Five Lessons Drag Queens Can Teach Us About Branding
Last week I caught up on some past seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race and came away both entertained and, surprisingly, inspired.
Beyond all the glitz of the ladies competing to be “America’s Next Drag Superstar,” were some powerful lessons we all could learn on how to make our companies or ourselves stand out from the crowd.
1. Have a vision for your brand.
You rarely stumble across a drag queen whose name is simply “Jane…a woman who likes to appreciate her womanhood.” The whole point of creating a drag persona is that it’s a persona — a larger than life woman whom her maker has fully fleshed out, from her name to how she walks to her sense of fashion and beauty.
The best queens don’t pretend to be their persona. By the time they’ve made their transformation, they ARE their persona.
Do you have a clear vision like that for your brand? Have you thought about how you want your brand to make people feel? What is the first impression that you want it to relay?
Don’t leave your brand with the challenging task of birthing itself from the professional exhaust you leave in your wake. Take your cues from the queens and develop it with intention, establish it with precision, and promote it with care.
2. Stay consistent, down to the smallest details.
A lot of people are fascinated by drag queens simply because they have the ability to pull off the trick of a seamless gender switch. But that illusion doesn’t come without some serious effort and attention to detail.
Drag Race gives you a front row seat to the many steps the ladies go through in getting themselves stage-ready. From padding to the intricacies of makeup application, there’s a lot that goes into drag, making it an art form unto itself. The queens who do it best ensure that every piece of the final picture is just right.
Is your brand consistent like that? Do you create a seamless impression both on and offline? Do you give equal attention to all the supporting comments that add up to your brand impression – the font you use on your website, the tone of your social conversations, the words you use to sell your services or wares?
All of those little details add up in people’s minds. Make sure that when yours do, the equation is always, 1+1 = FABULOUS.
3. Work it, somethin fierce.
They don’t call ‘em drag queens for nothing, honey. These ladies rule the room when they’re in it.
Behind the scenes on the show you learn that, beneath the makeup, many of Drag Race’s contestants carry some deep wounds. The world is often cruel to drag queens and the men who become them, but you’d never know it when those queens hit the stage. Once the lights go on, they put that person away and transform into a new version of themselves that is strong, brave and dazzling.
Is that the kind of impression your brand makes when it hits the stage? Do you sell your elevator pitch or simply share it? Do you let your wounds weigh you down when it’s show time, or do you make a conscious effort to transform that pain into conviction and let it instead fuel your ascent?
Life gives us all some lemons. But there’s no rule that says we have to stop at just making them into lemonade. Why not staple those suckers together into a fierce dress and work what your maker gave you instead?
4. Diversify your assets.
RuPaul often repeats on the show that the qualities the next drag superstar must have are, “charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent.”
You know what? Those are great qualities to have when you’re trying to be “the next” anything.
I’ve known people who have struggled to take their companies to the next level, not because they weren’t talented, but because they were only talented. Unfortunately, talent can only do so much when you don’t have the nerve to also stand in front of the world and shout, “Look at me! I am super freakin’ talented!”
Have you determined what makes you or your company, “you”? How is that “you” special or different than everyone else? Are you rocking all four of the qualities listed above or only one? More importantly, are you showing the world all four in your marketing and sales?
Remember, a drag queen with a good Cher impersonation is about as unique as a salesperson with a good handshake. You need to take it to a new level if you want to win this race.
5. Believe you can do it.
Ru always ends each show with these words of wisdom…
“If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”
It’s good advice on many levels.
If you don’t believe that you are worth noticing, why would you expect anyone else to notice you? I’m not saying you need to buy into your own hype, but you do need to buy into your own hope.
The single best way that you can ensure that your brand stands out from the crowd is to believe that your brand stands out from the crowd. That’s not just RuPaul talking – but a ton of psychological research, the entire self-help movement and about a hundred episodes of Oprah.
So hold your head high, tap into your inner drag queen and go strut your ass off on that runway of life. You’ve got the goods — now just decide which goods you should tuck and which ones you should flaunt.
Good luck. And, as Ru likes to say, “don’t f@uck it up.”
and make up, you forgot make up. sorry i couldn’t help it.