Does Your Personal Brand Really Matter?

I’d like to introduce you to Robert Galbraith.

Robert Galbraith is a first-time author who wrote an adult mystery novel entitled The Cuckoo’s Calling. It’s about a bird who overcomes a life of drugs and male prostitution in an effort to find his purpose in life.

At least from what I can tell by looking at the title. I didn’t actually read the book.

Anyway, once he finished writing the book, Mr. Galbraith shopped it around to a few dozen publishers but was quickly rejected by all of them. Except for one.

In the months following the release of The Cuckoo’s Calling, it sold an estimated 1,500 hardcover copies and 7,000 ebook, audiobook, and library editions. And while the feedback was quite positive for a first outing, the book initially earned an average three-star review.

Considering the fact that it’s a fiction book written by an unknown author in an already saturated market, that’s actually not that bad. However, I’m sure it’s not quite what Mr. Galbraith had in mind after spending hundreds of hours behind the typewriter.

Here’s Where it Gets Interesting

A few months after The Cuckoo’s Calling was released, word had gotten out that Robert Galbraith was actually the pseudonym for JK Rowling. Famed author of the Harry Potter series.

On the Left: Robert Galbraith. On the Right: JK Rowling.

There was no Robert Galbraith.

JK Rowling wanted to go back to the beginning of her writing career, but this time working in a different genre. She wanted it to be about the writing and not the hype or expectation. So, she created a pseudonym and approached The Cuckoo’s Calling as a brand spanking new writer with no audience.

Once word got out that JK Rowling had written the book, sales of The Cuckoo’s Calling increased a record-breaking 156,866% overnight. Literally. Within one day of the outing of JK Rowling, the book became an instant bestseller.

The same cover. The same title. The same name on the cover. The same words inside. The same characters. The same plot. The same ending. The same price. The same sales channels. The same publisher.

The only thing that changed was our perception of who wrote. Not even who wrote it. But our perception of who wrote it.

And Here’s Where it Gets Even More Interesting

Once we learned that JK Rowling was the author who penned The Cuckoo’s Calling, we all collectively decided that we liked it better.

That’s right. Not only was the book flying off the shelves, but reviews for the book had improved significantly to an average of four stars after learning that the author was JK Rowling.

So, to answer the question asked in the title of this post, does your personal brand really matter?

I can tell you with 156,866% certainty, the answer is yes.

And it’s not just JK Rowling who is benefiting professionally, financially and personally by their name.

Proof That a Good Personal Brand Can Sell Anything

Elon Musk, who is one of the founders of PayPal, SpaceX, and Tesla, recently started another company called The Boring Company.

In 2018, The Boring Company sold a flamethrower which was named the “Not a Flamethrower.” Apparently “Not a Flamethrower” looks better on a customs form when shipping internationally than “Flamethrower.” There were 20,000 of these “Not a Flamethrowers” produced and each one was sold for $500.

With no advertising, no Facebook pixel, no sales funnel, and no gimmick other than the fact that he was selling a flamethrower, the “Not a Flamethrower” sold out in less than 100 hours.

That’s 10 million dollars.

Elon Musk sold 10 million dollars worth of flamethrowers in less than 100 hours. Something that would take the rest of us a lifetime to do, he was able to do in about four days.

Why Do People Buy Something They Don’t Need?

It’s not as if Elon had his finger on the pulse of the flamethrower market and had uncovered this sudden need to light someone or something on fire from fifty feet away. In fact, this entire business model goes against all conventional wisdom.  

And yet he sold $10 million dollars worth of something that people didn’t need in less than 100 hours.

When asked why they bought Elon Musk’s $500 flamethrower, they responded:

“It’s not everyday Elon Musk makes a limited edition flamethrower!”

“I’m a big fan of Elon Musk and decided to buy a flamethrower to own a piece of history!”

“I guess I never really knew how bad I wanted a flamethrower until Elon Musk started selling them!”

You see, they weren’t buying a flamethrower. They were buying Elon Musk. He just happened to be selling a flamethrower.

That’s how powerful a personal brand can be.

Where Do You Want to Start?

It’s like running a marathon. While the vast majority of us begin at the starting line, there are a select few who get to start that same marathon on Mile 15 because of their personal brand.

Don’t get me wrong. They still have to train. They still have to do the work. And they still have to finish the race. But they get such a big advantage because of who they are that they are almost guaranteed to win every single time.

Think about it.

Suppose Gary Vaynerchuk had a new idea for a business. How many phone calls do you think he would need to make in order to get the funding for this new company?

Or suppose Oprah Winfrey had a new idea for a television show. How many phone calls would she need to make in order to get a network deal?

Or supposed Tony Robbins was putting on a new event, how many calls do you think he would need to make to fill the stage with some of the biggest speakers in the world?

If you said one, you would be wrong. The answer is none. They wouldn’t have to make a single phone call because their phone is already ringing off the hook with offers.

All they need to do is answer it.

They have each built a personal brand that is so powerful they don’t have to chase the opportunities. The opportunities chase them.

And that’s how much your personal brand matters.

So, where do you want to start? At the starting line with everyone else or on mile 15?