The Jersey Shore Guide to
Irresistible Personal Branding

image of New Jersey postage stamp

The Jersey Shore is back and up to its old antics again.

My guess — you being a respectable content marketer who finds that sort of display crude, irresponsible and embarrassing — is that you’re not tuning in.

Hey, I hear you. But do you know who isn’t offended by it?

The 8.4 million people who tuned in to the season premiere last month, making it the network’s most-watched series episode ever.

Whether you’re a true fan of Snooki, or you credit her with single-handedly hammering that last nail completing the Decline of Western Civilization, it doesn’t matter.

The fact is that each member of The Jersey Shore cast has gone on to create a recognizable and profitable personal brand in the 14 months the show has been on the air.

Not too shabby. And tucked inside the show’s success are personal branding lessons that any marketer can benefit from. Even if you’re not spray-tanned to a disturbing shade of orange.

Get a pen and paper because personal branding school is in session, Jersey Shore style.

Lesson 1: Own your oddities

If there’s one marketing principle reinforced by The Jersey Shore it’s that your oddities are what make you watchable.

Five minutes into checking out what’s going on in Seaside Heights this season and you’ll notice that most of the Jersey Shore cast barely looks human. They’re walking Halloween costumes, tanned, oiled and gym’d to the max.

And it’s their oddness that makes them interesting and what drives millions of people to tune in each week.

In an earlier Copyblogger post on branding and belly dancing, I spoke about the importance of creating a character — one that allows you to show off a heightened version of yourself to attract the right people to what you’re selling.

You’re probably not 4’9″ and God knows the world doesn’t need another Snooki, but what’s kooky and stand-out about you?

Figure out what it is and how you can make it work to your advantage.

Identify it. Use it. Become it.

Lesson 2: Polarization is a good thing

It doesn’t matter if you’re big, little or fall somewhere in between. Most of us are afraid to be a polarizing figure by taking a hard stance.

Just look at what happened to Groupon after the Super Bowl.

We hold back from going too far left, too far right or too far in our own direction in fear that we’ll be isolating our audience. And I get that – because you very often will be. But that’s not a bad thing.

The Jersey Shore kids are good examples of that. You’re either appalled by their train wreck or you’re mesmerized by it. And that’s why it works.

A post on the OK Cupid blog last month touched on the same concept, bringing up the mathematics of beauty. Specifically, it showed how playing up what some people don’t like about you allows you to attract the people who will.

It’s why edgy Meaghan Fox is more attractive than wholesome Kristen Bell, or why guys with tattoos are rated better looking than the average prepster.

If you want to be memorable, create a contrast. Going the safe route and trying to be everything to everyone won’t win you fans, it’ll only bring in people who don’t have an opinion about you either way.

Those people aren’t going to buy your stuff, and they won’t remember your name in the morning.

Lesson 3: People want a little drama

Season 3 of The Jersey Shore came with one promise -– that it would be the most drama-filled season to date.

So far, it’s lived up to the hype, with cast members getting into scary physical altercations, getting arrested, and with sudden character exits. The drama keeps people hooked because everyone wants to see what’s going to happen next and who is going to do what to whom.

If you’re working to build your personal brand, I wouldn’t recommend going out and getting arrested tomorrow, but do look for ways to create a little spice.

Maybe it’s Groupon releasing controversial commercials or you deciding to take an unpopular stance on your blog.

Associating your brand with a splash of excitement will help keep it top of mind and always relevant.

Lesson 4: You’ve got to build your platform

It’s easy to hate on The Jersey Shore kids for what they represent, but at the end of the day, they’ve created a platform that extends far past the show.

Snooki is a New York Times Bestselling author (wrap your head around that).

“The Situation” is said to have made $5 million from appearances and products (including his own vodka line and garment bags).

Jenny aka “JWOWW” has a book and bronzer, Ronnie endorses a popular weight loss drug, Angelina has a music single, Sammi has a perfume, and Vinny and Pauly D both have clothing lines.

Not bad for 14 months in the spotlight.

Sure, it’s ridiculous, but they created it.

The personal brand you create means nothing if you don’t have a business model. If you’re spending an hour a day on Twitter talking to people without finding a way to bring them back to your site or direct them somewhere else to do something, you’re leaving money on the table and you’re wasting your time.

Decide what you want these channels to give you and then create a plan for how you’ll be accomplishing that.

While The Jersey Shore certainly isn’t doing our younger generations any cultural favors, they are giving smart marketers some branding lessons worth tuning in for.

And now you have an excuse for the next time you’re caught watching …

About the Author: Lisa Barone is a writer, content marketer and social media strategist. She’s most known for saving brands (most often from themselves) and for her voracious tweeting. You can follow her on Twitter at @lisabarone or find her blogging about her own struggles with voice at VoiceInterrupted.com.

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  1. Lisa:

    Good thoughts today. I wonder about the oddity of the New Jersey Guide – will it last? About 20 or so years ago, there was a very popular cult show called Twin Peaks (i.e. Google and find the Wiki article). Recently they did a tribute to the show Psychic (i.e. about fake psychic detectives). But it seemed to peak about 2 years into the show.

    I agree you need a business model or plan. Once saying from the A-Team movie by Hannibal, “I love it when a plan comes together.” You can’t just twitter without a goal to make a profit.

    Randy

    • X-Files might be a better model than Twin Peaks, which petered out because David Lynch has no idea how to plot episodic television. X Files ran for nearly 9 years, not counting the movies.

    • Will it last if five other networks put out copycat shows? No, it definitely won’t. You have to watch trends to pick out what’s going to be hot in 3 months, not necessary what’s bubbling right now.

  2. Never watched Jersey Shore but I like the idea that oddities, polarization and drama get attention. I think owning your platform though is by far most important, and the examples you shared shows that.

  3. Lisa,

    A few things: (1) Props on using an analogy for a TV show I’ve avoided like the plague. But then again, something made me avoid GLEE for the first season as well. Now I’m morbidly curious about WTF is up with The Situation. Damn you. (2) Above all else, THIS is what resonated with me: ” If you’re spending an hour a day on Twitter talking to people without finding a way to bring them back to your site or direct them somewhere else to do something, you’re leaving money on the table and you’re wasting your time.”

    We’re not in business to waste time. Too many people are afraid to take a stand. Afraid to be unpopular with the right audience. Well, being in the middle of the road with your business model never got anyone anywhere (and it’s a colossal waste of time). As a matter of fact, I think the middle of the road is where we most often find roadkill. Huh. Imagine that.

    • Ha. I’ve avoided mentioning Jersey Shore myself…but Ronny’s supplement commercial kept taunting me. Er, I mean “talking” to me. Talking.

      Glad that second point worked for me. I figure it really is the basis for this whole social media thing, no? It’s not about connecting or engaging or rainbows — it’s about a different way to bring people over to your team and make them do something. All the people who log onto to social media to rant about what a waste of time it is – they’re right…assuming you’re only using social media to “talk” to customers. You should be using it to move them over to a platform you control.

    • awesome. roadkill. so NOT my goal.
      thanks for that very stark, amusing and motivating analogy!!!

  4. This brings to mind a talk I recently heard at NAMS (#NAMS on Twitter) given by successful Internet Marketer named Kevin Reilly who showed how important branding is. He made the point that Lady Gaga is probably not the best singer out there, but she made a name for herself by dressing outrageously to attract attention. While I am not a fan of her, it teaches a good lesson in successful marketing.

    • There’s definitely some merit to that. Because you remember Lady Gaga before you ever hear her sing or open her mouth. And you remember her because she looks like a nut ball.

      • The thing with Lady GaGa that’s different from the other wannabes is that she actually sings, plays the piano, and writes the songs. (She wrote for people like Madonna before she was a star). And what’s she’s been very clever with is combining those qualities with the outrgeously dressed persona she’s created so that she’s highly visible and highly memorable.

        I’d write a post about the lessons of Lady GaGa for content marketers – but Michael Martine already wrote one on remarkablogger. You should go check it out – it’s a good post.

        Paul

  5. Ha! It was several paragraphs in before I realized you were talking about a TV show.

    When I first started I had to decide how I wanted to make my mark. I wanted to be edgy and hip, but then I looked in the mirror and concluded that would never work.

    Branding oneself is an interesting journey.

    I came to the conclusion that at the end of the day, most people put their money into Reliable and Responsible, regardless of the excitement they may crave. That is the arena where I have been most successful.

    People want drama when it comes to discretionary income.

    My forays into creating “persona” always fall back to the mean, as it takes a lot more work to maintain an image than to maintain the truth. The real me always has a way of slipping out.

    I will have to resign myself to the fact that I’ll never be a Snooki or that other guy with the weird name.

    These are interesting ideas, which I have contemplated in the past, and will undoubtedly contemplate again.

    And I’m guessing that being on a regular TV show would surely help in that regard ;-) (I’m sitting by the phone…)

    Thanks for a fun article, Lisa.

    Rick

    • You’re never going to be snooky and, from the sound of your comment, you’re never going to naturally be edgy and hip either (it’s okay, most of us aren’t). But I guarantee you there IS something about you that’s standout and a little off. There’s something a little off about all of us. Personal branding means discovering what that is, turning it up a notch, and then running all the way home with it. You can do it, Just look deeper. ;)

  6. Perfect. I am not ashamed to admit that I watch the Jersey Shore. I’ll even go out there right now and tell you that I am FROM the Jersey Shore – born and raised. Though the show is a huge generalization, the actions that occur down there are not exaggerated one bit!
    No matter how much people despise the cast, they absolutely branded and marketed themselves perfectly. They used this show not as a 15 minutes of fame, but for a career paths they can stand by when it’s all over. The smart ones will keep going and creating products that their fans will love for a long time.
    Thanks Lisa!

  7. Yes, people want a little conflict. You know what else they want? Something interesting and different! Maybe just a little creative.

    Too often, writers–for television, print, the Internet–you name it–fall into writing what is safe and “what has worked before.” But viewers–and readers–tire of seeing the same old story line and characters, even if they love them. Sometimes, people just want something different.

    My favorite food is spicy chicken nuggets–but that doesn’t mean I want them for dinner every night.

  8. I’d like to draw a line in the sand here Lisa.

    No matter how good your advice here is (and it’s pretty good), there’s no way that I’m greasing my hair and slapping on the fake tan.

    It’s just not going to happen.

  9. Sorry, Lisa. I’m just more of a purist, I guess. I’d advocate that you put your true self front-and-center and not worry about the gimmicks. If you have ‘em, fine. And by all means, if that’s your hook, great. But I’ll always take talent, aptitude, dedication and work ethic over style without substance. As in many fields, the future belongs to the true artists, the ones who have the obsession of genius — not a metaphorical fake tan. Just my respectful two cents.

    • What I took away was not that lisa thinks we should be illiterate train wrecks, but that we should be interesting, illiterate train wreck or no.

      Unfortunately there are a lot of talented people who can never make things work because they have no compelling story they’re telling. Plenty of true artists also had a good sense of showmanship.

    • The point is we ALL have them. I said this in the belly dancing post linked above but…we all have that character inside. The version of ourselves we are when we’re at our max (read: not quite inebriated). You want to be the version of yourself that best helps you accomplish your marketing goals. It’s not a gimmick and it’s not creating something false. It’s just amplifying what’s already there.

  10. While it’s hard to deny that Jersey Shore has style, I’m not so sure it lacks substance. It just might be that the substance it does have is exceptionally controversial.

    And from a marketing standpoint, if you think about it too hard, it may be unethical.

    Seems to me that Jersey Shore trades on ethnic stereotypes. Sure, attention from a marketing standpoint is all well and good, but at what cost here? Generating a new vacant, token personality for people to point to?

    Now, I don’t want my point here to seem troll-ey, because it’s not my intention to start uncritical name-calling. I just wanted to bring up the larger, (academic-word-alert) socio-political effects of having a show based entirely around pidgeon-holing a group of people.

    Is this actually a good thing?

    • At its core, Jersey Shore is nothing new. It’s an intentional freakshow. It’s a trainwreck. You can’t take your eyes off it, right or wrong. It’s just another iteration of a circus sideshow, designed to elicit as many “OMG!” reactions as possible. Pretty formulaic, really.

      • Completely right on that one. Hands down.

        But, saying “OMG, that’s so Guido” probably isn’t helpful for the Italian stereotype, hey?

        And as you bring it up, maybe making Italian-Americans (or at least their stereotype here) a circus sideshow ain’t the nicest thing.

    • It’s class as much as ethnicity. Here in the UK, our equivalent is called “The Only Way is Essex” – it’s permatanned people with over-inflated egos proclaiming that they’re god’s gift.

      And it exists so that middle class people can sneer.

      As for the train wreck factor – TOWIE gave the world the term “vajazzling”. It’s worse than it sounds. (You can Google it, with some caution)

  11. Lisa, Please take a moment to go look in the mirror and announce in your loudest voice “I RULE!!!” You need to because you do. Love your post – insightful, inspiring and thought provoking.

    Best Wishes,
    The Most Average Person in the World

  12. I have to admit I have never even seen one episode of Jersey Shore. Maybe I should for the sake of market research? I cannot imagine it would be something I would want to watch long term, doesn’t sound like my kinda TV. I like the reference to X-Files in the 1st comment, now that I could watch!
    I do agree with the comparisons you make in this post. If you do want to be seen and read, you have to be a little different, be on the edge, and get people to your blog. But in the same token, you have to give them what they are looking for once they arrive. Just as I may watch Jersey Shore out of curiousity, I doubt it will have the qualities that I look for in a television show that would keep me coming back for more. Just make sure on your blog that you provide quality content as well.
    Great post!
    Bernice
    Are we there yet?

  13. Oh man did I love this post!.. maybe because I love Jersey Shore… Anywho, I really liked the info you presented. It was entertaining and filled with great advice. This post defiantly gave me ideas to kick my blog up a notch.

    Thanks!

    -Rachel

  14. Hi Lisa,

    Nice post on how you X-ray-ed the Jersey Shore situation.

    Oddities + Polarization + Drama

    A good formula for unique branding!

    ~Robert

  15. Lisa,

    Another fine post, and I enjoy laughing out loud.

    Now, (SHHH) I’ll admit that I watch it with my two gals. (The 15 year old Franchise Princess and my wife.)

    But, I wouldn’t watch it, unless I was hanging out with them. My kid actually likes me to hang with her, occasionally.

    It IS a stupid-ass show. The first words that comes to mind are; idiots,losers, and orange.

    But, they are killing it. Currently.

    The show will be gone soon enough, and the “actors” will be off somewhere blowing their money, only to be heard of when they do stupid things. (It’s going to happen, trust me.)

    The problem with your post is that you’re assuming that these folks are going to be around long after the show is over. They’re not going to be around. They don’t have much to offer human civilization.

    They are one-hit wonders.

    Unless they have smart agents and such.

    We’ll be talking about some other oddities this time next year, anyway.

    The trick with personal branding is to make it a long-term thing. Heck, GaGA will be old soon.

    Frank Sinatra and Fred Flintstone are fine examples of successful long-term personal brands.

    The Jersey Shore Goofs aren’t. They just have some money. Temporarily.

    The Franchise King®

  16. These are great points Lisa! I love the idea of own your oddities and making a brand out of them. I work with professional speakers and many of them do just that! Thanks for the post!

  17. Love this post!!

    I am also a fan of the show even though I know it probably kills some of my brain cells.

    Branding is KEY!!! I see the shore crew market their products on Twitter all of the time. Once you are loved you can sell anything :)

    - Lark Miller

  18. You were able to draw the liquor bottle away from my greedy mouth today, Lisa.

    Last night I emailed my new branding for my copywriting business to fifteen people for feedback. I mean, I am open to criticism (after I cry and drink two beers). The feedback included:

    “Seems too suggestive.”
    “Are you writing for porn now?”
    “It reminds me of the devil.”

    I am so thankful for your post, because it gave me the strength to say “Eff it.” I could create a dull, common brand (like KP Copywriting, Inc) but no one will remember it. Thank you, thank you!

    Now I will have a drink to celebrate my confidence instead of drowning my sorrows!

  19. Lisa,
    Great post –

    I don’t watch Jersey Shore, but I do know who Snookie is because Barbara Walters interviewed her.
    Her book is a best seller? Whaaaat!
    I can’t imagine the book being any good – but her marketing sure is!

    The message is clear: No sense blending in – you need to stand out in some way if you’re going to be noticed.

    I would say we each need to connect with our “inner Snookie too!’

  20. hehehehehe…Love it Lisa. I’ve done a post or two on the cast of Jersey Shore myself, because they are such a strange and alien phenomenon and although I don’t spend one minute of my time glued to this crew, they ARE the definition of different and that’s what makes them “SPECIAL”. Love ‘em or hate ‘em they have your attention one way or another!

  21. Own your oddities…People want a little drama.

  22. I have the toughest time finding a balance between promoting my brand and spamming folks. Where do you draw the line or is a slow fade to your brand from interaction the key?

  23. Owning how odd you are has one drawback for me. I have a boss who is so odd, we can’t have him around clients. He is too odd! (not that I am normal, but hey…) He has to tone down the crazy to a point where we can all be alright with him. He is a smart man too, but bad crazy as opposed to good crazy. We have too much odd going on here on some days.

    I am just a short loud woman with red hair. Nothing odd about me at all…..

  24. Wow, I posted the same thoughts on my own blog several weeks ago…http://prowriterinc.wordpress.com/2011/01/10/the-jersey-shore-guide-to-personal-branding/ hmmm….unoriginal thoughts today here on copyblogger.

    • Yep, you’re right. Lisa Barone, one of the most original and vibrant writers on the web, ripped off your post. And just to make it obvious, she posted it on Copyblogger so more people would know.

      • Thanks for concurring…think what you like, but it’s posted January 10, 2011, you can check for yourself. It really doesn’t matter how outstanding and fabulous people are what’s fair is fair. Truly, no offense to anyone, but it just wasn’t original.

        • Hey, don’t trust Brian.

          He writes about copywriting. And I write about copywriting. Therefore he’s ripped me off.

          Makes perfect sense.

        • Ahlam, first of all, the lessons you discuss don’t resemble the lessons discussed in this post very much at all.

          Furthermore, if you do a quick search for Jersey Shore Branding Lessons you’ll quickly find that you were hardly the first person to take branding lessons from the show.

          So, either you owe someone an apology for ripping off THEIR content, or you owe Lisa an apology for accusing her of ripping of your blog post.

          Which is it?

    • I can’t tell if this guy is joking or if he’s serious. The only thing similar between the two articles is the title. Big deal.

    • Ahlam.

      Surely you can agree that with the hundreds of thousands of blog posts published daily that it’s entirely possible to have similar thoughts.

      This isn’t a case of originality or fairness…it’s simply two randomly occurring thoughts…which happens all over the web – in fact – it’s healthy conversation.

      Lisa is a brilliant, hard working writer that I’d actually be honored to share thoughts with :-)

    • Yeah… I saw your post. I wrote about the exact same topic as well in August 2010. Maybe you should be supportive of Lisa and use the comment section to have an intelligent conversation with her since you two both seem to have thought of similar concepts (as many people have… it’s not rocket science). Instead you have to be a hater. I read your post. It was awful. You provided no real insights at all that are tangible for readers, nor did you go in any depth about what you were talking about. It read like a brain dump of things you thought about for 10 seconds while you were watching the show.

      I applaud you for your mission (read more on your blog). You do realize that you’re not the only person who’s lived in the US and Middle East who has a blog and an opinion, right?

      Props to Lisa!

  25. Shows like Jersey Shore make me wonder one thing:

    Are these people really like this? Or are they just expert marketers putting on a show?

  26. I have never watched the Jersey Shore. But after reading some of the comments here. The Jersey Shore seems to be similar to a show that is some what popular in the UK. Called “The Only Way is Essex” I can’t stand this show by the way.

    So I will just have to take your word for now. That Jersey Shore is a good example of personal branding.

  27. The Jersey Shore reference just made this post more awesome.

  28. Lisa!

    This shit is absolutely GOLDEN!

    I’ve been noticing that they’re branching off and using this publicity to make their own real dreams happen. Not that drinking and partying all of the time isn’t living the dream haha but you know what I mean.

    They really just saw the opportunity and capitalized on it. As far as attracting an audience I think MTV did a great job of spotting out that people in the jersey shore dressed and acted way different than everyone else in the United states. The moment they saw them they just knew it had to be a show. So kudos to MTV for noticing that.

    People should really start getting out of their comfort zones and just start being themselves. It’s like you go online to become an entrepreneur (generally speaking, doesn’t apply to everyone) because you don’t want a boss, you want to be financially free and you want to really just be yourself.

    But then you see people writing blog posts and they don’t really appeal? THEY’RE BORING.

    Step the game up and do something! WEAR A MUSTACHE, ALWAYS HAVE YOUR DOG IN YOUR LAP, UMM ALWAYS HAVE FACE PAINT ON IN VIDEOS? I don’t know..just do something different!

    Either way you’re going to get positive and negative publicity, but publicity is still publicity. You want people to talk about you for the Right reasons but behind every successful person, in this case blog, is going to be a pack of haters lol

    I just wrote an article titled “IF DARREN ROWSE OF PROBLOGGER WERE A SMOKING HOT BLOND HIS TRAFFIC WOULD DOUBLE”

    http://chrisalta.com/darren-rowse-traffic

    I state my points and even throw in some charisma..nice little photoshop picture of darren rowse as well haha

    definitely relates to your post which was again GOLDEN

    cheers!

    -Chris Alta

  29. I have never seen the show, but found the article very interesting. It’s pretty impressive just how much the cast has accomplished in such a small amount of time. Even not having seen the show, I hear about the cast members all the time. Thanks for offering insight on this.

  30. Have you seen the new Miracle Whip commercial? Hilarious use of polarization. ‘We’re not for everyone!” They spell it out that simply. Great post, Lisa. Thank you!

    -Leslie

  31. Lisa,
    This is a fantastic representation of how to brand your business. I have regretfully watched an episode or two of Jersey Shore (ok, I’ve seen them all), and although they are repulsive, they are memorable.

    That’s what brand building is! Being memorable is so much more important than writing a good article or creating another eBook.

    We NEED people to remeber us!

  32. This post was rude, mean, and snobby. Copy Blogger – please run bloggers that don’t viciously throw other people under the bus – no matter how silly their TV show is.

    Amber

  33. @Amber sounds like someone is a Jersey Shore fan? lol I am too, but you have to admit, they aren’t the brightest crayons in the box!