Grow Your Brand by Creating an Alter Ego
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Superman has Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne has Batman and Granger Smith has Earl Dibbles Jr.
Granger Smith is a country music star and curator of one of pop culture’s most beloved alter egos. For the sake of your brand platform, I encourage you to take a page out of Smith’s playbook and create an alter ego for yourself.
Alter ego: (noun) a different version of yourself
The right alter ego can be your personal launch point to grow your platform and expand your brand. That’s certainly what Earl did for Smith as the growth of his platform enabled him to move from independent artist to signing a deal with BBR Music Group this week.
Your ego is not your amigo. It causes you to hold back and not take chances because it’s human nature to worry about the eight deadly words: What will others think? What will others say? The problem is that holding back never produced great results.
It’s a normal feeling, and according to Smith, “Every artist and entrepreneur has a box they typically have to work in. Having an alter ego allows you to not only think outside the box but work outside that box as well.”
If you’re an introvert, an alter ego gives you the freedom to become a bigger, bolder version of yourself. Even if you’re naturally extroverted you can utilize an alter ego to drive your message home in an over the top and even more entertaining way.
What began simply as a humorous YouTube video that went viral evolved into Smith’s alter ego recording songs, videos and appearing as an encore act at his concerts. Earl Dibbles Jr. the brand has evolved to the point where he (not Smith) is a featured analyst on CBS Sports who picks the college football games of the week.
Evolved is the key word. Smith explains that he didn’t set out to create an alter ego all at once.
“Every aspect of Earl grew organically by listening to the fans and what they said they wanted,” he says.
The tangible benefits for Smith have been elevated audience engagement, brand expansion, new revenue streams and increased media attention. With the right alter ego you can connect your brand to a broader audience as well.
Earl Dibbles Jr. is an unfiltered outlet for Granger to say whatever he wants. An alter ego can give you creative license as well when your real personality might not be able to get away with saying and doing certain things. It’s authentic and relatable because everyone can envision an Earl Dibbles in their lives. The proof is in the numbers: Smith’s social-media following has been eclipsed by his alter ego’s. But the beauty of that is both contribute to the same brand platform.
"Granger is the epitome of creating national demand to prove you can connect with an audience," says Jon Loba, executive vice president of BBR Music Group.
Smith likened Earl to the McDonald's McRib sandwich. When McDonald's launched the McRib, it would introduce the sandwich for a short period of time and take it away to gauge the customer response before expanding its presence. This is precisely how Smith’s alter ego grew to include his own songs, videos and merchandise.
How are you easing new products or services into the market instead of forcing something you want that customers might not? Listen carefully to your fans, they will tell you everything you need to know in order to grow.
Here's how to create your own alter ego:
1. Determine why you want an alter ego.
It could be as simple as a pen name or as complex as a completely different persona.
2. Figure out the personality of your alter ego.
Does he or she show up as a super-sized, more confident version of yourself? Earl is larger than life and unapologetic, which is precisely why people embrace him.
3. Create a distinct image.
Earl Dibbles Jr. greatly contrasts with Granger Smith. While he has an everyday good ol’ country boy image, it’s so over the top that people laugh and view it as a parody of your stereotypical beer-drinking, tobacco-chewing, truck-driving country boy.
4. Write your alter ego’s origin story.
Make sure it differs from yours. Where did the alternate you come from? How is he or she shaped by the past like you’re shaped by yours?
5. Pick a name.
Granger Smith gave his alter ego the name Earl Dibbles Jr. because he believes it resonates as that person everyone knows in their community. Smith shared with me that he has relatives just like Dibbles, which makes it easy for him to get into character. It’s a huge departure from something as common as the name Granger Smith. Plus you have to admit, the name is about as over-the-top country as it gets.
6. Be different.
You and your alter ego should be the ultimate paradox. From the name to appearance, quirky personality traits and idiosyncrasies. When done well, the alter ego should be a walking, talking contradiction.
7. Create a uniform.
Clark Kent changed into tights and a cape inside a phone booth. Earl Dibbles Jr. wears a white tank-top, overalls and work boots. What sort of uniform will your alter ego don? Make it memorable and it will become part of your brand.
There is also a huge intangible benefit a lot of people don’t see. An alter ego enables you to compartmentalize your work from your personal life. Just like an entertainer we are all on stage in our businesses but much of life is lived off stage in the company of family and friends.
We are not and should not be the same person at home as we are in the office or on the stage. We all have two selves: our work self and our home self. How do you shift into high gear at work and then down-shift and be truly present at home? Granger Smith and I would argue that you do so with an alter ego.
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