jantsch (07:50): So I think the, I think the unfortunate thing is when we talk about influencers, you know, there's all like the really plain examples. Good and bad. You, you know, that probably aren't that useful in some cases for the person who's actually trying, uh, to build something. So would you say that one of the traits that I notice and I just let you sort of share your thoughts on this is that it's not just about being popular or, and you know, putting your name on all kinds of stuff. It, the people that I think really do a great job with it kind of have a point of view about what they're trying to accomplish.
Laura Bull (08:26): Well, it's gotta be a purpose. Yeah. So that that's, you know, that comes into the personal branding thing. You have to have a purpose, you have to just like any business, you know, whatever Nike stands for, you know, somebody has to connect with that over Adidas. You know what I mean? So it's the same thing when it comes to people, they really, if they have a very unique purpose with a unique concept around it, whether that's a product or a service they provide. And the way that I kind of look at the brand itself is three different avenues. You have the image, you have the narrative and you have the product slash service. All three of those things have to be saying the exact same thing to the consumer, for them to really connect directly. There is no such thing as an it factor, right? I like if you have all three of those things and a consumer can pick it up within nanoseconds, then you have a good brand. That is something that is gonna connect with people.
John Jantsch (09:25): Well, I'll push back a little on the it factor thing, because that certainly, and I, I don't mean to challenge you on. I just mean that's certainly a perception that like in the music industry, I'm sure you saw people is like, I don't know why they didn't make it, but this person made it. I don't know why either, but it's just like people connected. So I mean, it, it exists, but I think what you're saying is that it's not something you can just bring to market.
Laura Bull (09:49): It's not something that you're born with. Right. They're like when I say there's no such thing as an it factor, it's because it's not something that is like, oh my gosh, this person has it. And this person doesn't right. It's, you know, if you have two minutes on the tonight show talk, uh, couch, right, right. If you can, if your image says exactly what your purpose and what your brand is, and your conversation says the same thing and whatever you're selling connects with all three of the, those things that is a clear enough message that the consumer feels like that person has the, you know what I mean? Yep.
John Jantsch (10:23): Yep. Yep.
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John Jantsch (11:23): So I, I, I wanna get into some practical like how to things, but I you've mentioned the word narrative a couple times and in the world of marketing and branding storytelling is, you know, again, another decade or so of, you know, nobody was talking about it to now there's a whole section in book stories on, you know, on storytelling and marketing. You've mentioned narrative. And I think that's, I really picked up on that because in my last book, I talked about the difference between nor narrative and storytelling. And I'd love to just throw that to you. What's the difference in your view of narrative versus storytelling?
Laura Bull (11:54): I feel like storytelling is part of the narrative. Yes. Everything that comes, anything that is a message to the consumer about the brand is a narrative. So I have a whole chapter in my book about narratives and breaking it down and how to avoid bad narratives. You know, a lot of brands get muddled. They have two too many narratives going on. Some are the inauthentic, you know, some are, they don't have, you know, some don't even have a narrative. They don't know what they're out there saying they don't know what they're trying to communicate, you know? Yeah. And so it could be everything from the bio, the story, you know, I feel like I'm trying to think any, I'm trying to give other examples. And I can't think of 'em off the top of my head, but like even a housewife, like in that chapter, I use Bethany Frankel as an example of a narrative coming before the product.
Laura Bull (12:44): Right. She was a, a TV personality and her personality was the narrative. I really, the way that I plotted out in my book is personality traits, values. All of those things are part of the narrative. So she already had that out there before she even created skinny girl. And then, so the product came after which in normal business product service comes first and then you build the narrative around it. Right? Yeah. So I think we're in this really interesting place now where if social media and with television and all of the different direct to consumer platforms that we have, I think that narrative has almost, if not become the most important thing to connect.
John Jantsch (13:25): Yeah. I tell people, it's the way you tell the story, you know? So it's like a movie that starts with the fiery crash, you know, and you don't know what happened. And then all of a sudden cut to the protagonist in seventh grade. I mean, it's like, there's still a story in that, but it's the way that the story's delivered that sucks you in.
Laura Bull (13:42): And I also, in addition to that, I also say tone. Yeah. Yeah. You know, are you a professional tone? Are you a familiar tone? How are you delivering the message? All of those are part of the narrative. Absolutely.
John Jantsch (13:53): So let's get into sort of nitty a gritty, like your framework. So you talk about traits or the five PS, you know, of an influencer. So if somebody's thinking, okay, we've talked in general terms about influencers, you know what, you know, what do I need to do if I'm a brand and I, I want to increase my influence, my power, you know, what are the things need to start thinking about doing first?
Laura Bull (14:18): Well, so the first part of my book is about that personal branding side. So it's a lot of the introspection things. Yeah. So the five PS right here, the five PS
John Jantsch (14:28): Are wait. Right. Did you have to go reference your book, Laura,
Laura Bull (14:31): I'm pulling up as a visual.
John Jantsch (14:35): The only reason I, I say that is I, I too get interviewed on shows about my books and somebody will say on page 47 in this book. Yeah.
Laura Bull (14:42): I definitely dunno. What's on page 47.
Laura Bull (14:45): I, I, I make this comment on social media all the time. I forget so many things that I've written in my book. It took me five years to write this book. I wrote a hundred thousand words and only 50,000 good ones. So, and I'm not writing another one, but so the five PS that you're referencing is more about the psychology behind the fact that as people who are also the product that can get in your way with self branding and with, you know, making business decisions that are personal driven instead of business driven. Right? So a lot of the, the, okay, so passion is one. Yeah. Perseverance is another positivity is another purpose and power. And there's a lot of grit elements in that from Angela Duckworth. There's the happiness advantage factor from Sean ACOR. You know, a lot of people confuse passion and purpose. And so that's an issue. And then power is really about, you have power over your own brand as the CEO of your business, right? And once you under the psych accepting the fact that you have the power actually gives you the confidence to be able to pull it off, you know what I mean to, and that confidence actually comes through in the brand. So these elements actually do shine through, into the brand itself. Once you get to the second phase, it, which is, you know, creating the actual brand pillars. Yeah. So,
John Jantsch (16:13): So, you know, you kind of hinted at what I hear all the time, people talking about imposter syndrome. And I think that's really what you're talking about in some ways is that the, and I hate the whole like fake until you make it, you know, conversation. But there really are a lot of people that, that it's really, that they own that power. And that's really allows them to make the decisions that are in their best.
Laura Bull (16:35): Maybe benefits goes 90% of the way for, you know, public figures, for sure. Yeah. You know, you have to, and if you don't have the confidence that you are an expert in what you're talking about, nobody's gonna believe you, that you have that expertise. So, but also when you are a public figure, like a musician or like a TV personality or whoever they're, they have so many people around them and everybody is gonna chime in with what they think you should be and what they think your brand should be. And if you don't have a solid foundation in what you are, then you will get derailed. Every single person that I have seen has had that happen, that is the number one way people are failing.
John Jantsch (17:18): So there's a pretty well known influencer in the marketing business space. Gary Vanderchuck like, you've probably run across Gary V. Yeah. And I really think that, you know, I, you know, I met Gary when he was just starting, cuz I've been around a long time and he just, that, that was his whole stick is like, you have to believe me because I'm so confident, you know, and that really attracted people. I'm saying he wouldn't hustle and you know, do a lot of things. But a lot of it was just an attraction factor of guys. This guy's so positive about what he's doing, that he must be onto something.
Laura Bull (17:49): Yeah. Yeah.
John Jantsch (17:52): So there was one other, um, piece in, in your book that I found very interesting. I'm kind of a cool, I'm kind of a tool and process person. So your, your brand matrix.
Laura Bull (18:04): Yes.
John Jantsch (18:05): So do you wanna maybe unpack that for us and, and uh, oh,
Laura Bull (18:08): It's hard to explain without visuals.
John Jantsch (18:11): Well, well you, you feel happy to feel free to send me anything. I'll post it. Uh, if you've got some visuals you want us to post,
Laura Bull (18:18): Oh, they can go to my website, Laura will.com. I have free resources there. So the, okay. Think about a Vinn diagram, right? Three circles. One is the image, which I said earlier, narrative is the other and the product and service is the last one. The intersection is a group of terms that can apply to all three areas, right? So let's say pink, for instance, the artist pink, pink hair, right. Would be under image. Yeah. But that's obviously not gonna apply to the narrative and the product that she is offering. Right. However, if you dig deeper about the pink care Rebell, Rebell is in the center, you can portray revel in image. You can portray it in narrative and you can portray it in the product and the service that she offers. That is the type of things that you're looking for at the center. Now taking it a step further, you need at least four or five terms in the center of that ven diagram, because it's the grouping of those together that it's going to make you unique from the outside in the marketplace, from the outside competition, right?
Laura Bull (19:24): If there is something in there, like let's say you get those final grouping together and you're looking at these words and it minds you of somebody that's already in the marketplace. All you have to do is remove one and replace it with another true and authentic. Of course, you're always, you gotta make, you gotta do the authenticity work first, get to the brand matrix. So basically once you have your four to five brand pillars that is incorporated it for the rest of your career, and they have to be generic enough to be able to evolve over time, but they also have to be specific enough to set you aside from the competition. So it's this really narrow spot that you're trying to work towards.
John Jantsch (20:02): Well, I think you did an amazing job explaining it to,
Laura Bull (20:04): I think that was the best one I've done to say.
John Jantsch (20:07): And obviously pick up a copy of the book if you really wanna dig into to this. But so Laura, it was awesome having you stop by.
Laura Bull (20:14): And it's an audio book too now, by the way,
John Jantsch (20:16): Which
Laura Bull (20:17): Just came out instant bestseller the first week I was, I held off on that too, because I was confused. I was concerned without the visuals, but it they're taking it good. So I like it
John Jantsch (20:27): More than 50% of my book sales are audio book now it's crazy. Yeah. So, all right. Tell people where they can find out more about, obviously the book can be purchased anywhere you buy books, but uh, where can they find out more about you and your work?
Laura Bull (20:40): Laura bowl.com? I have, uh, free resources there and any of my books and information and connecting information there, as well as my social media, I met the Laura bull on all the platforms. Awesome. And Laura bowl branding on Facebook. Sorry.
John Jantsch (20:55): That's all right. So thanks for stopping by the duct tape marketing podcast and hopefully we'll, uh, see you one of these days out there on the road.
Laura Bull (21:02): Yeah. I love it. Thanks for having me. You
John Jantsch (21:03): Bet. All right. So that wraps up another episode. I wanna thank you so much for tuning in and you know, we love those reviews and comments. And just generally tell me what you think also did you know that you could offer the duct tape marketing system, our system to your clients and build a complete marketing consulting coaching business, or maybe level up an agency with some additional services. That's right. Check out the duct tape marketing consultant network. You can find it at ducttapemarketing.com and just scroll down a little and find that offer our system to your client's tab.
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