~ Dwayne Johnson
A lot of talk about branding these days. We’re reaching an all time high in the quest to define one’s approach to marketing and in building their business. Hollywood and Silicon Valley are growing closer than ever before. Over the last year I’ve heard famed businessman Gary Vaynerchuk among others mention a marketing / branding insight that I found to be especially profound. Something that needs more attention brought to it when creating one’s identity as a business and creator of value. We are all constantly growing, changing, and evolving. There’s a good template for it we easily overlook.
If one were to start fresh creating their brand / business and needed a good template for knowledge and inspiration you know what I’d recommend they do before anything else?
Watch Professional Wrestling
That’s right. World Wrestling Entertainment (formerly WWF) led by CEO Vince McMahon has made a stamp in our culture for nearly 4 decades and is a marketing, brand, and PR machine. Why though? What made the WWE the marketing monster it is today?
Columnist Jeff Schmitt in his brilliant Forbes column Want to Communicate Better? Watch Pro Wrestling writes:
“Wrestlers Characterize what we idealize.”
The characters in the WWE serve as a good template for business and branding. They are “on the nose” examples of great marketing at play. However I discovered there’s other elements they do quite well that also connects to branding. One being the fact that timing is also crucial. Writer Mariah Ehrgott in her article Marketing Lessons You Can Learn From Pro Wrestling writes:
World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) has over 500 million followers on its Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts.
Jayar Donlan, WWE senior vice president of digital and social content, says there are three tenets to the company’s social strategy: engagement, authenticity and timing. “Timing,” Donlan said, “is everything.”
There’s no doubt social media is crucial for the success of your brand. You must use it as a marketing tool. It is the new version of TV. Social Media is your marketing window to the world. World Wrestling Entertainment understands this.
So the WWE serves as good idealistic template and also are excellent in their use of Social Media Marketing. But there’s more to it than that. I did a little research and put together 5 ways Pro Wrestling directly connects to and can serve as a template for you when you are setting out to build your business.
- Combining Gimmicks + Trying new ones + Time = Winning Brand Formula
What Professional wrestlers do is they try out gimmicks. They mix and match and find what works within the context of their brand. Great business people understand this. They know how to plug and play different versions of themselves until one fits.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was known for his studly swagger, his “People’s Eyebrow” behind the slick sunglasses, and his use of his famous quips “Roody poo, candy ass”, “Jabroni”, and of course “If ya smelllllllll what The Rock is Cooking”. He was a sensation in the professional wrestling world. When the Legendary Undertaker would sit up after being pulverized by an opponent it was one of the great moments of all time in Professional wrestling. I remember watching with my brother and we’d get excited whenever he’d sit up and we’d jump on the bed and try it ourselves. These gimmicks worked!
But speaking of The Rock, few people know before he was a household name his character was simply Rocky Johnson. Easily overlooked is the fact that it took us a long time to finally smell what The Rock was cooking.
He’s not alone. Professional wrestler Charles Wright was Kama, Kama Mustafa, The Godfather, The Good Father and then back to the Godfather all after he was the voodoo meistro Papa Shango.
Before Shawn Michaels was everyone’s favorite wrestling heartthrob he was a member of the tag team The Rockers. The famed triple H (HHH) was a snobby British chap with an upturned nose named Hunter Hearst Helmsley in his early stages.
We easily forget these characters evolved over time through trial and tribulation. They learned what sold to their audience then stuck with it. Their previous gimmick, skill, or talent wore out or didn’t work so they tried something new and eventually something stuck. Even more profound is the fact that the audience often didn’t notice the shift. We have short term memories. It’s the biggest marketing secret one could know in regards to personal brand. Keep trying things!
A good example of this outside of wrestling would be YouTube personality, Tech guru, Apple enthusiast, and actress Justine Ezarik. She combined her bubbly actress personality with tech knowledge to form iJustine. A combination of gimmicks and personalities until she found one that stuck. This is what great marketing and business people do!
Justine in one of her many famous Apple Store Dances:
I mentioned in my article A Hidden Secret to Success: Connect to Your Passion’s Mysterious Hidden Twin one big reason people love former President Barack Obama is because he is one of the great orator’s of our time in addition to being a very successful politician. Matthew Berry, resident Fantasy Sports Expert at ESPN, was a screenwriter in Hollywood before his Fantasy Sports writing career took off. He combined writing and fantasy sports. These people all combined their talents and/or skills to form something unique and a brand, business, or career was born.
Above all, keep mixing and matching. Keep trying out different versions of yourself. Use different talents you know you have and can put to use. You will discover more. Try things. Explore yourself and the world around yourself. Mixing and matching gives you the chance to make things click. The more you put in the effort the better chance you have at at creating a brand that works.
2. Remember Your Entrance Music
First impressions matter. My Dad always taught me to give a firm handshake and look people in the eye when I meet them. That stuff goes a long way. It’s no different in the song choice that proceeds each wrestler’s entrance. When a WWE Superstar enters the stadium people get excited because he or she has an entrance music that they have grown to love because it matches the superstar’s respective brand and gives people an emotional way to connect to them. Music bonds us. It is one of the best emotional triggers in existence.
The Rock had one of the great entrance themes of all time. When he entered you were excited to see him raise an eyebrow and to listen to him speak with his confident charisma. Eventually this led him to a very successful film acting career.
Charismatic WWE Superstar and Hollywood Heartthrob Mike Mizanin aka “The Miz” has an extremely catchy entrance theme that starts with “Quiet on the set. Can we please have quiet. on. the. set.” which immediately draws people in. Who could this wrestler from
the bright lights of Hollywood be? It makes people curious. His All American persona and charm keeps people watching. Whether he’s a villain or hero, his music combines with his captivating personality making him heavily watchable.
3. Be easy to define
This one is rather simple. No pun intended. So easily today we overcomplicate things. We try to make who we are and what we are as long as the Declaration of Independence. That doesn’t mean you per above you don’t try new things. You have to keep trying new things. But once you discover who you are, own it. Go with what works. Play to your strengths. When you’ve found it, you’ll know. The wrestlers in WWE all have a few gimmicks that sum them up. They keep it simple with hero or villain. Do we like them? Do we want to root for them? A villain can bring in just as much business in wrestling as a hero. The key is they keep it simple once they’ve found their brand.
Just because someone is disliked, doesn’t make them unwatchable.
Jeff Schmitt write in his column for Forbes Want to Communicate Better? Watch Pro Wrestling Forbes writes:
Every wrestler has an alliterative catchphrase that sums up his philosophy. Some even carry a leitmotif like a guitar to reinforce their character (and sell merchandise). And when that doesn’t work, you can always pair a struggling character with an established one for the proverbial coat-tails effect.
Deep inside, that wrestler you’re jeering probably reminds you of the jock who bullied you, the boss who humiliated you, or that foreigner who supposedly took your job. While you can define a wrestler in one or two words, the associated emotions run wide and deep. And it’s no different in a business setting.
4. Storytelling and High Stakes Sells
What is your story? Find what your story is and how it connects to people.
Slide Genius in their column WWE and Marketing: Exploring the Common Ground Between writes:
Since storytelling lies at the core of the WWE, they market each superstar’s brand individually. Everyone gets his or her own entrance music, ring gear, signature pose, signature moves, and even a unique moniker.
So what is your story? How do you begin building?
Here are my 5 keys for telling your story and building your brand:
- Who am I? (My detailed background)
- What is at my core? (My Desires and Passions)
- What are my Skills?
- Where am I naturally gifted? (My talents)
- What is my belief system?
By identifying these 5 things we have the outline for our story in place. This is crucial when trying to identify a brand and the beginning of your process.
The author goes on to say:
But how exactly does this translate to your business? It’s simple: tell an authentic story that will make your audience care about your product. Give meaning to everything you do so that your audience will have a reason to invest emotionally in your brand. The only way to differentiate yourself from competition is to constantly bring something fresh to the table.
The Rock’s People’s Eyebrow, slick-talking speech tone, and charisma were physical and non tangible characteristics that made us as an audience connect to him. He knew his story as a person and as a brand / business. You have to find and identify these things in you. What makes you human? This leads me to my next and final point.
5. Pro Wrestlers Connect to Humanity
I cannot say enough about this one. When people ask me about what the most crucial element of social media is I tell them it’s being human. We connect to characters in movies because for better or worse we see ourselves in them. We connect to their humanity. Top publication US Weekly for years has run this Stars they’re Just Like Us segment that is wildly successful. Reason being?
It shows stars getting the mail, at the nail salon, or getting their car washed. It shows them in their every day state of being allowing the audience to relate and connect. Movie Studios love this as it promotes the star’s brand, makes people feel like they can connect to the star of a film’s humanity, and in turn people go see the film. If you think defining a brand is endless quotes and cold corporate stock photos on Instagram you are mistaken. Your audience wants to connect to you.
Jeff Schmitt at Forbes writes:
You see, wrestlers are caricatures of what we idealize (or despise) in the real life. Just look at the most successful wrestling characters of the past twenty years: Hulk Hogan (Juiced up American exceptionalism); “Stone Cold” Steve Austin (Blue collar ‘Take This Job and Shove It” defiance); The Rock (Wisecracking hipster cool); and Ted DiBiase (Sneering corporate callousness). They are manifestations of our alter egos, of how we’d behave if we weren’t tethered to social conventions, bosses, mortgages, and loved ones.
The same goes for characters in movies and even sports teams! The Dallas Cowboys have a reputation for being America’s Team. The Chicago Cubs are the lovable underdogs. It just so happens that World Wrestling Entertainment is a bit more “on the nose” with it which makes watching how they market their superstars a not often talked about keyhole into the world of brand.