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Practice Management > Building Your Business

What Sarah Palin Can Teach Advisors About Branding

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Onetime Alaska governor Sarah Palin went from nowhere to everywhere in just a few short months. Imagine your business becoming a household name, a company on the tip of everyone’s tongues in such a short period of time. Wouldn’t it be great if our businesses could do that, too?

Whether you are a fan of Sarah Palin or not, she has certainly created quite a buzz around her formerly unknown self. Love her or hate her, you have to respect that she gets people talking, gets them to remember who she is. She has also made a lot of money in the process of going from an unknown entity outside the State of Alaska to someone with undeniable celebrity status. What can we learn from what she did to take the country by storm in 2008 and what she is still doing to attract large crowds everywhere she goes?

Here are three lessons on branding that I think we can learn from Palin. Her methods may seem a little unusual, but we can nevertheless learn a thing or two from her when it comes to branding.

  1. Exploit your uniqueness. Being different is risky. If you don’t fit the normal mold, your differences stand out. Sometimes in business we try to be so professional that we turn into a gray suit standing against a gray wall, and no one can see or remember us. Since when has a conservative, good-looking woman been unique? In politics it is very unique. Something that doesn’t quite fit in has the potential to stand out. Have you found your own way to stand out? What about your business gets people to take notice of what you are doing?
  2. Say something surprising. If you say what everyone else is saying, does anyone remember it? Do people talk about what you say? In a fairly negative example, when Palin said she could see Russia from her house (the actual quote was, “They’re our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska.”) it was spoofed on Saturday Night Live and repeated at water coolers across the country. Now, I am not suggesting you say ridiculous things to get attention. But ask yourself: Are you creating the attention you deserve for the good and smart things you do and say? Do you speak memorably?
  3. Be interesting! Palin has done a reality TV show, written best-selling books and delivered speeches that make us think “really?” You may not agree with her politics or her style, but she says some things that make her incredibly interesting. She has portrayed herself as just one of the moms: “I was just your average hockey mom and signed up for the PTA…I love those hockey moms,” Palin said. “You know what the difference is between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick.” And a star was born. She showed her personal side and made a connection with people. She truly was standing out.

From a business perspective, some of the paths that Palin has taken to become a wealthy, nationally known person may not be wise. As a business person, your credibility is critical and should always be considered first and foremost when attempting new branding efforts. However, Palin’s success is irrefutable. Some individuals and businesses remain nearly anonymous through their lives. If you don’t dare to be different, how will anyone find and choose you?

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Maribeth Kuzmeski is the founder of Red Zone Marketing, LLC, which consults to Fortune 500 firms on strategic marketing planning and business growth. For more information, go to


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