Personal Branding and the Late, Great Elizabeth Taylor

Film legend Elizabeth Taylor passed away at the end of March. Ms. Taylor was a movie star, revered for her beauty, known for her marriages and respected for her humanitarian work. She was known around the world, by young and old alike.

It is sad that Elizabeth Taylor has left us. But, looking back, what can we learn from her legacy? I would argue that Ms. Taylor did a remarkable job of creating a brand around her name and image. For example, she took her stardom and used it to market perfume, as well as in the fight against HIV. She branded herself to make money and she branded herself to do good.

Instead of cheapening her Hollywood accomplishments, her product marketing and humanitarian work only served to make her better known.

We can learn something important about personal branding from Ms. Taylor. What is key is that before we attempt to diversify what we do, we should become masters of one realm first. We must achieve recognition for excellence in one area before we seek to take that renown and apply it in another arena.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is a good example of the aforementioned principle. First he became a champion bodybuilder. Then he became an action movie star. Later, he went on to become the Governor of California. More recently, he has been focused on for other reasons. However, that does not change the fact that he mastered one endeavor before leveraging his name and going on to pursue a new one.

Too often, people begin a project only to become sidetracked into starting other projects. Doing many things at once, prior to having fully established ourselves in one area, sets us on the road to personal brand dilution. Diluting our brand weakens whatever our main message about ourselves is. Diluting our message confuses people. Confused people are less likely to follow us, buy from us or understand what we are about.

By the time Liz Taylor got into selling perfume, she was already a world class movie star. She had risen to the top of her game before diversifying into other areas.

I think it is best we develop a reputation in one area – a reputation for excellence – before we begin to diversify into other undertakings. In this way, people know who we are and are not confused. We will have a better chance of being accepted because people will readily identify who we are.

Personal brand recognition is predicated upon becoming a star in whatever our main undertaking is first. Only then can we diversify with a reasonable expectation of success. Elizabeth Taylor was able to do that and then some. She will be missed. But her example lives on.

Image: fotographic1980 /

Hollywood legend Robert Wagner remembers Elizabeth Taylor here.

CYInterview column on watches here.

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