What James Durbin and American Idol Know About Rock Star Social Branding

Personal branding. It’s a phrase that’s getting a lot of attention these days. You might even say Personal Branding is creating CLAMOR. In the age of social media super stardom, everyone who’s anyone is trying to cultivate a personal brand.

Not everyone’s successful. And here’s why. Personal branding is like the internet in 2002.

It’s SO over.

Actually, it’s not over. It’s just evolved.

So what’s the web 2.0 version of Personal Branding? Rock star social branding. And American Idol is ROCKING rock star social branding this season.

If personal branding is what made Kelly Clarkson the very first American Idol winner (that Southern Girl charm, amazing voice, and adorable smile), then rock star social branding is what makes us clamor for American Idol 4th place finisher James Durbin, long after he’s exited the competition. Love him or hate him, you most likely couldn’t look away while he stood on that piano, wailing like a Banshee, and playing air guitar while the stage around him burned.

Rock star social branding taught you that he DIDN’T enjoy Lady Gaga gyrating against him while she was vocally coaching him.

It also revealed that his fans are called Durbinators. At last count, there are 113,000+ loyal Durbinators on Twitter alone.

Talk about a rock star social brand!

This season, American Idol has celebrated the power of rock star social branding. Each and every contestant in the top 11 seems to be perfectly groomed through the AI machine to get a record deal, magnetize a fan base, and bring in millions for themselves and their handlers.

You don’t have to be a rock star to create a rock star social brand like this season’s American Idol contestants. First, it’s important to understand what sets rock star social branding apart from personal branding. And since James Durbin has perfected the art, let’s look at his meteoric rise into rock star social branding super stardom and learn some valuable lessons…

Lesson #1: Your Fans Are Just As Valuable As Your Customers

Once upon a time, corporations lived in ivory towers and didn’t have to connect to their consumers, with the exception of their customer service call center. Those days are long gone. As a social brand rock star, it’s important to recognize that your fans and evangelists have just as much value if not more than your customers. Why? Because fans love to love you. They love to share that love with THEIR friends, family, and fans. They love to stand on mountaintops (also known as Facebook and Twitter) and loudly and proudly proclaim their undying love and appreciation for you. Think that’s not valuable? Think again. Whether each and every fan you have ever becomes a paying customer is NOT ultimately important. Those fans can make you wealthy without ever giving you a dime. If you can show a mighty following on social media, you can leverage that loyalty into a book deal, record deal, corporate sponsorship, TV development deal, speaking engagements, endorsement deal, advertising, etc. As The Durbinator knows, he didn’t make it to 4th place in a season of ridiculously talented singers on talent alone. He did it based on engaging his audience, enrolling them in his mission to win it all, and embodying his rock star social brand in every interview, tweet, video, and performance.

Lesson #2: Rock Star Social Brands Have a Big Mission Only They Can Carry Out

In the history of American Idol, has any contestant ever asked America to “Give metal a chance”? Love metal or hate it, James had a big mission that only HE could bring to the stage. And much of that had to do with the power of his personal story.  What made James so endearing to us was his story, the adversity he’d overcome, and his passion for music and taking care of his young family. You, too, probably have a big mission for the masses. And it most likely has to do with your personal story. So are you telling that story in a compelling way? Rock star social branders know the value of sharing their story (and most likely how they transformed their mess into their message). Now’s the perfect time to revisit your story, look at the parts you’re not telling, and rewrite it in a compelling way that will easily and effortlessly enrolls fans and potential customers in your mission/movement.

Lesson #3: Understand the Value of Engaging and Including Over Promoting and Excluding

Unlike cutie Stefano who couldn’t keep his eyes open long enough to engage his audience, or quirky Casey whose growl put off Idol viewers, James always understood the value of being inviting and inclusive in his performances. Each and every time he took the stage, he enrolled the audience in his performance, asking them to get on their feet, clap their hands, or wave those arms in the air like they just don’t care. This is key to your success as a rock star social brand. Gone are the days of shameless self promotion. In its place, there’s a kindler, gentler way to promote yourself and your rock star social brand while still engaging your audience and valuing THEM over YOUR OFFER. The next time you open an email or start to write 140 characters of shameless self promotion, stop. Ask yourself how you can shift what you’re doing to engage, invite, and enroll your audience rather than hit them over the head with a frying pan in your attempt to sell, sell, sell.

Lesson #4: Know Exactly How You Want Your Fans and Customers To FEEL

When Lady Gaga encouraged James to suggestively sway his hips during his performance of “Love Potion No. 9,” he took her directive under advisement and then deleted it from his onstage performance. Why? Because at the end of the day, James isn’t looking to seduce his audience. He’s looking to entertain them. To excite them. To provoke them. But NOT to seduce them. Just as he’s clear about how he wants to engage his audience, you, too, want to know how you’d like to engage YOUR audience. Start by asking yourself this question: How do you want your clients, customers, and fans to FEEL when they interact with you? If you come up with words like happy, inspired, good…keep digging. Get more specific. The more specific you are, the easier it will be to successfully engage with your audience and achieve the feelings you’re after.

Lesson #5: Embody Your Rock Star Social Brand In All You Do

In the era of the social media super star, consistency is key. We LOVE James because he embodied his brand to perfection. From the tight pants to the spiky hair to the boots and bandannas, we always knew exactly who James was – as a person, an artist, and as a performer. While we liked Pia as a person and singer, she didn’t ever wow us onstage with her presence. She seemed a little too vanilla for our taste. In the era of rock star social brands, standing out is key. And so it brilliantly embodying your brand in all you do. From your wardrobe to your website to your social media posts and comments to your smile and handshake, it’s ESSENTIAL that you own your brand in every moment so that people know exactly why they should care about you and follow you.

Admittedly, I watched the American Idol finale on Tuesday night. Honestly, my heart wasn’t in it. Now that James is out of the competition, I’m not as interested or invested in who wins. While I think Scotty has a brilliant career in Nashville ahead of him, and think Lauren is downright adorable, the social brand rock star has left the building. I don’t know about you, but I’m more interested in following James’ tweets than in tuning in to a show without him.



2 thoughts on “What James Durbin and American Idol Know About Rock Star Social Branding

  1. Pingback: James Durbin Blog on: What James Durbin and American Idol Know About Rock Star Social Branding | CelebrityCatch.tv: American Idol fansite

  2. I agree 100% with the article. The most important though. No Rock Star Social Brand works without SINCERITY. We can feel JAMES sincerity about his aspirations and achievements as a person and as a musician and how driven he’s to go ahead. So the fans feel nothing else is left to do than returning this SINCERITY back.
    Fake kindness, fake smiles and simpathy, one day or another they’ll show up.
    Only a TRUE man like JAMES DURBIN can make a Star social Brad TRULY believe and follow him.

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