Recently, I have been asked for a breakdown of some known personal brands so that people can more easily get their head around what theirs might be. After some thought, I decided that the perfect solution would be to do so through the lens of none other than the Schitt’s Creek cast. Yes, you read that right. With their wild antics, jarring juxtaposition to their landscape and fierce and unexpected (and sometimes utterly insane) loyalty to each other, it would be easy to stereotype their personal brands to the surface level of what you see. But the reality is that their personal brands - and feelings - live deep below the surface and therein lies the depth of their characters.
For those of you (if there are any of you) that are unfamiliar with this show or have not had the pleasure of drinking in episode after episode on Netflix, let me set the stage. Father and son duo in real life, Eugene and Dan Levy, say they got the idea when asking themselves the outrageous question, “Would the Kardashians still be the Kardashians without their money?” Enter the Rose family. They are extraordinarily wealthy, rubbing elbows with celebrities and jetting around the world, spending money on every couture item they can get their hands on. And they are living so far out of the real world that when they lose everything, (literally in the first episode), they are paralyzed with the uncertainty of how to live beyond that very moment.
After their downfall, the family is forced to move to the one asset they still own - valued at nothing by the authorities after seizing everything else - which they purchased as a joke. The infamous Schitt’s Creek. The utter hilarity that ensues as the family learns to live without money and in close quarters is a study in how one’s personal brand can impact their success or failure. And how taking the time to understand what truly motivates each of them promotes positive interactions and deep-rooted feelings that deserve to see the light of day.
Hooked yet? I could discuss the Schitt’s Creek cast in glaring detail for hours on end, but before we go further into the cast, let’s take a step back to a reminder of the definition of personal brand.
A personal brand is the sum total of your characteristics, appearance, behaviors and actions. Your characteristics are inherent to you and cannot be changed. Your appearance is how you show up in the world. In other words, what others infer from your behaviors and actions, or your reputation as it appears to them. Some refer to it as your image. And your behaviors and actions are the ways in which your characteristics come to life day to day and in your interactions with others. An example would be, I am an extrovert (characteristic), so my energy infiltrates a room (appearance) and I stand with confidence (behavior) as I cheerfully welcome everyone (action.) Ready to get started?
The first thing we took a look at was the “surface level” personal brand of the 4 main characters, the Rose family. Because they are literally caricatures at this level, you could easily misjudge their personal brands and be quite wrong. This is because the behaviors and actions associated with personal brand characteristics can be magnified by the intensity of a situation someone is facing. In this instance, it was quite an upending of each of these individual’s day-to-day existence, not to mention so much time together in those close quarters. This led to them lashing out in different ways as a defense mechanism to the situation at hand, and these surface-level reactions painted a stereotype for each that hid their true personal brands. Here was that initial breakdown:
"’I was served by an intimidating woman at the front desk, with an unrecognizable accent, and scary-looking attire.’ And what might this have to do with me?”
Moira Rose - The dramatic diva - self-centered and egotistical, she lives life in her own head and can’t see past herself and her feelings.
Characteristics: selfish, with a flair for drama
Is this correct? Nope.
“Well, you're here now, Moira, and so am I. And, with your career behind you, we'll be able to... take advantage of more days like this. Does this not remind you of that wellness retreat we went to in Evian, right after Alexis ended things with Sean Penn?”
Johnny Rose - The pragmatic patriarch - utterly committed to his family and working hard to figure things out.
Is this correct? Close, but there is more to him. If you stop here, you are underestimating the power of his personal brand.
“I would hardly call myself an expert on this subject. And by subject, I mean genuine human emotion.”
David Rose - The haughty hipster - self-centered like mom, he spends his time judging and deflecting judgment from himself.
Is this correct? Nope. Spoiler alert: It’s all a cover for something deeper. Which goes for most of the family…
“I just - I miss my life! And I miss doing things. And I miss being surrounded by loose acquaintances who think that I'm funny, and smart, and charming."
Alexis Rose - The flashy fashionista - all surface level, all of the time. Focused on her appearance to save the day for her at every turn.
Is this correct? Not even close.
Now, what is the actual personal brand for each of these folks as you get to know them throughout the episodes?
Moira Rose - She projects confidence but is anything but. She is in fact so worried about what others will think about her that she is constantly distracted by her career and fame, deeply agonizing about what the world thinks of her. Devoted to her fans, she is unable to truly separate herself from her career, and as the seasons progress her mood swings are directly aligned with her fame or failure.
Her true characteristics center around devotion and a drive toward perfection that can be both good and bad for her.
Johnny Rose - Johnny’s persona is close to his true characteristics, but he doesn’t often get the credit for being as deep as he really is. He is hardworking, but inventive, and sees things differently while seeing them through to solutions. Yes, he is pragmatic, but he also has a vision and sees opportunity where there is none.
His true characteristics are grounded in being a creative visionary with the ability to see things through.
David Rose - Ultra creative, David is a good combo of mom’s “flair” and dad’s hardworking nature and vision. He is also extraordinarily loving and a true romantic at heart. While he shies away from the “human emotion”, as he puts it, he wants nothing more than to be loved.
His true characteristics are hopeful and romantic with a creative flair that fuels his success.
Alexis Rose - She seems all surface until she “lets you in”. Surprised to find she is more thoughtful and caring than initially thought, she wants acceptance and human connection at a deep level. She has dad’s loyalty and when it comes down to it she makes the right decisions. She is self-centered at her worst; loving at her best, and uses a veil to hide behind her insecurities.
Her true characteristics are thoughtful, caring and in search of acceptance and affirmation.
See that? So much below the surface that makes up a personal brand for each of us. Remember that old adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover?” 100% applicable here. If you make assumptions about a person without really getting to know them, you miss out on their true character. Yes, the characters here are meant to be exacerbated for humor, levity and a certain charm that few shows capture, but getting to know them endears them to you in an entirely new way. This is the power of personal brand.
And to the contrary, there are several “wallflower” characters with an utter lack of personal brand that offset this fearsome foursome, and do the opposite of making you fall in love with them. Twyla, Jocelyn and Bob - enter stage right! These three waffle within the inability to make any decision and are constantly paralyzed by second-guessing and unsure commentary. Now, there are roles for support characters and team players, but this is not what we are talking about in this case. Here we mean folks that literally offer nothing to the experience and take up space that leaves you yearning for the next crazy stunt by the Rose crew. We often say that if you don’t define your brand, others will do it for you. Case and point - and the definition is that they don’t have one.
So let’s recap, shall we? What have we learned from the Schitt’s Creek cast?
Our personal brands are grounded in characteristics that are inherent to us at birth. We cannot change them.
Our behaviors and actions are the manifestations of those brand characteristics. Situations can lead to behaviors and actions that show us in a good or bad light, but we can affect them and cultivate them to how we want to show up.
Unfortunately, people judge us in situations vs. on the whole more often than not, unless they truly know our personal brand in depth. This is THE reason to know your personal brand well and manage it consistently.
Developing a strong personal brand allows us to show up consistently in a way that we can manage. It is not that we “put on a facade”, but rather that we embrace who we are at our very core and learn to cultivate our personal brand.
At the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards, the Schitt’s Creek series' final season swept all seven major comedy awards for the first time for a comedy or drama series and set a record for winning all four major acting categories for all four cast members. At the same time, the series set a new record for most Emmy wins by a comedy series in a single season, beating The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel's 2018 record. And the secret to this resounding success? Strong, consistent and cultivated personal brands for all 4 of the Rose family members. (If you don’t believe me, check out the behind the scenes documentary to get a view into the painstaking approach to the development of each character. You will be blown away.)
Inspired to get started on your personal brand today but not sure where to start? We have been there. Reach out to us at Forthright-People.com and we can help! After all, you don’t want to end up a Twyla do you?
Anne Candido and April Martini are the Co-Founders of Forthright People, an On-Demand Marketing Agency focused on helping start-ups, small and mid-size businesses quickly capture the hearts of their customers without breaking the bank. They believe in “real-time brand-building”, which delivers strategically-informed execution, creating immediate business impact while also developing equity for systemic growth. And since their team consists of an extended network of talented freelancers and boutique agencies, they do not require hefty retainers and contracts to do it. Contact them via email: Anne@Forthright-People.com and April@Forthright-People.com.
Check out our podcast! Marketing Smarts. From brand-building and marketing veterans Anne Candido and April Martini comes a podcast committed to cutting through all the confusing marketing BS so that you can actually understand how to take action and change your business today. They deep-dive into topics most would gloss-over, infusing real-world examples from their combined 35+ years of corporate and agency experience. They tell it how it is so that whether you are just starting out or have been in business awhile, you have the Marketing Smarts to immediately impact your business.