Branding Lessons from Betty White

Confession time: I’m a Betty White stan.


Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t believe the hype about anybody, myself included. I’m not easily impressed with people, but there are a few that I love for specific reasons. I’ve been a Betty White groupie since the ‘90s – she’s funny, she’s creative, she’s likeable, and she has a brilliant personal brand.


I’ve observed 5 powerful ways we can all use Betty’s branding brilliance to create longevity and win the affection of our audiences:


1. Be Authentic.

Above all else, Betty White is who she is. By that, I mean she’s very comfortable in her skin. She holds no punches when sharing her opinion about everything from animal rights to smart phones. When we examine some of the strongest personal brands in the world – Oprah, Richard Branson, and others – we see people who have a very clear understanding of who they are and an unwavering willingness to own that, even in the glare of bright lights and cameras.


Lesson: Know who you are, own who you are, and celebrate who you are – others will adopt your opinion of yourself.


2. Diversify your delivery.

There’s been constant chatter about focus. “Focus on one thing and be really good at it.” For beginners, this is good advice. Attempting too many things at once can be overwhelming for those who haven’t created a personal brand or don’t have the project management chops to handle it. However, doing one thing forever is a recipe for becoming irrelevant. The most interesting people are willing to venture outside of their niches and try new things. Betty White started as an actress and model and went on to host, write books, defend animal rights, and produce music. Betty is the epitome of a woman who effectively diversified based on her personality.


Lesson: Multiple delivery methods expand your reach. New ways of reaching audiences will naturally emerge – explore them and use the ones that make sense.


3. Reinvent Yourself.

Betty White earned her following with popular shows like The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Golden Girls. She went on to work on dozens of shows doing everything from doing Super Bowl commercials (the most recent of which was the 2012 Super Bowl) to hosting Saturday Night Live. A quick scan of her previous co-stars reveals reluctance towards reinvention. Betty remains relevant because she’s found authentic yet interesting ways to keep herself working and growing. She’s not afraid to take risks or look foolish because she’s more interested in playing full out and living a life worth talking about. If your brand doesn’t evolve, your business and career won’t either. Reinvention is the secret to longevity in any industry.


Lesson: Don’t be afraid to try new things. The most interesting and watched people are those that stay ahead of the innovation curves in their industries while staying true to who they are.


4. Stay in motion.

Last year, Entertainment Weekly did a piece on Betty White’s schedule. It was one of those “A Day With…” pieces where they followed her for 24 hours. I was floored at how active she is. She gets more done in a day than many people do all month. As I reflected on how vibrant she is, I realized that the “Use it or lose it” adage is true. Betty’s youthful energy and ever expanding career are a result of her very active lifestyle. She mentioned that she likes to feed her mind with interesting things, and she takes good care of her body.


Lesson: Preserve your body and mind. Stay active and stay curious.


5. Stand for something.

The writers at Hot in Cleveland wanted to do an episode where Betty White’s character consumed marijuana. For Betty, this is off limits. Betty has made her stance clear: “I don’t do dope jokes. I don’t think dope is funny or fun or whatever.” With the popularity and “cool” factor that a marijuana joke may have had for someone her age, Betty was against it and the writers had to accommodate her request. She wouldn’t sell out for the joke. No matter how successful your personal brand is (now or in the future), you must set boundaries. You must stand for something.


Lesson: Know your limits. Honor your truth. Taking a stand may not always be popular, but it’s always the right thing to do on behalf of your personal brand.


Personal branding is more important than ever in the new economy. Follow Betty White’s lead and maybe you’ll still be relevant in your nineties.


The Best Brands = Loyal Fans

About the Author
Lisa Nicole Bell is an accomplished entrepreneur, entertainment executive, and the executive producer of the American Dream Revised.