5 Personal Branding Strategies from Joan Rivers

The career of Joan Rivers is a remarkable study in modern personal branding. The comedy icon was more than a performer. She became a brand with a savvy understanding of her audience, comedy, and the market place.

Ever the marketer Joan developed a personal brand that allowed her to master a tricky dance. Making fun of the fashion industry; while at the same time making millions from selling her own brand of fashion!

With her passing let’s look at some of the personal branding strategies that powered the remarkable career of Joan Rivers.

1. Think and Act Big

The hair was big. Her jokes were big. The controversy of her life and now her death was big. Everything Joan involved herself in, she thought and acted big.

However, acting big for Joan was not an act; it was a strategy. Thinking ahead and acting big was the formula for her survival and the platform of her success. Comedy, was a man’s world when Joan started in the 60s, she had to think and act big to get the attention, laughs and work in what is still a male dominated profession.

Half a century later, that thinking and acting big made Joan the first woman to have her own late-night talk show on a major network; a bestselling author publishing nearly 20 books, and the first female comic to play Carnegie Hall. Along with the attention and the laughs, Joan Rivers got work; lots of work. In fact, she was still in demand performing big and thinking big until the end.

Joan’s strategy: Your results are only as big as you think and act.

2. Have an Opinion

Joan Rivers knew that her audience wanted to hear opinions and she gave the people what they wanted. With her brassy style nothing was immune from her comedic attack. Joan made a career out of saying the things that all of us were thinking; but, did not have the courage to say. And with the boldness of her opinions Joan elevated herself from just another comic to America’s voice for topical humor.

Joan’s strategy: Your opinions have value; use them to create value for yourself.

3. Develop a signature expertise

Satirical humor making jokes about her own life; while making fun of the lives of celebrities and public figures was the stock and trade of Joan Rivers.

As reported in Wikipedia “Joan’s tough-talking style of satirical humor was both praised and criticized as being truthful; yet, too personal, too gossipy, and very often abrasive.” The Wikipedia post concludes by saying; “Nonetheless, with her ability to “tell it like it is,” Joan became a pioneer of contemporary stand-up comedy.”

During her 55-year career as a comedian, Joan reinvented herself many times, going from a standup comic, to an actor, talk show host, and fashion critic. However, her signature expertise of satirical humor remained at the center of all of her personas; and it has proven to serve her well over the years.

Joan’s strategy: Develop a signature expertise and use it again and again to reinvent yourself to stay relevant.  

4. Form Collaborations

Despite her highly publicized blowout with Jonny Carson, Joan established an excellent reputation for “playing well in the sand box”. She formed successful collaborations with the likes of Barbra Streisand, Carol Burnett, and Ed Sullivan. Of more significance were the collaborations she made in the business world with QVC, the TV Guide Network and E!

However, her greatest and best collaboration was with her daughter Melissa. Always the proud mother Joan shamelessly brought her only child into the family business of fashion, comedy and reinvention. The relationship between two was so seamless that often it defies the traditional mother daughter the world knew them as a team; in addition to mother and daughter.

Joan’s strategy: You can go a long way with the help from your friends and family.

5. Leverage your strengths

The success of Joan Rivers can be attributed to how she leveraged four key strengths:

  • Intelligence – Phi Beta Kappa graduate from Barnard College
  • Courage – Fearless in satirizing the lives of celebrities, public figures and herself
  • Business Savvy – Taking comedy beyond the stage to books, fashion, and QVC.
  • Longevity – 55 years in show business and relevant to the end

Joan’s strategy: Know what you are good at and play it to the hilt.

Final Thoughts

Either by design or by coincidence, Joan Rivers developed a remarkable and successful personal brand. While our results may vary, we too can and must brand ourselves for success. Joan would expect no less from us.


©Copyright 2014 Marben Bland │

Marben Bland is a professional speaker, writer and business strategist. Specializing in assisting business with the acquisition of human and financial capital along with the strategies required to succeed in the marketplace.

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