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.

How to Get Hired When You’re Just Starting Out

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1. Include Personal Projects to Bulk Up Your Resume.
Don’t limit yourself to the confines of a traditional resume. Recognize that under “Skills” you can list everything from Photoshop to silk-screening, that studio time can be just as important as past employment, and that unpaid side projects show dedication, initiative, and responsibility. If the majority of your experience is personal, studio, or classroom work, add more of a description than you normally would, explaining the kind of timeline you were working with and why you chose the subject matter.



Above: Illustrator Simon Prades effectively displays personal work and side projects in his online portfolio.

2. Don’t Just List the Facts; Tell Your Story Instead.
Whether you’re looking to freelance or join a creative company, business is all about relationships, so recruiters, clients, and hiring managers want to know who you are and not just what you’ve done. Including a bio on your website or in your portfolio is a great way to share your back-story and highlight what you stand for.
Your bio should address the following five questions:

  1. Who am I?
  2. How can I help you?
  3. How did I get here?
  4. Why can you trust me?
  5. What do we share in common?

For more insight on how to craft a bio, read 99U’s The Resume Is Dead The Bio Is King.

3. Showcase Your Creative Process by Sharing Iterations and Mockups.
Show prospective clients and collaborators how you think by including the rough sketches, prototypes, mockups and mood boards that led up to your finished piece. In addition to showcasing your creative process, this will help define your role within a given project – something that’s especially important within the realm of creative collaboration.

For example, if your portfolio includes a website, specify whether you built the entire thing, worked on the graphics, coded the frontend, etc. Bonus points for including captions under each asset you display that explains where you got your ideas, how you made decisions along the way, and what impact they had on your finished piece.


Above: Illustrator Tyler Jacobson includes sketches and iterations that bring his process to life. 
4. Hiring Managers Expect Tailored Applications. Do Your Research Before Hitting Send.
Before submitting an application make note of your target company’s style – you can gather this from their website, campaigns, client list, and the content they share on Twitter and Facebook. As many recent (successful) “Hire Me Campaigns”  have taught us – in some cases the medium can be your most important message. Want to get a job as a community manager? Create a Twitter campaign. If your specialty is information architecture, turn your skills section into an infographic. If working at Vimeo is your dream job, make a video resume.

Targeting your portfolio toward a specific company gives you an opportunity to showcase your skills, initiative, and passion for the company in question.


AboveFlorian Holstein, a Creative Director who was in love with design and sports, created an interactive website to showcase his skills and land himself a job at his dream company, Adidas.

5. Don’t be Afraid to Mention Your Idols, Mentors, or Creatives You Admire in an Interview.
Refining your knowledge of established creatives in your industry can really add to your interview repertoire. Musicians often promote themselves by referencing the artists they grew up listening to or the albums that shaped them. This can be applied to any industry.

Picture two candidates with similar education and experience (little to none) interview for the same photo assistant job. The hiring manager asks, “So why did you choose to major in photography?”

Candidate A responds with the typical “because it seemed interesting and I wanted to get a job as a photographer.”

Candidate B says, “I’ve been obsessed with fashion photography my whole life. I used to tear Annie Leibovitz’ portraits out of my sister’s Vanity Fair and today I really admire the work of photographers like Steven Meisel and Mario Testino and the risks they’re unafraid to take.”

Candidate B has a clear advantage, making up for what they may lack in experience by articulating their passion for their field and knowledge of established artists and trends.

What’s Your Take?

How did you land your first job? Any tips to add?

Jenn Godbout makes ideas happen at Behance and is on a never-ending search for good advice. Say hello @Jennavive.

Tim Ferris on Getting Your Work Noticed

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It’s not an easy feat to stay on the New York Times Bestsellers List for four-and-a-half years straight, but Tim Ferriss is used to pushing limits.

In 2007, Ferriss transformed the world of book marketing with a grassroots campaign that gave his first book, The 4-Hour Work Week, mass appeal — all while detailing his adventures as a champion kickboxer, world record holder, entrepreneur, and more.

But there was one mountain that Ferriss still hadn’t climbed: how to find his way around a kitchen. The author couldn’t tell his basil from his parsley when he began writing his latest book, The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life.  But in typical Ferriss fashion, he traversed the globe interviewing top chefs. In the process he found a new model for efficient learning: pinpointing the best, copying their craft, and skipping all the unnecessary filler lessons that most courses begin with.

Your first book was about escaping the workaholic lifestyle to “find your muse.” Do you think it’s better making a living doing what you love, or to make a living that allows you to spend time doing what you love?

If you wake up on Saturday morning and go surfing to decompress for the week, that is different from having to wake up at six every morning Monday to Friday and take investment bankers out to surf. One is elective and one is mandatory.  Adults and three-years-olds are very similar, in that as soon as we have to do something, we start to resent it.

For instance with me, I don’t like to do a lot of speaking engagements like a lot of authors do. I just find it really boring.  I now only do two types: it’s either top price or free. If you realize that income is intended to ultimately improve your quality of life in some fashion, then it makes it easier to forgo some the fleeting, high-maintenance opportunities.

Adults and three-years-olds are very similar, in that as soon as we have to do something, we start to resent it.


How much real world experience do you need before you kind of go off on your own and create your own lifestyle?

I don’t think you need any real world experience. It’s a question of whether you want to learn the trial and error lessons on someone else’s dime or on your own dime. If you get used to a cushy corporate job and automatic money, it’s pretty tough to say: “I have to sell the car and get a smaller apartment because I’m going off on my own.”

How would you describe your writing process?

I do my best writing between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.. Almost every friend I have who is a consistently productive writer, does their best writing between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. My quota is two crappy pages per day. I keep it really low so I’m not so intimidated that I never get started. I will do the gathering of interviews and research throughout the day. I’ll get all my notes and materials together and then I’ll do the synthesis between 10 p.m. to bed, which is usually 4 or 5 a.m.

I will have a station on Pandora, and I will put a movie on and mute it in the background so I don’t feel like I’m in isolation. Then I jam. It takes me an hour and a half to get my brain into the flow of doing anything writing related. So once I’m in that flow, I will bleed the stone for as long as I can. If things are going well, I’m not going to stop until I nose dive. But if it goes for an hour-and-a-half and it’s like pulling teeth, then it might be time to go to bed.

My quota is two crappy pages per day.


It’s easy to say “don’t read a million blogs, don’t do this don’t do that” but it’s often really difficult to shut off and focus. What have you found that actually works?

Use RescueTime and trial it for a week, and try a low-information diet. Get a really cheap laptop that doesn’t have Internet connectivity and do as much work on that as possible. As odd as it sounds, go back to pen and paper. Because once you’re on the computer and distraction is a click away, you’re just like a rat with a cocaine dispenser. You’re going to get toasted.

You’re known for your grassroots marketing style. Do artists today have a responsibility to market themselves?

It’s 100% their responsibility. If you want to be a tremendous artist, and then expect people to beat a path to your door, you can try that. The fact of the matter is, it’s not going to happen unless you meet someone who makes that happen.

So you can make it accidental or you can grease the wheels of the universe and try to encourage those things to happen. In that case, guess what? You’re marketing. When people think marketing, they think of a cheesy sales guy. Marketing is knowing exactly who your customers are, and trying to get your product, your art to them. If you are creating art for yourself, well great, go live in a cave and do it. But if you’re doing it commercially and you have bills to pay, it’s not selling out to get your work to the people who most appreciate it.

Ariston Anderson is a writer and strategist based in Berlin, Germany. Follow her on Twitter @Aristonian.

Why You Should Ditch Traditional Marketing for the Real Deal

Authentic marketing is the true self-expression of a sincerely held business philosophy. It’s rare in comparison to traditional, or inauthentic, marketing strategies, but it’s much more effective for a business’ longevity and impact.

If your sole goal is to make a profit, go buy Google AdWords and call it a day. But if your goal is to build a great business that will be among the 35 percent of companies that make it past the 10-year anniversary mark and be at the top of its industry, you can start by understanding the difference between traditional and authentic marketing. Continue reading “Why You Should Ditch Traditional Marketing for the Real Deal”

Why an Entrepreneur’s Best Asset Is Gut Instinct

Why an Entrepreneur’s Best Asset Is Gut Instinct

On the platform, readingI have learned to pay attention in life when the hairs stand up on the back of my neck or my stomach churns, as if my gut instinct is saying, “Something’s not right here.” I also get an equally powerful flutter in my chest when something is going well. I may know these things about myself now, but in my first year of business, I discounted my intuition in a big way. Continue reading “Why an Entrepreneur’s Best Asset Is Gut Instinct”

5 Tips for Giving Constructive Feedback in the Office

5 Tips for Giving Constructive Feedback in the Office

Whether you’re an employee, manager, or entrepreneur, the people you work with will make mistakes at some point — and you’ll have to address them.

When you recognize an issue or problem, giving feedback is the clearest, quickest way to encourage a change in behavior. It can help a co-worker focus on the key areas he or she needs to work on. Plus, many people are motivated or inspired by well-delivered feedback, and will perform at a higher level because of it. Continue reading “5 Tips for Giving Constructive Feedback in the Office”

5 Easy Steps for Mapping Your First Big Meeting

So you’ve gotten organized, you’re managing your time effectively, you’ve made progress creating your business concept, and you’re networking like a champ. You’re proving that you may soon belong with the heavy hitters and aren’t easily intimidated. And by the way, congrats — you’ve just locked down a big meeting!

Wait…what do you do now? You’ve never been in a 1-on-1 meeting with a big player in your industry who actually takes you seriously enough to give you some of their time, and there’s no roadmap for this kind of thing.

Not to worry – you can create one. By answering a few simple questions in detail, you’ll have some solid direction to help guide your preparation. Continue reading “5 Easy Steps for Mapping Your First Big Meeting”

When Outsourcing Is Not the Answer

There is no possible way to be prepared for every aspect of running your own business. It’s impossible, and recognizing that fact alone will probably be one of the biggest stepping stones to growing your business. For example, though I feel my education in psychology has helped to prepare me for running a business, dealing with people and marketing like a champion, I still didn’t know anything about packaging engineering three years ago.

That’s when I hired a marketing consultant. And while outside consultants can be irreplaceable to a business, they can also be a disaster waiting to happen — not to mention a big waste of money, which you hardly have to waste. Continue reading “When Outsourcing Is Not the Answer”

The 3 Pieces of Startup Advice That Actually Matter

The 3 Pieces of Startup Advice That Actually Matter


I’ll tell you something that no one told me when I started up: somehow, putting up your own shingle also means putting up a sign that you’re open to advice. All sorts of people start offering their words of wisdom — experienced executives, college students, and even people who’ve never actually done anything with that good business idea they won’t tell you about, because you’ll steal it.

While people generally do mean well, their advice often misses the mark. Here are three bits of advice that I’ve received or incorporated that have never led me wrong:

  1. Build from your strengths. In today’s fast-paced and crowded market, being good simply isn’t good enough. Rather than building a business that will have you cap out at “good,” take the time to assess your team’s core capabilities and build from what you can be truly great at. It’ll galvanize your team and your market, and give you early momentum so that you won’t get by merely being good. Every business mistake I’ve made can be traced back to not getting our business out of the comfort zone of our strengths.
  2. Fanatically focus on your customers. Your business really isn’t about you; it’s about how you provide a solution to your customers that is worth paying for. Growth comes from serving more customers better, and the fastest way to get there is to get to know the conversation going on in your customers’ heads. Note: This doesn’t mean that your customer is always right, but it does let you know what your customer needs and values are so that you can determine how and where you’re going to serve them best.
  3. Failure is necessary for learning. As frustrating as it is, we usually don’t learn as much from success as we do from failure. Fortunately for us, success is usually harder to come by, so we therefore have a lot of opportunities to learn. To be an entrepreneur is to chart unfamiliar territory, and to turn opportunities with uncertain outcomes into economic value. To do that well, you’re going to have to try some things that may not work out. But to not try at all because there may be failure is worse than trying and failing, for you learn nothing from what you don’t try. Seth Godin has been saying “fail fast and fail cheap” for a while, and Jim Collins advocates a similar approach in Great by Choice when he show that great businesses “fire bullets, then cannonballs.” Find a growth opportunity in your business and start a small experiment — a big win is absolutely worth a few small failures.

Charlie’s the go-to guy for creative changemakers and entrepreneurs for figuring out how to get the right things done. His blog, Productive Flourishing, is one of the top productivity and business blogs on the web. Charlie’s forthcoming book, Beyond Bootstrapping, helps entrepreneurs and small business owners become better executives and build better businesses from the business they’ve already built.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.

5 Things to Know Before Split-Testing Your Startup Website

Split-testing — when you create variations of your website and test which ones perform the best — is quickly becoming the rage among marketers and entrepreneurs.

It’s the tool of choice by most “growth hackers,” marketing people focused on attracting more users, conversions and the like. Many potential investors and angels will be impressed when they hear that you’re running split tests, and you sound 100 times smarter at a networking event when you mention that you’re testing your ideas.

But ego-stroking aside, split-testing can be an incredibly valuable tool for increasing conversion rates and hitting your goals. You can use it to validate a lot of the assumptions and ideas you have as a team, and get real data on what works for your business.

I’m not going to tell you how to split-test your website. Instead, I’m going to tell you how to prepare for it, psychologically. Although split-testing is not difficult, you do have to hop into it with the right frame of mind to get results. Here are five things to consider when getting started on split-testing your website: Continue reading “5 Things to Know Before Split-Testing Your Startup Website”