All Articles Tagged "branding"

Gabourey Sidibe Is Showcasing Her Personality & Winning

March 31st, 2015 - By Karen Taylor Bass
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Image Source: WENN

Image Source: WENN

Brand Gabourey Sidibe is winning. She is working consistently in Hollywood and using brand consistency to showcase her confident, bold and determined personality to make the most of her big break since Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire. She is a NAACP Image Award recipient, Academy Award nominee, Saturday Night Live host alum, co-starring in the monster hit Empire and recently scored another coup with a lead role in the upcoming Hulu comedy, “Difficult People.” Not bad for an actress who had never acted before and doesn’t fit the Hollywood mold.

Branding is an overused word. How do you create the perfect brand – in life and in business? By being a bold dreamer and allowing your authentic beauty, personality and winning attitude to shine. Real talk: Sidibe is the unlikely next big star. But she has fomented demand simply by being herself.

This isn’t to say that she’s oblivious to the people out there talking smack. She’s just particularly good at shutting it down and moving on.

As mentioned in my previous articles branding is simply a consistent feeling, image, and experience desired from a product conveyed to the general public. Basically, you – the entrepreneur – are the brand. The minute someone interfaces with you, they are deciding if they should do business with your brand based on their perception of you.

As entrepreneurs and women we must learn from Brand Sidibe to love the skin we are in to attract the big break. How many of us miss the mark because we don’t believe in our gifts? Is it because we are worrying about the competition? Or, because we lack confidence in our talent? All you need to succeed is within you.

Start dreaming big and bold today:
1. Dreams don’t happen overnight. It takes heart, persistence, money and blessings to make one’s dream become a reality.
2. Dreams must be gargantuan. It’s not acceptable to just dream. Your dream must be out of this world so that when you tell people about them they laugh. As they say, if your peers are not laughing then you are dreaming too small.
3. Dreams only flourish with confidence.
4. Dreams must have clarity. Know what you want, how you want it, and with whom you want it. When you ask, you will receive. Make certain you are asking wisely.
5. Dreams are ordained. Tap into a higher spirit and simply believe.
6. Dreams have vampires. Stay away from those who can seek to rob you of your chance. Keep the haters at bay.

Bold, Beautiful and Determined Reset: Dream in color. See the moment, feel the moment and actively participate in the realization of the moment.

Karen Taylor Bass, an award winning PR Expert, media coach, best-selling author and Brand Mom. Follow Karen @thebrandnewmom.

5 Personal Branding Mistakes You Should Avoid

March 20th, 2015 - By Rana Campbell
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personal branding mistakes

According to Amanda Miller Littlejohn, a Washington,DC – based personal branding coach and creator of The Branding Box, a personal brand home study system designed to help individuals clarify their message, position their expertise and increase their visibility, “This is a great time to be a Black woman.”

“Women are embracing their natural hair, getting into shape and shedding generations-long bad eating  habits. It’s like a renewal. We are embracing digital tools, starting websites, and expressing ourselves,” says Littlejohn. However, are you ensuring that the brand called YOU is clearly defined? Can it be leveraged to bring you new opportunities?

We spoke with Littlejohn about some of the personal branding mistakes she’s seen individuals make over the years.  Check out the blunders she identified as well as her tips on how you can turn these mistakes into successes and starting building your personal brand today.

1. Having an “Employee Mentality”

Amanda Miller Littlejohn (AML): Many are comfortable marketing and promoting the company or person they work for, but have hesitation when it comes to promoting themselves. They think of self-promotion as braggy, obnoxious or self-serving, when in fact they would do the same thing, if not more  for their employer, especially, if they are in a marketing role. People who go out and decide to do their own thing and start their own business can still suffer  from that mentality when they don’t want to step out of the shadows. They might want to promote the work of something bigger, instead of promoting their own brand. They sometimes forget that they are the bigger brand.

To fix this,  embrace the spotlight. Speak up when people ask you questions. Step out when you are invited to speak. Look for opportunities to share what you know. At the end of the day, your brand may be all that you have in the next fifteen years.

2. Waiting Until The Last Minute To Build Your Brand

AML: Many times individuals may wait until they are ready to switch jobs or get new clients to start building a brand. A lot of people come to me in that situation. They need to start building a brand immediately because they need an opportunity. That’s a backwards way to go about doing it. Building your brand steadily is more authentic. Opportunities will come to you.

College is a good time to start building your brand. Work on your Linkedin profile (and build your experience) during your undergraduate years. Collect recommendations from advisors and professors. Build the social proof that you need to create credibility around who you are. Although most people won’t be able to look at your college transcript, they can look at your Linkedin profile and see if you are highly recommended, dependable, punctual, etc. Nowadays, everyone is previewing Linkedin profiles before they hire you.  That’s a  really easy place to put positive information about yourself.

3. Not Being Proactive

AML: It’s a great thing to get opportunities that come your way. A better thing is to go after opportunities. The best thing to do is to create opportunities. For example, an example of me waiting for an opportunity would me waiting for you (the reporter) to reach out to me to schedule an interview. Me being proactive (or going after the opportunity) is me calling you up and [pitching] my expertise directly, and saying, “ I know you write for MadameNoire, would you like to interview me?” Me making an opportunity would be realizing that you may not be interested in me at the current time, but [deciding] to create a blog and write something that is reflective and fills a need for the audience I am trying to attract.

People have to be more proactive now because the barrier to entry to create have fallen drastically in the last 15 years. When I was in high school, if you wanted a magazine, website, or newsletter, you had to go to people to make that happen for you. Now, anything you want to do is within reach. If you want a TV show, you can create a YouTube channel. If you want to write a book, you can type it up and submit it to Create Space. This is a response to the technological advances we are experiencing. There are no excuses for  the person that has something to say and wants to create a platform.

4. Using social media only to “be social”

AML: A lot of people use social media for recreation and as a way to keep in touch, but don’t use it as away to make it work for them. I love seeing funny things on Instagram, but are you also putting out your expertise and services? Are you making it for you? I use Instagram to create more awareness around my brand, what I’m doing, what I offer, and what I can do for a new client. I am building an audience. If your social is just fun and games, it’s like you are working for it. It’s not working for you. I don’t think people think strategically. Everyone doesn’t have to use social to create new clients or new business opportunities, but you should be thinking about how social can help you get the things that you want. How can you use it to connect with people across the country or around the world? Use it to create for more credibility for yourself. Your biggest fan might become your biggest customer.”

5. You don’t invest in your brand

AML: In the next 15  years, people who have taken the time to make sure people know who they are and what they can do are going to have a much bigger advantage over those who haven’t. The work world is getting leaner and more efficient. Companies are getting smaller because we have all these tools. In the workplace, questions that test your proficiency with WordPress, digital photography, page layout, video or sound editing will be commonplace. It’s because tools are universally available, inexpensive, or even free. If you don’t know how to use them, you will be behind the times. It may get more cutthroat as far as where opportunities go. For people who are creating opportunities and building their brand, they will have a big advantage over others who are waiting for things to come to them. Investing takes time, thought, and sometimes money. Don’t be afraid to take courses and fill in some skill gaps. These are investments that appreciate. Once you have knowledge and understand how to position and promote yourself, your career always benefits. We invest a lot in how we look, but how are much are we investing in how we “look” in the perceptions of the marketplace? How much are you investing in your reputation and how you come across to other people?

Rana Campbell is a freelance writer and marketing/branding strategist. Connect with her on TwitterFacebook, Instagram, Linkedin or visit

‘Grow Your Brand’ Brings Together Millennial Women Entrepreneurs During Social Media Week NY

February 27th, 2015 - By Janel Martinez
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smw15Brooklyn Wine Yard was packed with business-minded women looking to take their startups and companies to the next level. Hosted by Innov8tiv, Ibom LLC, MadameNoire and Social Media Week NY, “Grow Your Brand” provided attendees with invaluable knowledge on what makes a great pitch and ways to brand yourself in the digital age.

The pitch portion, which was hosted by Ariel Lopez, founder of 2020Shift and career coach at General Assembly, and yours truly featured Jessica Santana, co-founder of Brooklyn On Tech and Worldwide Boss; Kianta Key, founder of EveryBody; and Michelle Gall, founder of Digital Girl, Inc., among other women in tech. After each entrepreneur delivered a three-to-five minute pitch, the pitch coaches—Anthony Frasier, co-founder of The Phat Startup; Chana Ewing, founder and president of littlebigGirl + CO; Eddie Washington, business development producer at General Assembly; and Associate Managing Editor at Black Enterprise Janell Hazelwood.

The conversation spread beyond the four corners of the venue and across Twitter timelines via the event’s hashtag, #smwnetworq. Here are several tips shared during Tuesday’s Social Media Week event:

Business Card Too Bland? Creative Business Cards Say More About A Brand

January 30th, 2015 - By Michelle Alerte
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Business cards may be the conventional marketing foundation of every company, but being standard doesn’t mean being boring. While nine cards out of 10 are on white stock with colored lettering, there is no rule stating yours can’t be a tool for highlighting the company culture behind your unique brand. These nine creative business cards aren’t just placeholders for your name, website and email. Instead they offer the receiver a glimpse into the lighthearted, serious, techie, or educational nature of your business.

7 Branding & Marketing Tips For Small Business Owners Just Starting Out 

January 15th, 2015 - By Kara Stevens
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Once you have decided that you want to start a business, you are going to have to figure out what your business stands for and how you are going to make money.  Since your brand is an extension of you and how you market that brand will determine how long you stay in business, it is extremely important that you create a viable marketing plan so your ideal client will know about you and your products and services and vice versa.

Christine St.Vil and Julian Kiganda, sisters and co-authors of Whose Shoes Are You Wearing? 12-Steps to Uncovering the Woman You Really Want to Be and owners of Moms N’ Charge and Bold & Fearless, respectively have over 20 of years of combined experience in marketing and branding as small business owners.

They shared their tips for marketing and branding your business. Here are three of Kiganda’s tips about branding:

Have total clarity on your WHY. So often, we get into business because we see an opportunity that is too good to pass up, but we’re not always clear on WHY we really want to get into business. The opportunity is less important than the WHY. Why? Because your WHY defines your passion. Your WHY defines your mission—the foundation of a successful company. Your WHY defines your commitment. Your WHY will keep you pushing even when you feel like giving up.

Know who you are. When you know who you are, you understand your value. As it’s been said: You don’t get paid for the work you do in an hour; you get paid for the VALUE you bring to that hour. How can you know your value if you don’t know who you are? I’ve found that taking the time to get clear on who I am, what I want and what I deserve, has helped me become much more focused and clear on the direction in which I want to take my business. Because of that, I can resist the wrong opportunities—no matter how good they look—because they are not aligned with who I am or the vision I have for my life.

Deliver on your promise. There is no faster way to destroy your brand than by making promises to customers and clients that you don’t keep. In this age of social media, it is more important than ever for your brand to deliver. Providing consistently great products and customer service is one of the best types of marketing there is!

Here are St. Vil’s top marketing tips for new entrepreneurs:

Focus on relationship building. The money is in your relationships. People refer business to those they can vouch for, those who they know, like, trust and will go the extra mile. Build relationships that matter and surround yourself with people who you can learn and grow from.

Focus on creating and sharing great content that your audience wants/needs/will benefit from. When you focus your marketing on giving rather than receiving, you will inevitably attract clients/prospects. Don’t make it all about you and what you have to share (sell). Make it about your target audience and what they need, focus on their pain points and strategies to solve them.

Tell your story. People connect to the mess behind your message. Everyone has a story. Until you can face your own and share it with others, it will prevent them (your true audience) from connecting with you. Allow your story to put you in a position of authority and increase your credibility. Do you relate more to those who have never gone through struggle or those who show that they’ve gone through struggle and show you how you can overcome it like they did?

When your business grows, make sure your head stays the same size. Stay humble. When you become a “local celebrity,” or your status in your industry becomes elevated, never forget where you came from. Have integrity with everyone you interact with because you never know how people are connected. Don’t ever stop feeling like you have to stop being humble because you’ve “made it.”

The #BrownGirlBoss Series seeks to provide inspiration, information, and support to aspiring brown girl entrepreneurs. This is Part II of the series.

Connect with Kara @frugalfeminista. Learn more about The Frugal Feminista at Download her free ebook The 5-Day Financial Reset Plan: Eliminate Debt, Know Your Worth, and Heal Your Relationship with Money in Just 5 Days. Join Kara’s closed $20 Cash Crash Diet Facebook Group to get some sistergirl support and accountability for reaching your savings goals. 

‘America’s Next Top Model’s Raelia Lewis & The Difficult Rise To Modeling Stardom

October 17th, 2014 - By Candace Smith
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Photo credit: Marcus Palmer

Photo credit: Marcus Palmer

For many young girls around the world, modeling is a glamorous dream, bolstered by gazing at pictures of supermodels on the pages of Vogue and practicing a signature runway walk in front of the mirror. For many young Black girls, it is even more difficult for this vision to become a reality.

It may be considered a fantasy by most, but the fact is modeling is a job and it requires business sense, hard work, and determination in order to make a living in the field and grow one’s brand. Deep into the 21st cycle of America’s Next Top Model, Philadelphia native Raelia Lewis is a standout, not just due to her height of 6 feet, ½ inch tall, but also because of her fierce determination to make her name known within one of the toughest industries to ever exist.

Getting her start as a model at the age of 15, Lewis began sourcing her own modeling jobs and photo shoots. “I did some local modeling and by the ages of 17, 18, I branched out and became a freelance model and started to source my own jobs and photo shoots,” Lewis tells us. The work of getting her name and look noticed, much less referred, on a consistent basis was challenging. But for Lewis, the hard work was something that she loved doing. Fast forward six years later and Lewis has made it onto millions of television screens as one of Tyra Banks’ Next Top Model contestants. With a curly weave makeover and tips on how to refine her runway walk, viewers have witnessed Lewis’ transformation into a new kind of model — one that’s discovering the power in her height, body, and mind.

Being self-aware, particularly as a Black fashion model, is important. Modeling agency founder and director Ellen Wasser-Hrin, of MMA/Model Management Agency in Pennsylvania, has seen young women and men rise in their respective modeling careers for 25 years. If you want to be a fashion model, you must have certain body measurements. “Fashion models in the major markets are typically 5’9 to 5’11 and a size 2, with measurements of 34-24-34,” Wasser-Hrin says. “Features of the face should be symmetrical. However, in commercial markets there is a need for a variety of sizes and shapes. Local models do not have to be as thin as they are wanted to be in New York City.”

Even with the right measurements, a perfectly symmetrical face, and endless amounts of energy and fashion sense, Lewis recommends that you focus on yourself. “It’s really tough being an African-American woman in the modeling industry,” Lewis says. “There aren’t too many of us, ever. There is always the ‘token’ or ‘ethnic’ African-American woman model, but there are never enough of us, period. Sometimes I don’t know how I should come off because I may not know what the client or agent is necessarily looking for. All I can do is walk into their offices, be confident, and not let that stop me. There are opportunities out here and I may not book every job, but I just focus on the things that I know I can do and go for it.”

Speaking from the other side of the casting table, Wasser-Hrin also has some valuable advice for all women of various ethnicities that hope to realize their supermodel aspirations. “Send photos to a variety of agencies and be yourself in your pictures as well as in meetings and do not get discouraged. One must have confidence and talent in front of the camera if an agency is going to take notice and want to represent the model or talent. It is important to ‘shine’ from the inside out, so live a healthy lifestyle and show your personality and positive attitude at your castings. Also, never pay an agency for representation.”

To a certain degree, having the “right look” requires a stroke of luck in the genetics department. Still, whether you want to see your face behind a Sprite campaign or strutting on a runway, there are fundamental elements of business that should be highly considered to put you ahead of the pack: knowing yourself (both inside and out) in order to market your brand effectively; being mindful of what is in your control and using that  to your advantage; being attentive to scams; being consistent and persistent; and keeping yourself open to opportunity and change.

“Nothing worth having comes easy, no matter what you want to do in life,” Lewis declares after looking back at how far she has come with her modeling goals. You just have to be willing to work and troop through anything that comes your way. You will get so many no’s, but you have to want it. If you don’t want it, then you won’t see why it’s worth it.”

Nia Long Joins Regina Hall As A Brand Ambassador For White Diamonds Lustre

July 14th, 2014 - By Ann Brown
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whitediamonds2014Nia Long has been tapped to become a new brand ambassador for the White Diamonds scent, joining Regina Hall as an ambassador for the brand.

Launched more than 20 years ago, it is one of the top-selling fragrances on the market with more than a billion dollars in sales. Some of the proceeds from her Elizabeth Taylor Fragrances are earmarked for the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.

Long will help introduce a new product,  White Diamonds Lustre Elizabeth Taylor.

“Elizabeth Taylor said White Diamonds was her ‘Diamonds In A Bottle,’ and that’s what Lustre really is to me – Lustre just adds that extra sparkle,” said Long, who will be starring in WE tv’s first original scripted drama series, The Divide, premiering Wednesday, July 16.

The company is hoping to pull in a new, younger market with Long, describing the new product as sparkling with “the energy of youth, the vibrancy of a strong personality and the mystery of what might come next.”

Back in May, it was announced that Regina Hall would also be serving as a brand ambassador for the perfume. “Whenever I do red carpet looks one of the things that I like is to always make sure that there’s a sense of elegance and class,” Hall told us a couple of months ago. “And I felt like [Elizabeth Taylor] always exuded that.”

Elizabeth Taylor launched her scent with Passion, which was an instant success and was soon followed by Passion for Men. White Diamonds was released in 1991 and has become Taylor’s most successful fragrance grossing $61.3 billion globally in 2010, according to market research firm Euromonitor International.

“With the launch of her first fragrance in 1987, Elizabeth Taylor’s Passion, she built a fragrance empire and one of the most successful brands in fragrance history,” a statement from the company said (via CNN). “White Diamonds remains a best seller almost 20 years after its 1991 introduction, a testimony to her transcendent and enduring appeal. Our best tribute to Elizabeth Taylor will be to continue the legacy of the brands she created and loved so much.”

“Branding is everything these days, but to attach yourself to something that really has a legacy behind it,” Long told us in an interview just last month. Read more on that here.

PR Lessons From That Infamous Elevator Video: Keep Your Cool. You’re Always Being Watched.

May 19th, 2014 - By Rana Campbell
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via @Beyonce on IG

via @Beyonce on IG

If you were like me when the footage showing Solange attacking Jay-Z in an elevator was released by TMZ, you were probably thinking, “What the hell happened?” While many people have theorized and expressed on the details of the night, I actually thought there were some great personal branding gems that came out of the incident.

Here are three tips on personal branding I learned from Solange, Jay-Z, and Beyonce.

1. Pick your battles wisely. This gem came from Beyonce. It’s never cool to flip out in public. Though I don’t know the details of what really happened, whatever it is, Beyonce chose not to react while she was “out of the house.” This serves as a reminder to not only keep your composure in public, but to also decide which battles you want to fight. If you really believe you need to intervene in a situation, then do so, but be ready to justify your actions. Maybe it just wasn’t worth it to Bey. That’s okay. Though not everyone can be so composed, there is much to be said for the person who doesn’t act up in public. Bey was sure to remember this. What will be the consequences of your reaction ? Think it through and then make your decisions.

2. Don’t act a fool in public. I think this one is a given. Unless being rowdy is part of your brand or you’re defending yourself against attack, it’s always best to just wait until you’re in private to settle a dispute. Solange probably didn’t think there were cameras in the elevator, but guess what? Cameras are everywhere. Many times we don’t stop to think about who (or what) is watching us. Though it may have be hard to control your emotions all the time, it’s never acceptable to act out like that, especially in a public place. It just gives people reason to throw dirt to your name. Now, because both camps will probably never come out with a release that actually explains the incident, there’s room for people to draw conclusions about the incident and the participants. All of the Instagram antics aren’t  making the speculations any better, either. Even the joint statement their reps released calling the incident a “private matter,” assuring us that the two “have apologized to each other [and]  have moved forward as a united family” is still not going to resolve the questions people still have.

3. Keep consistent with your image. Who really knows how Jay wanted to react when his sister-in-law started trying to beat him up?  One thing we do know is that Hova was NOT about to be portrayed as a woman beater by hitting her back. If he even put his hands on Solange, many of his fans and supporters would have probably turned their back on him. Jay-Z already created the image as a man against violence against woman with his reaction to the Chris Brown/Rihanna scandal. Any other behavior would’ve been disastrous for him. Thankfully, it looks like he lives his image, refraining from any sort of non-verbal response (since we don’t have audio) to what was going on. Though we wouldn’t expect anything less since his wife speaks out on various feminist issues. If there are any positives out of this whole situation, this would be one.

Rana Campbell is a freelance branding and content strategist who specializes in lifestyle. Follow her on InstagramTwitter, and LinkedIn.

And if you’d like to learn more about Jay Z and his brand, check out Moguldom Studios documentary “A Genius Leaves The Hood.” Buy it or rent it here!

Did You Catch It? 10 Brand Logos With Subliminal Messages

April 1st, 2014 - By Tanvier Peart
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Don’t act like you didn’t know companies use non-verbal tactics to get you to buy their stuff. You do realize subliminal messages are real, right? Now this doesn’t mean they’ve possessed your mind or anything. But the right kind of marketing has been known to entice consumers. Here’s a look at 10 companies that supposedly used subliminal messages in their logos. See if you can spot them.

What We Can Learn From Lupita Nyong’o’s Rising Brand

March 4th, 2014 - By Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond
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Overnight, Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o has become the breakout star of 2014 awards show season. Snagging SAG and Critics Choice Awards for her film debut in 12 Years a Slave, the rising thespian has also earned fawning coverage for her razor sharp red carpet style as well as her heartfelt acceptance speeches. Add her natural, berry-black beauty and multilingual dexterity, and the Kenyan Yale grad has all it takes to be an inspiring new face—and force—for young women the world over.

We asked branding expert Julian Kiganda how she would leverage Nyong’o’s status for enduring maximum impact if the actress were her client. What she told us works for any brand on the rise, and we took notes for you.

–  Think Bigger Than Your Service or Product.

“She’s doing an incredible job branding herself as an extremely talented, but grounded, fashion-forward actress,” Kiganda says of Nyong’o. She adds, the emerging starlet should also be thinking beyond acting and fashion. “What kind of company would she want to create that would hold all of the things (products/services/philanthropic efforts) that she’s passionate about outside of acting? How can she develop multiple streams of income so she’s not always waiting on the next major role to pay the bills?”

 Don’t Believe the Hype.

If you’re an entrepreneur or aspiring to set out on your own, you’ve likely heard a lot about “building buzz,” but in the “’Hot’ today. ‘Who?’ tomorrow” world we live in, Kiganda says it’s more important to know what to do with buzz. “Regardless of how good you are,” she points out, “there comes a time when the next big thing replaces you.” Her solution? “You want to strike while the iron is hot and build your brand while the doors are readily open and folks [are] anxious to usher you in.” She cites Magic Johnson as a good model to emulate. “[He’s] done an incredible job parlaying his celebrity into a sustainable brand on which to build a successful business.”

Embrace the Big Issues.

Leverage your business to raise awareness of challenges and issues impacting your community. Speaking specifically of Nyong’o, Kiganda says, “Lupita has a major opportunity to use her celebrity to make an impact on the issues in Kenya (or elsewhere on the continent) that matter most to her, whether that be education, women’s rights, economic empowerment, etc.” Kiganda gives an example of one way she could authentically extend her brand. “Because she loves bold, bright colors and patterns, I would encourage her to promote African designers who don’t get the same play that the Pradas and Ralph Laurens do, but have some really incredible collections.”

Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond is the author of the novel Powder Necklace and founder of the blog People Who Write. Follow her on Twitter @nanaekua.