For more than a decade, Scooter Braun has worked with major artists, helping them build a fan base, express their voice, go on tour, and ultimately build a recognizable and personal brand for themselves. Some of his most famous acts have been Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Usher, Kanye, Martin Garrix, Psy, Carly Rae Jepsen, and more.
But Braun has also leveraged the successes of his clients to build a personal brand of his own. In 2012, Braun appeared on the cover of Billboard, and was featured in their special issue titled, "Scooter Braun and Other Power Players On The Rise." He was also featured on the Time 100 list in 2013, and most recently on The School of Greatness with Lewis Howes.
I recently sat down and interviewed Scooter Braun to find out how he has been able to replicate success for such major artists over and over again, and what the art of building a successful personal brand is all about. The advice he gave transcends music and is valuable for entrepreneurs, startups and brand builders across the board.
1. "Embrace authenticity, and don't shy away from comparisons."
The first piece of advice Braun shared was the importance of being authentic. The tough part about this answer is that too many people "try" to be authentic--instead of building off the best pieces of themselves.
"In today's day and age, especially on social media, you can only get away with being inauthentic for so long. The really great brands live on this idea of bringing something that's truly authentic--and then building around that. It's not about trying to be something, as much as it being who you are in the best light possible," he said.
But the other portion of his advice was much more revealing, in which he instructed for people looking to stand out to not shy away from being compared to others.
"People like to shy away from comparisons. Personally, I think that's a mistake. Comparisons can be good. People like to compartmentalize things within their own heads, and helping them do that can actually be a positive thing for the brand you're trying to build. So, even though people don't like to be compared, you're going to get compared anyway--so you might as well make sure it's the proper comparison," said Braun.
This is great advice, and instantly brings to mind the amount of startups in today's economy that call themselves," The Uber of...". As long as it is done tastefully, and you can live up to the posture you're taking for yourself, Braun's advice holds great value: comparisons can be a good thing.
2. "Don't be afraid to break the mold."
The context behind Braun's advice here is everything.
"What has now become conventional in terms of digital marketing and the discovery of new talent, was once very unconventional--and people forget that. Go back five, six, seven years ago and the idea of breaking an artist on YouTube or interacting with fans on social media was unheard of. People told me I was nuts when I was signing an asset from YouTube--and now that's a primary way of discovering new talent. When I started interacting with fans on Twitter, people said, 'That's not how you use this. They're supposed to just follow.' What is now commonplace was once not, and I think that's a testament to what it means to really break the mold and push the limits," said Braun.
This advice of "not being afraid to do things differently" is a cliché that gets thrown around constantly, but finding the industry thought leaders who actually put this into practice is difficult. When push comes to shove, doing the thing everyone is encouraging you not to do is no easy task.
In Braun's case things worked out well, and he was absolutely one of the pioneers in the world of artist management who saw the potential of today's now most fundamental digital tools.
But the bigger lesson here is how Braun took to emerging technology as not only a medium, but to amplify each artist's voice as well. As mentioned above, people used to not share very much on social media. Mainstream artists, especially, were encouraged to keep to themselves and not speak their minds. Now? Their voices are heard more than ever.
Building a successful personal brand is about finding new ways to express your own unique, authentic voice. And, as Braun mentioned, sometimes that means going in the direction everyone else is afraid to go.