Like the eternal chicken and egg question, what comes first, the personal brand or the product?
I recently read about two teens with no prior connections or money who are blogging and “webbing” their way to fame — and in one case taking it all the way to the bank. James Kurisunkal, an 18-year-old Illinois college student, runs Park Avenue Peerage, a blog chronicling the comings and goings of NYC’s social elite. He does it all from his University of Illinois College dorm room.
Or take 17-year-old Ashley Qualls, who runs whateverlife.com, a destination site for teenage girls. Chronicled in this month’s Fast Company, Ashley reportedly generates a cool $50,000 to $70,000 a month from advertising on her site.
Both James and Ashley have not worked to create personal brands but have achieved success by tying themselves to well-known brands. In James’ case, he has given socialites (a brand in a sense) a site to showcase themselves. In Qualls’ case, she has profited from MySpace’s success by providing customized layouts for teenage girls’ MySpace pages.
As the Fast Company article explains,
“Ashley is evidence of the meritocracy on the Internet that allows even companies run by neophyte entrepreneurs to compete, regardless of funding, location, size, or experience–and she’s a reminder that ingenuity is ageless. She has taken in more than $1 million, thanks to a now-familiar Web-friendly business model. Her MySpace page layouts are available for the bargain price of…nothing. They’re free for the taking. Her only significant source of revenue so far is advertising.”
So what can we learn from Ashley and James? The fact is that whether you initially ally yourself with a known brand or create your own brand from scratch, you need to create your own unique vision that resonates with your audience. Ashley’s teen audience trusts her judgment while socialites appreciate that James is careful not to put socialites in an unflattering light.
Over time, I bet Ashley and James will become well-known brands. But they are a reminder that no matter how valuable your personal brand is at the end of the day you need to be sure you are filling a need.
What teens do you know who are blogging their way to success?
Wendy Marx • Public Relations/Marketing Communications • President, Marx Communications, Inc.